Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year and Good Night from the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Alabama provided the on-field fireworks, then the Goodyear Cotton Bowl provided the post-game show

   Fans exiting AT&T Stadium enjoyed a postgame fireworks show overhead. A neat way to end a special night.
   The explosions during the game were provided mostly by Alabama quarterback Jake Coker and defensive back Cyrus Jones, who were named the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic Offensive and Defensive MVPs, respectively.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Offensive MVP Jake Coker. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Defensive MVP Cyrus Jones. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA

Scenes from the celebration: Alabama 38, Michigan State 0

Photo By Ian Halperin/CBAA

Photo By Ian Halperin/CBAA

Photo By Ian Halperin/CBAA

Photo By Ian Halperin/CBAA

Photo By Ian Halperin/CBAA

Read all about it! The Tide are going to the National Championship!

   With a dominating, 38-0 win over Michigan State, the Alabama Crimson Tide will play for the national title against Clemson on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Arizona.
   Alabama became the first team to record a shutout in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic since LSU shutout Texas in the 1963 Classic.
   The 38-point margin of victory was the third-largest point differential in Cotton Bowl history. It was also the most decisive shutout in Cotton Bowl history, topping Oklahoma A&M's 34-0 win over TCU in 1945.
   Crimson Tide quarterback Jake Coker's .833 pass completion percentage (25 of 30) ranks second in Cotton Bowl history. Only Texas QB Bobby Layne's .917 performance (11 of 12) against Missouri in 1946 ranks higher.
   Coker's 25 completions ranks ninth in Cotton Bowl history. Cyrus Jones' 80 punt return yards are the third-most in Cotton Bowl history.

Under 8 minutes to go and 'Bama in complete control, 38-0

   With 7:52 left in the 80th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, it's been all Alabama. The Crimson Tide have dominated with smothering defense and big plays on offense and special teams.
   An 11-yard touchdown run by Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry has given Alabama a 38-0 lead, and the sounds of "Sweet Home Alabama" have the Crimson Tide fans in a tizzy.
   In less than two hours, it will be 2016. Not a bad way to end the year for the Tide, who began the season at AT&T Stadium with a 35-17 win over Wisconsin. The New Year will start with a chance to win another national championship.

Coker connects with Ridley again for 50 yards and a 31-0 Alabama lead

   Calvin Ridley hauled in a 50-yard touchdown pass, his second score of the game, from Jake Coker to give Alabama a 31-0 lead with 2:20 to play in the third quarter.
   It was Ridley's seventh catch for 132 yards. Coker is 24-of-29 passing for 280 yards and two TDs.

Alabama punt return puts Michigan State deeper in a hole

   Cyrus Jones broke loose on a 57-yard punt return to give Alabama a 24-0 lead with 3:24 left in the third quarter.
   It's hard to say that's an insurmountable lead, given the offensive era we're in, but the tone of this game says Michigan State better start producing - fast.


This is how 82,812 people are spending New Year's Eve

 AT&T Stadium is a packed house tonight
  The official attendance for the 80th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: 82,812.
  That's good enough to be the fourth-largest crowd in Cotton Bowl history and the sixth-largest crowd in AT&T Stadium history.
  Those 82,812 folks can say they were a part of college football history on New Year's Eve as witnesses to a national semifinal game.

'Bama puts some distance from Michigan State, 17-0

   In a game distinguished by stingy defense, Alabama's 17-0 lead with 10:36 left in the third quarter looks like a steep hill to climb for Michigan State.
   The Tide scored on Jake Coker's six-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley. The pass was initially ruled incomplete, as Ridley and the defender struggled for possession of the ball as they went out of bounds. But replays showed Ridley to have possession as well as a foot in bounds before going out and the called was overturned.
   Alabama mounted a rare, sustained scoring drive: 9 plays, 75 yards in 4:24.
   Michigan State may have to open things up, which only plays into the hands of the Alabama pass rush. Stay tuned!

Alabama takes 10-0 lead into halftime

   Michigan State threatened to end its shutout at the end of the first half, but Alabama's Cyrus Jones intercepted Connor Cook's pass at the one.
   Alabama ran out the remaining seconds of the half and the Crimson Tide kept their 10-0 lead intact at the midway point.

