Monday, December 10, 2012
Top 5 moments: Milliner manhandles U-M
By Alex Scarborough
Editor's note: From Monday-Friday, TideNation will review the five biggest plays or moments of the season for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Alabama threw a welcome back party for itself in Arlington, Texas, to open the season. At the Cowboys Classic, the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide reintroduced itself to the college football world by dominating the then-No. 8 Michigan Wolverines.
Dee Milliner's interception against Michigan was one of the biggest plays of the game.
It seemed as if Alabama hadn't missed a beat since taking care of LSU to win the national championship in New Orleans nine months earlier, never mind the litany of starters lost to graduation and the NFL draft. It seemed like a repeat trip to the BCS title game would be attainable by the time the final bell rung on the 41-14 win.
"Everyone thought we were too young, too inexperienced, couldn't handle success," UA coach Nick Saban said after the game. "Everybody was saying those things about our team. Now, people are saying something different."
The build up to the game revolved around the matchup of Michigan quarterback and Heisman hopeful Denard Robinson versus the revamped Alabama defense. Three-quarters of the secondary from a season ago was gone, as were two of the most decorated linebackers in the school's history. Robinson was supposed to pick on the inexperienced replacements and get his Heisman campaign off to a fast start.
But Robinson's march to New York never got off the ground. Dee Milliner saw to that.
Alabama's junior cornerback, a full-time starter for the first time in his career, instead had the statement game during the nationally televised affair. His four pass breakups and interception showed he and the Crimson Tide defense were not to be messed with. He would end the season as one of the top cornerbacks in the country, a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, and Alabama would finish as the No. 1 defense in the country.
"They say we're going to be the weak link," Milliner said after the game. "We always take it upon ourselves and compete and voice our opinion when we come on the field."
Milliner's shining moment came with Alabama up 14-o late in the first quarter. He played press coverage on the Michigan receiver, who tried to engage Milliner and instead found himself knocked on his back out of bounds. Milliner stayed on his feet and easily intercepted the pass from Robinson, returning the ball 35 yards to set up another Alabama touchdown.
Milliner was named the Walter Camp National Player of the Week the following day and the accolades would continue to pile up as the season went on for he and his teammates.