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It's hard to imagine Alabama delivering a bowl performance that was any more dominant. The Tide throttled Michigan State by a 49-7 score to capture the Capital One Bowl trophy.
Alabama brought a 28-0 lead into halftime and didn't let up. Greg McElroy was very efficient behind center, his ball carriers made plays, and the defense refused to relent against Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins. All told, Alabama more than tripled Michigan State's total offensive output, 546 yards to 171.
McElroy threw for 220 yards through the air before being replaced by A.J. McCarron, who was a perfect 6-for-6 in mop-up duty. Five Alabama running backs rushed for 35 or more yards, and four made it into the end zone at least once.
There's very little in the way of positives for the Spartans to take away from this game. The defense couldn't find an answer for the Tide offense, but perhaps more significantly, they did not do a sufficient job of protecting their quarterbacks. Kirk Cousins was hit in the back and to the ground several times, and eventually had to leave the game. Andrew Maxwell and Keith Nichol were also banged around, although Nichol did find Bennie Fowler for the Spartans' only score of the day.
As we enter the fourth quarter of the Capital One Bowl, we have to ask whether it's humane for Michigan State to continue to send quarterbacks on the field. Alabama has delivered hard hits to Kirk Cousins and Andrew Maxwell, and the Tide are still pitching a shutout, 42-0.
Cousins has been the recipient of several hard hits to his blind side, the last of which sent him to the sideline. Team trainers were listening to his breathing with a stethoscope, and it was unclear whether he would be able to return to action.
The Tide defense was no kinder to Cousins' backup, Andrew Maxwell. The freshman quarterback also received a hit to the back, and now it's possible that one of the other two quarterbacks on the Michigan State roster -- Peter Badovinac or Joe Boisture -- could see some action.
Meanwhile, Eddie Lacy has become the fourth Alabama running back to score a touchdown on Sunday, improving the Tide's lead to 42-0. Eight Alabama players have positive rushing yardage on Saturday. Meanwhile, if Kirk Cousins' sacks and recovered fumbles are counted, Michigan State has negative-62 yards on the ground.
We're in the second half of the Capital One Bowl, and nothing has changed. Michigan State can't accomplish anything offensively, while Alabama uses every opportunity it gets to score a touchdown.
The Spartans received possession to open the third quarter, but the Tide continued to neutralize running back Edwin Baker and pressure quarterback Kirk Cousins, and Alabama forced a three-and-out.
Upon receiving the punt, the Alabama offense continued to move down the field unabated. Mark Ingram broke through for a 14-yard run, and quarterback Greg McElroy found receiver Marquiz Maze for a 37-yard touchdown strike.
Alabama has scored a touchdown in all five of its possessions on Saturday. McElroy has completed 12 of 15 passes for 208 yards, five Tide players have rushed for a combined 135 yards, and the defense has effectively neutralized the Spartans' heralded running game. Alabama looks unstoppable.
Thanks to the seemingly unstoppable Alabama offense and the feckless Michigan State defense, the Capital One Bowl is turning into a rout. For the fourth time, the Tide received possession, and for the fourth time, they scored. Late in the second quarter, they hold a 28-0 lead.
Wide receiver Julio Jones became the third Alabama player of the day to rush for a touchdown. Jones galloped 35 yards for the score, thanks in part to an impressive block by none other than his quarterback, Greg McElroy.
Alabama now has 255 total yards against Michigan State's 60. The Tide are clicking on all facets of their game: McElroy is allowed enough time to find open receivers, Mark Ingram and Julio Jones are evading tackles for big gains, and the defense is suffocating Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins. With about two minutes remaining in the second quarter, Michigan State is punting yet again, and they're giving no indication that they can turn this affair into a competitive one.
In the second quarter of the Capital One Bowl, Michigan State's offense has seen a couple of breaks fall its way. Unfortunately for the Spartans, they've been unable to capitalize, and Alabama has kept on rolling to increase the lead to 21-0.
Alabama's Robert Lester, who intercepted Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins in the first quarter, recovered a fumble and dashed across the field and into the end zone. However, officials reviewed the play and reversed the call, ruling the play an incomplete pass.
Michigan State running back Edwin Baker finally got going with a 12-yard run, and 15 yards were added by penalty after Baker was hit while out of bounds. The Spartans then drove to Alabama's three-yard line for a first and goal... only to have to punt.
It's quite rare, to say the least, for a team to sit at first-and-goal at the three and end up having to punt, but it happened thanks to a blindside hit on Cousins. The Spartan quarterback coughed up the ball, and thanks to a couple of muffed grabs, Michigan State finally recovered all the way back at the Alabama 38-yard line.
The ensuing punt resulted in a touchback, and Alabama's offense sliced through the Michigan State defense once again. Mark Ingram caught a Greg McElroy pass and weaved his way to a 30-yard gain, then rushed six yards for a touchdown. It's Ingram's second touchdown of the day, and the Tide have now scored a touchdown in all three of their possessions.
The Spartans have not been able to stop the Tide's offense, and they have not been able to capitalize on breaks when their own offense is on the field. Michigan State needs a reversal of fortune, and soon.
