A safety juking a mob of offensive linemen. A running back victimizing a kickoff coverage unit. A heavy, winded defensive lineman rumbling down the sideline for six.
These precious gems are some of college football’s most exhilarating because they can change the complexion of entire games in seconds. Since Alabama returned to its national title-winning ways last season, few teams have been better in these areas than the Crimson Tide — responsible for 17 non-offensive touchdowns over the last two seasons.
In light of this incredible excellence, SEC Country has compiled all of these scores in order to analyze every beautiful broken tackle, downfield block and #FatGuyTD on the list. Enjoy.
No. 1: Minkah makes it look easy (Georgia, 2015)
Looking back, this is a play that defined Alabama’s season. Two weeks removed from a second crushing loss to Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide kickstarted its beatdown of Georgia when cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick sliced through the punt protection unit, blocked Collin Barber’s kick and snatched it up in the end zone for one of the cleanest punt-block touchdowns you’ll ever see.
No. 2: Not-so-sorry Mr. Jackson (Georgia, 2015)
With the game quickly getting away from them, the Bulldogs gave backup quarterback Brice Ramsey a try and quickly realized, “Hey, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” Ramsey went 1-for-6 with two interceptions, the first being this smooth pick-six by safety Eddie Jackson. Offensive lineman Greg Pyke has no shot trying to bring him down on the 50-yard return.
No. 3: College Station pick-fest, Part 1 (Texas A&M, 2015)
Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen rolls out and either horribly overthrows his checkdown man underneath (you’ll see he makes an attempt to catch it) or is way late on hitting his Ricky Seals-Jones on the sideline. Alabama’s in man defense, and the Aggies try a “conflict of assignment” play where the outside and slot receivers cross at about the same spot on the field. But Fitzpatrick stays on his man and easily jumps the route before breezing in for the 33-yard return TD.
No. 4: College Station pick-fest, Part 2 (Texas A&M, 2015)
Allen is again targeting Seals-Jones and, with a very clean pocket, badly overthrows him. Jackson gobbles it up and makes some swift moves going 93 yards to the end zone, but you also can’t overlook Cyrus Jones, who is blocking Christian Kirk all the way down at the 15-yard line. A total team effort on the return.
Also, note the 0:24 mark. Allen’s throw was so bad that he’s giving this Texas A&M fan migraines:
No. 5: College Station pick-fest, Part 3 (Texas A&M, 2015)
This was the back-breaker for the Aggies. Allen should’ve either tucked it and taken the sack or tried to get upfield for a few yards. Instead, he fires it right at Fitzpatrick, who scoots his way to the far sideline and then turns on the jets to reach TD land. Why was Allen so off-target in this game? He later admitted he was playing injured against Alabama, despite insisting that he was healthy enough to play. Bad move, man.
No. 6: Cy sees all (Mississippi State, 2015)
You cannot say enough about Cyrus Jones’ vision as a ball-carrier. He works his way around the two Mississippi State men who get there first — both take bad angles on the explosive return man — and then he hits his crease in the Bulldogs’ coverage team full speed to daylight. It was the first of of four Alabama touchdowns of 60-plus yards scored in this game.
No. 7 and No. 8: Cupcake feast (Charleston Southern, 2015)
Jones scored his second and third return touchdowns of the season in this FCS tune-up. Skip ahead to the 0:25 mark. Both punts are bad, line-drive shots, but the Crimson Tide return unit also did an excellent job of blocking downfield and staying engaged so that Jones could hit the end zone almost untouched.
No. 9: A Cotton Bowl classic (Michigan State, 2015)
Jones’ fourth and final return touchdown is a beauty. With Alabama holding a 17-0 lead late in the third quarter, this play put the game away. Michigan State punts out of its own end zone, and the Spartans’ Jake Hartbarger, who was called upon nine times in the game, outkicks his coverage and gives Jones a big cushion to start his return. Jones proceeds to make two amazing cuts — one at the 40-yard line, and another at the 25 — on route to the end zone. And no, I’m not sure why there’s a British guy narrating this.
No. 10: Drake keeps the dynasty alive (Clemson, 2015)
For all the huge runs Derrick Henry churned out during his Heisman run, his backup Kenyan Drake made the iconic play for the 2015 Crimson Tide. He makes one crucial cut around the 20-yard line, and then outruns four Clemson players before diving toward the pylon. Tigers kicker Greg Huegel dives at Drake’s feet at the 45-yard line, and safety T.J. Green tries to push him out of bounds at the very end of the run. Not quite close enough. You know the rest: Alabama nets its fourth title under Nick Saban, and here we are.
