Seven national title games.
Four championships seasons
Too many All-Americans and NFL Draft picks to count.
It all adds up to a decade of dominance for the University of Alabama football team. No other program in college football had more success during a 10-year stretch than the Crimson Tide had from 2010 to today, and it’s unlikely we will see anything quite like it again.
Every game, every season, even the non-championship ones, was special in some way. What made it that way was big plays, the ones that carried extra significance and will forever remain on Alabama’s highlight reel for years to come.
Here is a look back at the top 10 plays from the decade.
10: Superman takes flight
Jonathan Allen was already one of the top players in the country when Alabama played Texas A&M. What he did on a third-and-14 play early in the first quarter made him a household name.
Date: Oct. 22, 2016
The play: Allen whipped center Colton Prater and bolted toward quarterback Trevor Knight. Aggie running back Trayveon Williams went low to block Allen, who leaped over him and ’flew’ toward Knight and hit him square in the chest for the sack.
Significance: It was a big moment in the game, but an even bigger moment around the country online and through social media. It got folks talking and got Allen a little more recognition.
9: Lacy hits the ’B’ button
Eddie Lacy’s patented spin move is something right out of a Madden NFL video game. He used it very often during the 2012 season, but the one he did against Notre Dame in the BCS championship game was next level.
Date: Jan. 7, 2013
The play: On first-and-10 at the Notre Dame 11-yard line and 39 seconds left before halftime Lacy snuck out of the backfield and was wide open for a short reception from AJ McCarron. As two defenders converged on him, Lacy spun left as both Irish players crashed into each other. Lacy reached the end zone just as another player came in to make the hit, but Lacy, who was already in the end zone, made another spin move just for good measure.
The significance: The score put Alabama ahead 28-0 and signaled to Notre Dame, and to the rest of the country, that this game was over and there was no doubt the Crimson Tide was the undisputed national champ.
6: A Heisman stiff-arm
Derrick Henry won the 2015 Heisman Trophy, running for 2,219 yards on 395 attempts with 28 touchdowns. He was clearly the workhorse in this national championship season and he punctuated that fact in the College Football Playoff semifinal against Michigan State.
Date: Dec. 31, 2015
The play: With the game well in hand, Alabama was marching in for another score with just over eight minutes to play in the Cotton Bowl. Henry’s number was called on second-and-10 from the Spartans’ 11. There was nothing up the middle so Henry ran right, where three-time Big 10 defensive end Shilique Calhoun was waiting for him. Henry reached out with his left arm and stiff-armed Calhoun, 250 pounds, discarded him to the turf like he was a piece of trash and raced to the end zone for a touchdown.
The significance: Henry, at 6-3, 242 pounds, carried Alabama on his back in 2015 and it’ pretty hard to deny the Crimson Tide running back’s strength and toughness to run 30 to 40 times a game. This play defined Henry’s persona as a player – tough, powerful and someone not to be trifled with.
7: The Comeback Kid
No one can deny Jalen Hurts had a huge impact during his career at Alabama – SEC Offensive Player of the Year as a freshman and won 27 games as a starting quarterback. He was benched in 2018 for sophomore Tua Tagovailoa, but Hurts stayed with the team and remained the backup without complaining. He was rewarded for his patience.
Date: Dec. 1, 2018
The play: Hurts was called upon in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game after Tagovailoa left with an injury. Hurts guided the Crimson Tide to a game-tying score and later in the fourth quarter scored the go-ahead touchdown.
Hurts took a snap on first down at the Georgia 16 with 1:11 left and raced up the middle toward the end zone. A Georgia defender reached for Hurts at the goal line but the Crimson Tide QB’s momentum carried him into the end zone for the score.
The significance: Good things happen to good people and there’s no better proof than Hurts’ effort here. He took the demotion with poise all year and never made a fuss over it on Twitter or in the media. He answered when called upon and got the job done.
6: That’s going to leave a mark
Alabama and LSU have had some great clashes this decade and there have been more than enough memorable plays. But when you get down to it, Reuben Foster’s play in Tiger Stadium may be more memorable than the outcome of the game.
Date: Nov. 8, 2014
The play: Alabama just scored the game-tying field goal with three seconds left in regulation and kicked off to the Tigers. LSU running back Leonard Fournette picked up the squib kick and ran up field looking for a hole. Out of nowhere, Foster ran straight into Fournette for one of his signature big hits, which leveled Fournette as time expired.
The significance: After the play the Alabama bench erupted in celebration as it had won the game. It fired up a Crimson Tide team that had been limited offensively all night (315 total yards). Alabama scored a touchdown in overtime and the defense held the Tigers out of the end zone for the win.
