Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Alabama Clobbers Tigers for SEC Crown

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Alabama Clobbers Tigers for SEC Crown

Article excerpt

ATLANTA * Missouri receiver Bud Sasser wanted nothing more than a mulligan as he sat in a despondent Georgia Dome locker room for the second straight December. His Tigers came out flat against No. 1 Alabama in Saturday's SEC championship game, recovered momentum in the third quarter then collapsed as the Crimson Tide celebrated a 42- 13 victory.

"In championship games, you've got to show up," Sasser said. "When you don't, this is what happens. I wish we could take it back, press reset and come out there with a lot more intensity than we had tonight."

Missouri (10-3) will have to wait at least another year for that opportunity. Without their best player for most of the day, the Tigers fell to 0-4 in conference title games under Gary Pinkel. With record-breaking defensive end Shane Ray in the locker room for the final three quarters he became Mizzou's latest assailant for a targeting penalty the Tigers gave up a season-high for points and yards (504).

With a game plan based on quick, short passes to neutralize Mizzou's pass rush, Alabama's Blake Sims, the game's MVP, completed 23 of 27 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns, setting the SEC championship game record for completion percentage (85.2). His favorite target, star receiver Amari Cooper, set a championship game record with 12 catches for 83 yards. Bama's offensive line bullied the Tigers in the trenches on the way to 242 rushing yards. Against a Missouri defense that Alabama coach Nick Saban called the SEC's best on Friday, the Tide were precise through the air, overpowering on the ground and clutch when it counted most, converting 9 of 13 third downs.

And when Missouri landed a few jabs in the third quarter with two scoring drives to trim the deficit to eight, the Tide came back with a series of knockout blows.

Alabama not only snapped Mizzou's six-game winning streak, but Saban's team looked like the Tigers' rare opponent who consistently won the physical battles. That hadn't happened since Georgia thumped Mizzou 34-0 on Oct. 11.

"We missed a few tackles, but they were out in space," linebacker Michael Scherer said. "It's not like anyone was dragging us around. It wasn't like their linemen were pushing us around. They had a tough time running inside. They had a little success outside. I wouldn't say it was a physical thing at all."

"They won the game. The scoreboard says it," defensive end Markus Golden said. "But as far as being physical, those boys ain't no more physical than anyone else I've played. They just pounded the ball and executed the plays they called."

The fourth quarter looked a lot like Mizzou's last visit to the Georgia Dome, when Auburn outscored MU 28-7 in the final 18 minutes of last year's SEC title game. The Tigers have now given up 1,181 yards in back-to-back SEC championship games. …

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