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Alex Byington | The Decatur Daily | December 23, 2016

No. 1 Alabama's top 10 moments of 2016

  The emergence of Jalen Hurts is one of many reasons why 2016 was another special year for the Tide.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — As any Alabama player will tell you, the season isn't over yet.

With the Christmas holiday upon us and the end of 2016 just over a week away, it seemed appropriate to look back and pick out some of the top individual or team moments from the season so far.

"It has been a really great season, and we don't have any intentions stopping anytime soon," junior center Bradley Bozeman said Wednesday. "We'll talk about that at the end of the season."

2016's Top 10

1. Thrice as nice: Alabama's latest victory takes the top spot due to its significance, as it secured a third straight College Football Playoff trip and put the top-ranked Tide in some special company. A heavy favorite, Alabama didn't disappoint by winning its third consecutive SEC championship with a dominating 54-16 win over Florida. The victory gave the Tide the SEC's first three-time defending champ since the mid-1990s, when the Gators won four straight (1993-1996).

RELATED: Top college football plays in 2016

2. Superman takes flight: It was a play that will undoubtedly live on in SEC and college football clip packages for years. Alabama's Jonathan Allen took flight when the nearly 300-pound senior defensive end dove headfirst over an A&M blocker and nailed Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight for a first-quarter sack. It was a play that has symbolized Alabama's top-ranked defense this season.

"When John jumped over the dude at Texas A&M and smashed the quarterback," Minkah Fitzpatrick said. "That would be [the No. 1 play] right there."

3. Tying the NOTs: While the list of Alabama's non-offensive touchdowns in its comeback against Ole Miss were plentiful, there was a single one that stood out to many of the players involved — Eddie Jackson's 85-yard punt return for a touchdown with a minute to play before halftime. The special teams score followed the Tide's first touchdown a minute earlier, and flipped as Alabama erased a 24-3 deficit and went on to a 48-43 win.

4. Fournette flummoxed again: Some of the best moments are a combination of smaller ones that create one memorable experience. That was true in Alabama's 10-0 win over LSU, when Alabama's defense once again shut down tailback Leonard Fournette, holding the one-time Heisman hopeful to 35 rushing yards.

RELATED: Top college sports feel-good stories in 2016

"Definitely LSU," Fitzpatrick said. "I would say, when we shut them out, kept them to zero points and we all got the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week, the whole defense."

5. Hurts' record dual day: It's difficult to talk about Alabama's season without mentioning some of the performances by true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. Arguably none was bigger than his big day against Mississippi State, when Hurts combined for nearly 450 total yards and five touchdowns in a 51-3 blowout. In the game, the 18-year-old Hurts became the first-ever Alabama player to throw for 300 yards (347) and rush for 100 yards (100) in the same game. Beginning with a 67-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter, Hurts and junior receiver ArDarius Stewart connected eight times for 156 yards and three scores through the air that day.

6. Hurts-to-Stewart starts strong: While Mississippi State was certainly a big day between the two Alabama playmakers, it all started 3 1/2 months earlier when the true freshman found Stewart for a 39-yard touchdown pass to spark the Crimson Tide offense in a season-opening 52-6 win over Southern Cal. Stewart later pulled in a 71-yard touchdown strike that still stands as Hurts' longest pass as Alabama rolled up 38 straight points behind Hurts, who didn't even start the game.

7. Fitzpatrick's 107-yard Pick-6: With 10 of Alabama's NCAA-leading 14 non-offensive touchdowns coming from its defense, it'd be easier just to rank the Tide's defensive scores this season. And while it wasn't nearly as impactful as those that came against Ole Miss, Fitzpatrick's 100-yard interception return for a score from the back of the end zone effectively sealed Alabama's 49-30 road win over then-No. 16 Arkansas.

8. Freshman QB's first start: Hurts' record-breaking freshman campaign isn't over, with the potential to still produce the program's single-best offensive season. And while Hurts' official debut came a week earlier when he came off the bench against Southern Cal, the rookie's first start came Sept. 10 against Western Kentucky. He became the first true freshman quarterback to start a game at Alabama since Vince Sutton in 1984 — a span of 32 years.

9. Calvin Ridley rolls to record day: With Stewart sitting out due to a disciplinary issue, last year's freshman phenom came through in a big way, posting a career-best 11-catch, 174-yard performance in a 34-6 drubbing of Kentucky. Although Ridley hasn't been able to put up some of the same sort of numbers he did a year ago, the personal-best performance was a welcomed reminder of exactly what he is capable of when given the chance.

10. Dieter's strange stat line: Former big-play Bowling Green receiver Gehrig Dieter came to Alabama to make a difference and win a championship. Although it hasn't been nearly as noticeable as others, Dieter has nevertheless had a significant impact this season, and his efforts were rewarded with an interesting stat line Nov. 19 against Chattanooga. Following an early negative-1 yard reception, Dieter pulled down a pair of 1-yard touchdown catches in the 31-3 victory to finish with three receptions for two touchdown and only a single yard.

This article is written by Alex Byington from The Decatur Daily, Ala. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.


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