Tide stretches lead to 10-0

  A 47-yard field goal by Adam Griffith gave Alabama a 10-0 lead with 1:25 to play in the half.
   Once again, it was a long pass play that set up the score for Alabama. Jake Coker hooked up with O.J. Howard for a 41-yard gain to the Michigan State 24.
   The Tide went backwards from there, but not enough to keep Griffith from padding the lead.

We have a score! Alabama 7, Michigan State 0

  Finally, with 5:36 left in the first half, we have offense! Alabama's Derrick Henry scored on a one-yard run, but it was set up by a 50-yard pass from Jake Coker to Calvin Ridley down to the Michigan State one yard line.
   Now that the ice has been broken, will the points start flowing?

End of the first quarter: 0-0

   So far defense has ruled the game. After one quarter of play, Michigan State has gained 40 yards and Alabama 47. There have been five punts and seven first downs.
   There won't be a basketball score in this one like in some of this year's bowl games. Yet if you like good ol' smash-mouth football, this is a great game.

Defenses dominate early

   Midway through the first quarter and we've had three punts and not much else. Michigan State is averaging 2.9 yards per play and Alabama 4.1. There's too much talent on the field for this stalemate to last too long. Someone is going to break one, but it's not going to be easy.

National Anthem

Goodyear Big Play Luncheon caps a week of festivities

One of the great traditions of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic is the annual Big Play Luncheon, when the full squads of both participating teams come together the day before the game to dine and recognize achievements.
   With Brad Sham, the voice of the Dallas Cowboys, serving as master of ceremonies, the Big Play Luncheon was again a great chance to rub shoulders with some of the best in college football and take home a souvenir or two.
   ESPN personalities Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler gave a presentation and coaches and student athletes from both teams were honored.
Paul Lang was Michigan State's winner of the Dan S. Petty Scholar-Athlete Award. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA
Ryan Kelly was Alabama's winner of the Dan S. Petty Scholar-Athlete Award. Photo by Ian Halperin/.CBAA

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook prepares to throw a pass to one of the door prize winners. Not only did the winners get to keep the ball, they won a trip on a Goodyear Blimp. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA

Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA

Alabama coach Nick Saban. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA
Alabama quarterback Jake Coker tosses a ball to a door prize winner. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA
ESPN's Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit discuss the upcoming game. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio with children's art contest age group winner Violet Dominguez, 7. Entries for the art contest were laminated and served as colorful placemats for the luncheon. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA
Alabama coach Nick Saban with children's art contest age group winner Olivia Zhang, 11. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA
Goodyear executive Seth Klugherz with children's art contest age group winner Keynes Brendan Wright, 8. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA

Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA

Warming up

Photo by Keith Whitmire
   The teams are on the field warming up for the 80th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. The game will kickoff at 7:20 pm Central Time, thanks to the Orange Bowl running a little long.
   At the moment, Clemson leads Oklahoma, 37-17, in the Orange Bowl with 10:46 to play. The winner of that game will meet the winner of tonight's Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in the national championship game on Jan. 11 in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

More moments from Media Day

   Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic photographer Melissa Macatee found a variety of subjects to shoot during Media Day on Tuesday, held on the field of AT&T Stadium.

Rangerette time

Photo by James D. Smith/CBAA
  One of unique traditions of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic is when the Kilgore Rangerettes' sophomores receive their commemorative watches.
   Above, Rangerette Bess Detar of Dallas receives her watch from Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic VP of Communications Charlie Fiss.
  The ceremony takes place the day before the game in the Rangerettes' prep room at AT&T Stadium. The watches are in gratitude for two years of serving the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. Not only do the Rangerettes before at the game, they serve as hostesses and greeters at bowl events throughout the week of the game and other Goodyear Cotton Bowl functions.

Final preparations

Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA

   ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit (above) speaks to the production crew in a meeting room inside AT&T Stadium several hours prior to kickoff of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Alabama Wednesday Practice Report