At the Capital One Bowl, Alabama's offense is rolling against Michigan State's defense. Running back Trent Richardson scooted into the end zone to build the Crimson Tide's lead to 14-0.
Alabama was given the ball when Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins threw the ball into the arms of the Tide's Robert Lester. From there, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy paired up with received Julio Jones, hitting him for gains of 14, 6, and 28 yards. The drive was capped when running back Trent Richardson scooted in for the eight-yard score.
McElroy is now 7-for-9 on the day, throwing for 96 yards. Cousins has completed four of seven for 42 yards and an interception. Alabama has eaten up a significant amount of clock offensively, having only allowed for one Spartans drive thus far. Michigan State will need to see more from star running back Edwin Baker, who has rushed three times for negative-seven yards.
At the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day, Alabama has struck first, converting a couple of third-and-short situations against the Michigan State defense. Running back Mark Ingram shoved his way into the end zone, and the Crimson Tide lead, 7-0.
The Spartans mounted an impressive goal-line stand at the end of the game's opening drive. Alabama earned a first down at Michigan State's three-yard line, but it took the Tide three tries to find a way into the end zone.
Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy was perfect on his opening drive, completing all four pass attempts for 48 yards. Michigan State has been tough against the run, however, as Alabama rushed nine times with four different backs and managed only 26 yards.
With about six minutes remaining in the first quarter, Michigan State takes possession for the first time.
To help prime you for the New Year's Day glut of bowl games, we've compiled this handy list of fun factoids concerning the 2011 Capital One Bowl.
Proper name: Capital One Bowl, tragically no longer referred to as the Capital One Florida Citrus Bowl, but still somehow being billed as "The Little Bowl With The Big Heart," because somebody who makes more money than you gets paid to think that's a nice idea.
Setting: The Citrus Bowl in sparkling Orlando, Florida, home to four or five postseason football games a year and very little else.
Traditional conference pairing: Big Ten versus SEC
2010 matchup: The No. 9 Michigan State Spartans (11-1) versus the No. 16 Alabama Crimson Tide (9-3).
Announcers: Smooth excellence abounds: Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, and Holly Rowe will be on hand in Orlando.
Weather: Current forecasts call for balmy temperatures and partly cloudy skies.
Neatest fact: The new turf in the Citrus Bowl, installed this past offseason, is called AstroTurf GameDay Grass 3D. No, seriously. No word on whether it requires special glasses to view properly.
Closest finish: There have been four ties in the history of the Capital One Bowl, the last one a 17-17 Georgia-Florida State finish in 1984.
Most lopsided finish: The 1953 iteration was a 33-0 shutout of Tennessee Tech by East Texas State.
Tidbits of interest: Known throughout history as the Tangerine Bowl (but not the Tangerine Bowl that became the Champs Sports Bowl, because that's totally different) and the Citrus Bowl, the Capital One Bowl is the oldest mid-tier postseason college football contest. Previous MVPs include Cris Collinsworth, Plaxico Burress, and Matt Stafford. Nick Saban and Mark Dantonio were on the same staff for a time in East Lansing, and have a longstanding treaty never to engage in a glower-off, for fear of wreaking civic destruction with their disapproving brows.
At different times this year, it wasn't difficult to see either Alabama or Michigan State playing for the BCS National Championship. After all, Alabama entered the year as the near-consensus favorite to repeat as champions after their 2009 run, and Michigan State was 8-0 with a big win over Wisconsin when they dropped a three-touchdown loss to Iowa in late October.
That loss to Iowa remains the only one on Big Ten co-champion Michigan State's resume, a distinction that the Spartans have won mostly by being solid at everything -- but not truly elite at much of anything. They rank first or second in the Big Ten in only two categories, both of them having to do with punting. Then again, there's very little that Michigan State does poorly, with the possible exceptions of passing defense, kickoff returns and tackles for loss. (And their passing efficiency defense is actually pretty good, meaning the passing yardage numbers might be skewed by opponents trying to catch up late.) Running back Edwin Baker rushed for 1,187 yards and 13 TDs on 195 carries, while QB Kirk Cousins was efficient, going 216-of-320 for 2,705 yards, 20 TDs and 9 INTs. Their coach, Mark Dantonio, is best-known for having a heart attack shortly after calling for a fake kick to win an overtime game against Notre Dame.
Alabama started out the season 5-0, looking for all the world like the national front-runner they were supposed to be before a two-touchdown loss at South Carolina. After that, the Tide would never win more than two in a row, and would lose at LSU and in a heartbreaker to archrival Auburn, who would win the SEC title and shot at the BCS championship that was supposed to Alabama's. Mark Ingram, fresh off a Heisman Trophy campaign in 2009, looked absolutely mortal in running for 816 yards and 11 TDs on 146 attempts, with his only 100-yard games coming against Duke and Arkansas. Backup Trent Richardson, who was potentially better than Ingram, was also a non-factor in several of the Tide's games. Greg McElroy was efficient -- 209-of-296 for 2,676 yards, 19 TDs and 5 INTs -- but he was sometimes flustered by opposing defenses, and he was never meant to carry the team by himself. Their coach, Nick Saban, is best-known for winning championships and leaving a job or two, including his former position as head coach at Michigan State.
The Capital One Bowl kicks off on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. EST on ESPN.