TUSCALOOSA -- The much-anticipated matchup between Alabama receiver Amari Cooper and Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III deteriorated into another field day for the Crimson Tide's junior wide receiver Saturday in a 42-21 home win for Alabama.
Cooper finished with his most prolific performance of the season -- 10 catches, 201 yards and three touchdowns -- to further establish himself as the top receiver in college football. Not all that production came against Hargreaves, and Cooper beat a safety from the slot position for his biggest catch of all, a 79-yard touchdown on a deep pass from quarterback Blake Sims. But more than enough of Cooper's day was spent on Hargreaves to leave little doubt as to which player came out on top.
Hargreaves, a sophomore, entered the game with more pass breakups (five) than catches allowed (two, for 16 yards). Yet, Cooper's day could have been even bigger than it was. He had a 33-yard catch on Hargreaves wiped out by an illegal formation penalty in the second half, something UA coach Nick Saban lamented in his postgame remarks. On Alabama's next drive, Cooper caught a would-be 17-yard touchdown pass that was called back as Cooper was called for offensive pass interference for pushing off on Hargreaves. Cooper admitted after the game that the flag was a good call.
"He's a great player. He's fast, he's quick. He plays smart, and is very instinctive," Cooper said of Hargreaves. "I just took what I watched on film and tried to take advantage of it."
Asked exactly what he saw on film that was so exploitable, Cooper turned coy.
"I don't want to share that," he said.
Cooper entered the game leading the NCAA in receptions with 33. He now has 43 catches on the year -- just two fewer than he made all of last season -- for 655 yards and five touchdowns. Saban suggested his team wasn't about to back down from the challenge Hargreaves presented.
"We kind of figured (UF coach) Will (Muschamp) would match (Hargreaves) up on Coop," Saban said. "But we were going to try to get the ball to Coop."
Cooper broke Alabama's school record for touchdown catches in a career, now with 20, and added to his school-record sixth consecutive game of 100 receiving yards or more. At his current pace, Cooper will reach 1,000 receiving yards for the season in Alabama's home game against Texas A&M on Oct. 18, with five regular-season games remaining.