No. 11: Right where they left off (USC, 2016)
Believe it or not, the 2016 Crimson Tide have almost as many non-offensive touchdowns as last year’s squad — and we’re only five games into the schedule. Southern California came into the season with high hopes, but coach Clay Helton already finds himself in danger of getting canned. It all started in Week 1 with Alabama’s 52-6 throttling in Jerry World. Southern California actually led 3-0 through the first quarter, but the deficit quickly piled up in the second quarter after quarterback Max Browne’s pass went off his receiver’s hands and right into Marlon Humphrey’s. He and a convoy of crimson charge 18 yards into the end zone for a 17-3 lead.
No. 12: Mr. Jackson’s back (Western Kentucky, 2016)
All Alabama needs to do with Eddie Jackson is sit him back in zone coverage and let him do work. Here, Western Kentucky has two slot receivers running streak routes, and both are well-covered. Hilltoppers quarterback Mike White tries to force one, but Jackson eats it up and then speeds past everyone and stiff arms White for the pick-six.
No. 13: The legacy continues (Ole Miss, 2016)
Trailing Ole Miss 24-3 in the second quarter, Alabama fans were about to hit the “panic” button before Jalen Hurts orchestrated a quick touchdown drive. Then Jackson made it a one-score game by doing what Cyrus Jones did so well the year before — making teams pay in the return game. The blocking execution wasn’t perfect on this one, but the deep punt gave Jackson enough room to get the wheels turning. Eighty-five yards later, the Tide find themselves in striking distance of the Rebels.
No. 14: Major Payne for Chad Kelly (Ole Miss, 2016)
Big defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne gets credit for the scoop-and-score, but this play was more a result of 1) linebacker Ryan Anderson being sent on a delay blitz and 2) Kelly’s poor ball security. Anderson wrestles it out of the Ole Miss quarterback’s hands on their way to the turf. Payne gets credit for awareness, though. Sad Ole Miss dad (0:22 mark) says it all for the Rebels.
No. 15 Alabama does… score TDs in every way possible (Ole Miss, 2016)
This is the point when you thought, “Finally, this crazy game is just about over.” Whether you consider it a fumble or an interception return (it was officially scored as a fumble), 294-pound Jonathan Allen rumbling 75 yards down the sideline was an amazing sight to behold. Pass rushing specialist Tim Williams gets the best of Rebels O-lineman Sean Rawlings and just gets his hand on Kelly to force the fumble, and Allen seems to snag it right out of the air.
You’re also probably wondering: How did Allen know to cover up the football right as Ole Miss’ Quincy Adeboyejo is about to catch him at the goal line? Allen could see Adeboyejo’s approach on the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium video board as he ran to the end zone. Once again, good awareness by an Alabama defender.
No. 16: The up-and-comer (Kent State, 2016)
Late in this blowout (3:38 mark in this video), sophomore wideout Xavian Marks showed why he could be the return specialist who takes over for the senior, Jackson. He makes a quick cut, breaks a tackle mid-return and then somehow isn’t tackled by the Kent State punter while almost jogging into the end zone. Probably something the coaching staff critiqued him on during film review. Still, six points is six points.
No. 17: Run, Ronnie, Run (Kentucky, 2016)
Junior college transfer Stephen Johnson is quickly learning that you can’t be careless with the football in the SEC. With the Wildcats trailing just 10-3 midway through the second quarter, he coughs up a fumble while trying to scramble for a first down, and opportunistic safety Ronnie Harrison snatches it off the bounce and dashes past a Kentucky receiver for six easy points.
— Sleeper Athletes (@SleeperAthletes) October 2, 2016
Bonus: The big Mack attack (Kent State, 2016)
This is technically an offensive touchdown, but linebacker Lyndell “Mack” Wilson made a 1-yard touchdown catch against Kent State after lining up as a fullback (4:35 mark of the video below). The best part? Jalen Hurts’ pass was actually intended for tight end O.J. Howard, who was running a route deeper in the end zone. Wilson, a former 5-star recruit, just so happened to snag it instead and, after a bit of a bobble, came down with it. Featuring defensive players in goal-line situations is something college teams need to do more often. Props on that accidental touchdown, Alabama.