Top 5 moments: A go-to target emerges
December, 12, 2012
By Alex Scarborough | ESPN.com
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAmari Cooper pulls in a touchdown reception against Tennessee, part of his breakout game in the Crimson Tide's victory.Editor's note: Each day this week we'll review the five biggest plays or moments of the season for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Yesterday, we looked at Eddie Lacy's 177-yard rushing day against Missouri.
AJ McCarron and the Alabama offense had become accustomed to operating without a go-to target in the passing game. Since Julio Jones left to become a star in the NFL, the Crimson Tide have been good at receiver but not great. There was no one to look to when the game was on the line and a play needed to be made.
Enter Amari Cooper. Like his predecessor, Cooper wasted no time making an impact at receiver. The freshman from Miami stepped onto the scene at Alabama and became McCarron's primary target on offense within a few weeks.
By Week 7, at Tennessee, it became clear Cooper was here to stay. Senior tight end Michael Williams was already drawing historical significance from Cooper's 167-yard, two-touchdown performance in Knoxville.
"He can be one of the greatest," Williams said of Cooper. "I don't want to put that on his head but you see it. Before long, y'all would start saying that always. Y'all can see what he has. You see the talent. As long as he keeps his head straight, I think he'll be one of the greats."
Williams was right. Cooper's talent was obvious at Tennessee. His speed and ability to get behind defenders was clear on his first touchdown grab. His ability to go up and get the football was evident on his 54-yard reception with a defensive back draped on his shoulders. He put it all together on his second touchdown of the game, a 42-yard reception that sealed the victory for Alabama.
"He's had some big plays all year long," Saban said after the game. "He caught eight passes against Ole Miss. We think he's an outstanding player. He's just a freshman and he's gotten better and better every week. He's really learned to be very consistent. He plays fast and he plays hard."
Cooper hasn't slowed down since. He leads all receivers in receptions (53), yards (895) and touchdowns (9). Impressive for a player that entered the season as a backup and was playing high school football at this time a year ago.
Now, Cooper is coming full circle his freshman season with a return trip home -- to compete for the national championship. Alabama will meet Notre Dame in Miami.
"It's a dream come true," Cooper said after the SEC title game on Dec. 1.
Saban vs. Meyer
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State