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Alabama routs the Spartans in the College Football Playoff Cotton Bowl, 38-0

December 31, 2015
Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson sacks senior quarterback Connor Cook for a loss of four yards in the second quarter during the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Dec. 31, 2015 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Alabama leads at the half, 10-0.
Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson sacks senior quarterback Connor Cook for a loss of four yards in the second quarter during the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Dec. 31, 2015 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Alabama leads at the half, 10-0. —
Photo by Julia Nagy | and Julia Nagy The State News

ARLINGTON, Texas — No. 2 Alabama (13-1) defeated No. 3 MSU (12-2) in the College Football Playoff Cotton Bowl, 38-0.

Two aspects of football have hampered the Spartans this entire season: pass coverage and both sides of special teams play. Early in the season MSU’s special teams faltered, but its secondary was not challenged much. On into the middle of the season redshirt-freshman punter Jake Hartbarger and junior kicker Michael Geiger stepped it up, but the defensive secondary stepped back — as displayed in the Spartans’ loss to Nebraska.

But on New Year’s Eve against Alabama, both of these aspects majorly troubled MSU.

The Tide’s passing game was not relevant early, as they mainly ran the ball to the flank. But with 6:14 until halftime, Alabama found its ticket to the national championship.

Senior quarterback Jake Coker threw deep to freshman wide receiver Calvin Ridley for a 50-yard reception to the MSU 1-yard line. Two plays later, Heisman Trophy-winner Derrick Henry ran the ball in to score the game’s first points.

The Spartans were able to come up with a big catch of their own with 35 seconds remaining in the half. Senior wide receiver Macgarett Kings Jr. caught a 26-yard pass from senior quarterback Connor Cook to bring MSU to the Alabama 30-yard line. Then, senior wide receiver Aaron Burbridge had a big catch to the 10. But, on the next play, Cook threw an interception. The half would end without a MSU score and Alabama took a 10-0 lead into the locker room.

That last drive of the half proved to be the Spartans last real chance to grab momentum. Because when the teams came back out, it was more of the same for the Crimson Tide.

A 15-yard personal foul on senior defensive lineman Damon Knox and a personal foul on senior defensive lineman Lawrence Thomas helped Alabama get to the goal line. And, after a reviewed catch, the Tide scored again to go up 17-0 with 10:43 left in the third.

Then, it was the MSU special teams’ turn.

The Spartans faced a pivotal drive from their own 15-yard line with 4:37 in the third. An intentional grounding call led to a punt, which led to a 57-yard return touchdown by Alabama’s Cyrus Jones. The Tide’s lead rose to 24-0.

Their next touchdown came on another pass, this one a 50-yarder from Coker to Ridley, putting Alabama up 31-0.

More dirt in the wound came when Henry ran in another score from 11 yards out with 7:52 left in the game. The Crimson Tide went up 38-0.

Alabama will play Clemson in the national championship Jan. 11, 2016, in Glendale, Arizona.

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