5: That’s Amari
Amari Cooper is arguably the greatest receiver to ever play at Alabama. His school best 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns makes a solid case. It was early in his Alabama career where he made a big impression.
Date: Dec. 1, 2012
The play: Alabama trailed Georgia 28-25 with 3:25 to play in the SEC title game, which most folks considered to be more of the de facto national title game. AJ McCaron took the snap and dropped back. He looked right and threw the ball to Cooper, who was one-on-one with a Georgia defensive back. Cooper hauled in the pass at the goal line for the go-ahead score.
Cooper actually slowed down halfway through his route. After realizing McCarron threw the ball to him, Cooper sped up and caught up to the ball to make the catch.
The significance: The play gave the Crimson Tide a four-point lead and the defense made it hold up to punch Alabama’s ticket to the national title game with Notre Dame.
4: Big man can move
It’s always fun when big offensive or defensive linemen get to score. They hardly ever do it so their reactions in the end zone is must-see TV. Marcell Dareus had one of those moments in the 2010 national championship game against Texas in the Rose Bowl.
Date: Jan. 7, 2010
The play: With 15 seconds before the half and Alabama holding a 17-6 lead Texas opted to run a play instead of taking a knee to run out the clock. The Longhorns tried to pull off a shovel pass, but quarterback Garrett Gilbert’s pass was bobbled by D.J. Monroe and went into the waiting hands of Dareus. The 6-4, 296-pound defensive end took off for the end zone, threw Gilbert – trying to make the tackle – to the ground, spun around an offensive lineman and jogged into the end zone for an unexpected score. He received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for throwing the ball, but you can’t really blame him for his enthusiasm.
The significance: It turned out Alabama needed that score in a big way. Texas mounted a comeback in the second half and pulled within three points of Alabama. The Crimson Tide held to claim its first national title under Nick Saban.
3: Screen gem
It’s not surprising another play against LSU ended up on this list. As mentioned before there were quite a few great great games between these two this decade. This one might be Alabama fans’ favorite against the Tigers.
Date: Nov. 3, 2012
The play: Alabama trailed 17-14 with just 1:34 remaining. AJ McCarron moved the offense down the field to the LSU 28-yard line in just under 30 seconds. On second down McCarron hit T.J. Yeldon on a screen pass. The Crimson Tide running back slipped past one defender, side-stepped another and outran a third for a go-ahead touchdown to the shock of LSU fans in Tiger Stadium.
The significance: Alabama had no success moving the ball in the second half and needed something big to happen. The last-minute drive and score by Yeldon kept Alabama’s perfect season intact (the Tide lost to Texas A&M the following week). Still, Alabama needed that win and needed to be pushed to the limit by a quality team.
2: The Great Drake
Special teams is a big part of winning games and Alabama had two in one game against Clemson in the CFP championship game in Glendale, Arizona. The onsides kick was huge, no doubt. But Kenyan Drake’s special teams heroics were even bigger.
Date: Jan. 11, 2015
The play: Clemson scored a field goal to pull within four points of Alabama’s lead with 7:47 left to play. On the kickoff Drake fielded the ball at the 5 and ran upfield. There was too much traffic up the middle so he slid to the outside while avoiding a tackle. Once he beat the contain man and the kicker to the edge near midfield Drake took off. With safety D.J. Green closing in, Drake dove around the 5-yard line, with the ball extended in his right hand, and scored a touchdown.
The significance: The score put Alabama ahead by 11 points, and gave the Crimson Tide some breathing room. Clemson did score on its next possession but the kickoff return took the pressure off just a little bit.
It’s pretty obvious this play was going to take the top spot on this list. Mention second-and-26 to any Alabama fan and the reference will immediately resonate. It’s not only one of the greatest moments in Alabama football history but all of college football.
Date: Jan. 8, 2018
The play: Tua Tagovailoa had just been sacked for a 16-yard loss against Georgia in the CFP national title game in overtime. With Georgia ahead 23-20, it looked dire for Alabama. Tagovailoa took the next snap, looked right for about two seconds to freeze the safety, then flung a pass to a wide open DeVonta Smith in the end zone for the walk-off win.
The significance: Tua entered the game in second half to try and give Alabama a spark. His playing time that season consisted of mop-up duty to starter Jalen Hurts. The comeback and the game-winning score was just a sliver of what Alabama fans and the country could expect with Tua running the offense in the future.
Reach Edwin Stanton at 205-722-0226, email@example.com or via Twitter, @edwinstantonu2