  ARLINGTON, Texas – The preparation is now complete. All that's left is for the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide and for the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans to meet in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic to see which team will move on the play for a national championship.
   The Crimson Tide (12-1, 8-1 SEC) went through a brief walk-through at AT&T Stadium this afternoon in anticipation for its New Year’s Eve showdown with the Spartans (12-1, 7-1 Big Ten). A win over Michigan State would put Alabama in position to play for the program’s 16th national championship. Since the 2008 season, the Tide has played in only three games that did not have national championship implications (97 of 100 games).
   Tomorrow’s game will be no different but, for now, the Tide has to play the waiting game. Waiting to play for the first time in 25 days and waiting to see if this year’s team can take one step closer to closing the 2015 season in triumph and with another trophy to put on display in Tuscaloosa.
   The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic celebrates its 80th anniversary on New Year’s Eve while hosting its first College Football Playoff Semifinal. Airtime on ESPN is set for 7 p.m. CST, with kickoff slated for 7:10 p.m.
   This marks the second year for the Goodyear Cotton Bowl to be a part of ESPN’s bowl lineup. Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will provide the call from the booth with Heather Cox and Tom Rinaldi reporting from the sideline.
   ESPN Radio returns as the Classic's national radio partner for the fourth consecutive year. Brad Sham, the "Voice of the Dallas Cowboys," teams with Danny Kanell in the booth and Ian Fitzsimmons on the sideline to describe all the action from AT&T Stadium.
-- Goodyear Cotton Bowl Communications

Michigan State Wednesday Practice Report

   ARLINGTON, Texas – Michigan State completed its final on-field preparation for the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic by conducting a walk-through at AT&T Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. The No. 3 Spartans (12-1, 7-1 Big Ten) spent more than an hour doing light work for their New Year’s Eve game against No. 2 Alabama (12-1, 8-1 SEC) before heading back to the team hotel for final meetings. The winner advances to the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Ariz.
   The walk-through marked the fifth time the Spartans worked on the AT&T Stadium field in the last week. The other four were regular practices. A team photo was taken before the walk-through.
   Head Coach Mark Dantonio and Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban shared the spotlight during a morning press conference and again at the Goodyear Big Play Luncheon at the Hilton Anatole Hotel. Coaches, players and fans from both teams attended the luncheon, where Spartans tight end Paul Lang was recognized for his academic achievement. He’s one of only 22 Spartans in school history to earn academic All-Big Ten honors.
   After meetings, the Spartans were scheduled to watch a movie together Wednesday night.
   “Looking forward to the game tomorrow night,” Dantonio said at the press conference. “And as I said pretty much all week long, this will be a great opportunity but a great challenge for us as a program. And we’re looking forward to our moment.”
   Michigan State is widely considered an underdog to Alabama, which puts it in the same company as most of the Tide’s opponents in recent years. But the Spartans aren’t new to the big stage. Dantonio has accomplished just about everything except winning a national title in nine seasons leading the program, making the Spartans’ motto for this season – “reach higher” – quite appropriate.   
   The only Big Ten coach to win 11 games in five of six seasons is not named Schembechler, Hayes, Yost or Tressell. Dantonio is the only one to have done it. Michigan State has won three of the last six Big Ten championships, is the only school to have won a BCS game/New Year’s Six game the last two seasons and has won four consecutive bowls. The last one was a 42-41 comeback victory over Baylor in the 2015 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic last Jan. 1.
   “So it's sort of ironic to me that we're playing on December 31st,” Dantonio said. “And we look to go 365. And we left on an upswing, and it was a very positive end of the season for us and it sort of catapulted us into 2015.
   “But along with that, we didn't reach our goals. So we were an 11-2 football team and ended up No. 5 in the nation. But nobody felt like they were satisfied, and I think that's what allowed us to move forward sort of with a state of mind that understood that we need to play better.”
-- Goodyear Cotton Bowl Communications

Battle of the Bands!

Photos by Ian Halperin/CBAA

   The Michigan State and Alabama bands and spirit groups met at Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas on Wednesday to decide who has the most spirit. The winner? Guess that's in the ear of the beholder.

The Final Say

Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA

   Coaches Mark Dantonio of Michigan State and Nick Saban of Alabama came together Wednesday morning for one final press conference prior to the kickoff of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Thursday.
   The coaches were cordial and posed with the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic trophy (above) but it was obvious they were ready to get their game faces on and start playing.
  "Well, when you look at Alabama, first of all, they have very, very good players. Secondly, they're extremely well-coached. They play very disciplined. Due to some of the people I've worked for, I understand technique, et cetera," Dantonio said.
   "And as I said earlier, my first statement, it would be a great challenge for us. Great opportunity to be here today, but it will be a great challenge. We'll need to be at our best, play at our best because our best is going to be needed here."
   Saban had similar sentiments about Michigan State.
   "I think that Michigan State is a team that obviously is hard to beat," Saban said. "They beat you basically on fundamental execution and not making a lot of mistakes. And that always makes the team hard to beat. And then you throw in the kind of competitive resiliency they've shown this year, that's really helped them to be very, very successful."

