They are Alabama’s two biggest storylines of the 2014 season: Lane Kiffin, the maligned offensive coordinator hired to bring some life to a stagnant Crimson Tide attack, and Blake Sims, the fifth-year senior who scoffed at preseason prognostication to grab hold of the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback job.
On Saturday, in Alabama’s 42-21 stomping of the Florida Gators, Kiffin and Sims—with help from the best player in the country, wide receiver Amari Cooper—teamed up for a devastating offensive effort, racking up 645 total yards.
The Alabama offense, led by that trio, seemed unstoppable when it wasn’t getting in its own way. And it’s an attack that at times looked drastically different from Crimson Tide offenses of old under Saban. College Football Talk provided impressive Alabama stats:
Let’s start with Sims, the unlikely heir to AJ McCarron, who has Alabama firing on all cylinders.
The knock on Sims was that he couldn’t throw the ball downfield, that most of his early success came on short throws to playmakers in open space.
Sims came out firing in his first SEC game, with an 79-yard touchdown to Kenyan Drake on a beautifully designed play.
He went on to hit throws of 26 and 37 yards and finished the first quarter with a 79-yard strike to a wide-open Cooper. Sims finished the day with 445 passing yards—the most ever for an Alabama quarterback under Saban and the second-most all time—with four touchdowns and an interception. Aaron Suttles of The Tuscaloosa News provided Saban's comments about Sims as a passer:
Those downfield passing questions were shot down in a hurry. Sims made every throw he was asked to. He showed great touch on sideline throws and a laser arm over the middle. His only miscues were a tipped-ball interception on the run and a fumble on a botched read option.
It all came together thanks to a brilliant game plan from Kiffin.
On the first play of the game, Alabama showed a screen to Cooper on the left side. But lightning-quick running back Kenyan Drake was split out wide on the other side against a linebacker in open space, and Sims dropped in a perfect throw as Drake sprinted down the sideline.
Two drives later, Sims hit Cooper on the 79-yard score, and somehow he was this open, as shared by Cork Gaines of BusinessInsider.com:
Kiffin also didn’t completely abandon the run—even when it wasn’t working early and the passing game was clicking—and kept it simple when Alabama was trying to put the game away. The Crimson Tide rushed for 166 yards in the second half, including 91 by Derrick Henry in that half.
The only thing that could seemingly stop Alabama was itself.
It lost three fumbles in the first half, one that was returned for a touchdown and the other two set up the Gators with great field position. They were the only thing that kept Florida in the game, despite the Gators finishing the day with just 200 yards of total offense.
Otherwise, it was a massive day for the Crimson Tide offense against a good defensive team. Richard Johnson of Jacksonville.com shared the historical significance of the Crimson Tide's performance:
And it kept getting the ball to its best offensive weapon.
Cooper continued his incredible start to the season, catching 10 balls for 201 yards and three touchdowns. His best catch of the day was a fade route over Vernon Hargreaves III in the end zone for his second touchdown.
Led by Kiffin, Sims and Cooper—and surrounded by a complementary cast that makes up arguably the best skill group in college football—Alabama’s offense looked truly terrifying in many different ways.
This isn’t your grandmother’s Alabama offense that will run, run, run and set up play action. It will attack you in every way it can, and it has many ways to do so.
On Saturday, it showed just how dangerous it can be.
Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from Alabama notes. All recruiting information came from 247Sports.
Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.