Even when it was winning national championships and doing so with elite offensive players, Alabama was not thought of as the type of team that won games by decisive margins. Programs like Oregon and Oklahoma ran teams off the field, winning by gaudy scores that impressed pollsters. Alabama, meanwhile, won games with defense, a running game and a quarterback who “managed” the game — or at least that was the perception, even if it wasn’t always accurate.
Well, this Alabama team could be on the verge of following a different script, thanks to the emergence of Blake Sims as an unlikely star. The senior quarterback was brilliant in the Tide’s 42–21 win over Florida on Saturday afternoon, throwing for 445 yards — the second-most in school history — and four touchdowns. Sims averaged 13.5 yards on his 33 passing attempts, a number that has been surpassed only once by a Nick Saban quarterback at Alabama against an SEC opponent. AJ McCarron averaged 13.9 yards per attempt in a 2012 win over Tennessee, against a defense that ranked last in the league by the end of the season.
This was different.
Sims did his work against a Florida defense that is expected to be one of the best in the SEC. Despite their struggles last season, the Gators still ranked second in the league in total defense and first in passing defense in 2013. Sims, however, had little difficulty making big plays, completing passes of 87 yards to Kenyan Drake, 70 yards to Amari Cooper, 37 to T.J. Yeldon and 29 to Derrick Henry.
For the season, he is completing 73.2 percent of his passes and has thrown eight touchdowns and only two interceptions, and his 11.2 yards-per-attempt average leads the SEC.
“People have to respect his passing,” Alabama coach Saban said after the game. “He has made too many plays for people not to respect him as a passer.”