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Michigan State Tuesday Practice Report

   ARLINGTON, Texas – Michigan State turned in its final practice for the College Football Playoff Semifinal atthe Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Tuesday, capping a full day.
   The team started the day with pre-dawn wakeup calls so they could bus from the team hotel to AT&T Stadium for an hour-long media session. After more preparation back at the hotel, they returned to the stadium in the afternoon and worked vigorously for two hours.
   “Long day,” Head Coach Mark Dantonio said. “We spent about two hours on a bus – half hour, half hour, half hour, half hour (commuting each way). So, long day today and I think it’s important that our players are fresh.”
   The No. 3 Spartans (12-1, 7-1 Big Ten) play No. 2 Alabama (12-1, 8-1 SEC) on Thursday. The winner advances the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Ariz.
   Coaches and players – mostly the higher-profile players – have met with various media since Saturday. But the Tuesday event was the game’s designated media day where all players and coaches are made available for interviews and a large media contingent shows up.
   By this point before a bowl game, it’s not unusual for teams to experience interview fatigue and it’s no different for Michigan State. Dantonio and the Spartans have been gracious with their time and answers all week and seemingly every question has been asked.
   “I think enough’s been said,” Dantonio said. “The game’s played on the field.”
   In the afternoon, the practice’s content was “a clean-up deal, mental-type preparation and final preparation,” Dantonio said. “There will be some adjustments, I’m sure, but for the most part we’re ready to go.”
   Some teams use bowl practices to scrimmage younger players who won’t play in the game. It gives them more chances to develop and it gives the coaches a glimpse of the future. But with another game looming should they win, this isn’t an average bowl week. Michigan State has been guarded with its redshirt and other deep-reserve players this week.
   “It’s a Catch-22 situation,” Dantonio said. “We need every single person. So we can’t come out here and scrimmage our young guys because we don’t want to get anybody hurt. They’re a value too, in terms of scout team and things of that nature.”
   The Spartans will go through a brief stadium walk-through on Wednesday and meetings in the final 24 hours before the game. They’ll also stay off their feet as much as possible.
-- Goodyear Cotton Bowl Communications

Alabama Tuesday Practice Report

   ARLINGTON, Texas – After the fun associated with an hour-long media day session, the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide quickly got back to the business at hand and squarely put its focus on the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans.
   The Crimson Tide (12-1, 8-1 SEC) put the final touches on its College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic preparation with a two-hour workout in shells and shorts in the team’s third practice, in what would normally be a “Thursday” practice, at AT&T Stadium.
   “It was good,” said TE O.J. Howard. “It was a normal Thursday. Everyone had high intensity and had fun. We’re prepared to get ready for the game.”
  And ready will Alabama need to be in just its second ever meeting with Michigan State (12-1, 7-1 Big Ten). The lone previous matchup came in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla. to close out the 2010 season when the Tide rolled to a 49-7 victory over the Spartans. In that game, Alabama amassed 546 total yards of offense to post the second-best offensive output in a bowl game in program history.
   After practice, Alabama is set to enjoy the remainder of the day relaxing at its headquarters hotel. Tomorrow, the Tide will conduct a brief walk-through at AT&T Stadium following the entire team attending the Goodyear Big Play Luncheon.
-- Goodyear Cotton Bowl Communications

9-year-old scoliosis patient inspires Spartans, Dantonio

  One of the heartwarming moments of this year's Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic is the reunion of Rowan Fitzsimmons, a 9-year-old scoliosis outpatient, and the Michigan State Spartans.
   Little Rowan first established a bond with the team, and in particular head coach Mark Dantonio, a year ago when Michigan State came to North Texas to play Baylor in the previous Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
  Since then, Rowan has become a huge Spartans fan, and the players and coaches have become fans of hers. You can read more about this special bond in this story from

Scenes from Media Day

   Both teams playing in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic took turns in front of the media Tuesday on the field of AT&T Stadium. Michigan State went first, then Alabama followed as the media gathered for Thursday's College Football Playoff Semifinal had full access to the teams for an hour each.
   It wasn't nearly as grueling as it sounds. In fact, several players managed to have fun. And by now most reporters have asked all the important questions, so Media Day was a chance to delve into the players' and coaches' personalities.