TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Amari Cooper has consistently lit up defenses that dared to play man-to-man coverage on him all season.
Seems like Auburn needed to find out for itself if Cooper could do the same against its pass defense. The Tigers did, the hard way.
Cooper took apart the Auburn secondary for 224 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 13 catches in No.
“Once you put one person on him, you’re making a bad mistake,” Alabama junior safety Landon Collins said. “We don’t even do it at practice sometimes. I was very surprised when they did that.”
|AMARI COOPER 2014 SEASON STATS|
Cooper was having so much success against Auburn’s defense, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin threw his hands up to signal touchdown even before Blake Sims hit him downfield for the 39-yard score.
Safety Johnathan Ford tried to cover Cooper, but got beat with a double move on the play.
“I guess he’s seen me do it a lot of times in practice against man-to-man,” Cooper said.
On the season, Cooper now has 103 catches for 1,573 yards and 14 touchdowns. Numbers like that should earn you first-class trip to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
“That will be a great thing to be invited to New York,” Cooper said.
Cooper said he doesn’t know if he’s done enough to get the Heisman, but he made sure Auburn has a clear understanding that it can’t cover him 1-on-1.
“We didn’t throw the ball downfield very much in the first half,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “The one time we did, it was a touchdown.”
That touchdown was when Cooper leaped over cornerback Jonathan Jones in the corner of the end zone for a 17-yard grab. Saban wanted to see more of that in the second half.
“I kept saying to Lane, ‘We’ve made a lot of explosive plays throwing the ball down the field. Let’s take some shots on these guys and see if they can cover us deep,’ ” Saban said.
The Tigers couldn’t.
Cooper had seven catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns in the second half against a defense that came into the game ranked 74th nationally against the pass. Besides, Saban had seen enough of Nick Marshall going deep and connecting with Sammie Coates and D’haquille Williams. Coates and Williams had 12 total catches for 367 yards with Coates catching two touchdowns.
So if Alabama couldn’t stop him, at least Saban was going to make sure he gave Cooper chances to match Williams and Coates.
“They’re certainly doing that to us and we’re not having that much success,” Saban continued. “I think a couple of those big plays changed the momentum of the game. Cooper has been great for us all year. He certainly had a great game today. Guy played through a lot of injuries today. Was really kind of hurt and did a great job of competing out there.”
Cooper’s third touchdown catch started a scoring surge for Alabama that turned its 36-27 third-quarter deficit to a 55-36 lead in the fourth. On the first play of the series, Sims found Cooper behind cornerback Jonathon Mincy and hit him for a 75-yard touchdown to pull the Tide within two, 36-34, late in the third.
“Coop is an amazing guy,” Tide sophomore defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson said. “He does what he does every game. Game in and game out.”