Sims, Cooper lead Alabama in win over Southern MissBy Sean Landry | 09/16/2014 12:16am
No. 3 Alabama’s quarterback battle may not be over, according to coach Nick Saban, but for at least one game, senior Blake Sims was unquestionably on top.
Sims went 12-17 passing for 168 yards and two touchdowns in Alabama’s 52-12 win over Southern Mississippi while adding 46 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Sims started the game and played every offensive drive for Alabama until junior Jake Coker entered with 2:10 left in the 3rd quarter and Alabama leading 35-9.
“We felt like Blake had a really good week,” Saban said. “Thought he was well prepared for the game. I didn’t feel really comfortable with the way the game was going and it just didn’t feel right to make a change. Do we want to continue to develop both quarterbacks and try to develop both guys? Absolutely. Jake needs to play, needs to develop confidence. But I think we have to make decisions on a week-to-week basis on what we think gives us the best opportunity to win. Right now, Blake probably is a little more confident so if that remains that way, he’s probably going to start the game.”
Sims has contributed over 200 yards of offense in each of his three career starts but said he and the offense still have room to improve.
“The first game I was trusting my line, trusting my wide receivers and as the games go by I'm trusting them more and more and they trust in me,” Sims said. “They know I'll get the ball there. Our relationship is unbelievable and we're looking forward to getting better every week.”
Receiver Amari Cooper, the quarterbacks’ favored target, continued his steady ascent into Alabama history with a record-setting performance. On his first reception, the junior passed Ozzie Newsome for third all-time in receiving yards. The next catch, a touchdown reception, gave Cooper his 17th career touchdown catch, tied for 2nd all-time. In total, Cooper recorded 135 yards in the game, his 5th straight 100-yard performance -- tied with D.J Hall for most consecutive games to reach the century mark.
“It’s always good to know that you have a guy that’s going to run for you,” Sims said of his primary receiver. “It really helps when everyone focuses on him you have other receivers to throw to. Cooper does it very well, and he is great team player. He gives extra effort all the time and it’s good to have him and know that you always have someone open.”
Alabama’s defense continued to bend but not break, allowing several long plays but extending its streak of not conceding a touchdown to nine quarters. Alabama conceded 207 yards through the air but only 56 on the ground.
“I think we’ve taken two big steps the last two weeks building the identity that we want to build,” linebacker Trey DePriest said. “It’s going to be a test coming into conference play.”
Alabama will be without starting safety Nick Perry when it begins SEC play after the senior was ejected for targeting midway through the third quarter. Perry led with his helmet against defenseless receiver Kyle Foster and flagged for targeting, which replay confirmed. Perry missed the rest of the game and will miss the first half of play against Florida next week.
“Obviously we would love to have him, but it is what it is,” DePriest said of Perry’s suspension. “Just like when I was suspended somebody else had to step up and that’s what’s going to happen next week. We always try to keep a bunch of guys ready just in case.”
After three straight weeks of non-conference play, Alabama will begin its SEC slate next week when it welcomes Florida at 2:30 p.m.
“It’s a different mindset,” DePriest said. “It’s a long stretch of conference play and you’ve got to mentally prepare and physically prepare. The SEC is a tough conference and we play a lot of tough teams.”