With Ray absent, Tide roll Tigers

Said Ray: “The call is what it is. I can’t take it back.”
Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Shane Ray (56) leaves the field after being rejected for targeting in the first half Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014 at the Georgia Dome, in Atlanta.

ATLANTA — Alabama senior quarterback Blake Sims stepped to the line and scanned the Missouri defense.

He snapped the ball and dropped back into the pocket before firing a bomb down field to receiver and fellow senior DeAndrew White. White torched his defenders and hauled it in for a 58-yard touchdown pass.

The score put the Crimson Tide up 14-0, but the play was more significant than that.

Officials called Missouri junior defensive end Shane Ray for targeting Sims after the throw. Referees ejected Ray from the game only three minutes into the second quarter.

When the collision played on the Georgia Dome video boards, the overwhelming Alabama-favoring crowd booed Ray.

“I think it was home call,” sophomore cornerback Aarion Penton said. “It wasn’t the right call. They could have allowed him to keep playing.”

On the play in question, Ray shoved Sims to the ground after the throw. Ray’s helmet made contact with the quarterback’s face mask, which warranted the penalty and ejection for targeting a defenseless player.

“The call is what it is,” Ray said. “I can’t take it back.”

Ray’s ejection was a brutal blow to the Tiger defense. At the time of Ray’s ejection, the Tigers had already surrendered 166 total yards and two touchdowns.

After his departure, the Tigers allowed another 348 yards of offense and four additional touchdowns.

“He’s one of the best defensive players in the country, hands down,” sophomore linebacker Michael Scherer said. “When you lose a guy like that, it’s tough. … When you lose a guy other people have to step up.”

In all, Missouri surrendered 504 total yards of offense for the game, a season-worst. Sims completed 23 of 27 pass attempts for 262 yards and two scores. Junior receiver Amari Cooper had 12 receptions, a new SEC Championship record, for 83 yards.

“(Sims) was just throwing quick passes to him, and he was catching a lot of them for short yards,” Scherer said. “We didn’t tackle him well enough. We didn’t get him on the ground the first time.”

Alabama controlled the ball for 36:43 minutes of game time, nearly a full quarter more than the Tigers (23:17). All that time between the hashmarks took its toll on senior defensive end Markus Golden and his teammates. Eventually, it became too much to bear. The Crimson Tide averaged 9.5 yards per play in the fourth quarter.

“It’s football. That’s how it goes,” Golden said. “If you gotta stay out there longer in the fourth quarter, then you’ve gotta stay out there. There’s no excuses.”

The Missouri locker room was quiet after the loss. The sound of zippers closing was the most audible thing around some sections of players.

For a second consecutive year, the Tigers came to Atlanta and ended up empty handed.

“You feel like you were slighted,” Ray said. “Of course you gonna be angry.”

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