Once and for all, let’s toss that “game manager” moniker away. It just doesn’t apply to Alabama quarterback Jake Coker any more.

Coker was fabulous in the Crimson Tide’s 38-0 rout of Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Thursday night. And he had to be. The Spartans’ game plan was to take away Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and force Coker to beat them.

He did, clearly. That 38-0 score tells it all. This wasn’t game management, it was game domination.

Coker finished 25-for-30 passing (83 percent) for 286 yards in the rout. It was the best game of his career … and the best night of his life.

“They have a good front and we knew we’d have a challenge running the ball. We knew we’d have to throw the ball effectively and Jake did a really good job of that,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said after the game. “I’m really happy for the guy. He’s done an outstanding job for us all year long.

“It starts with his toughness and competitive spirit. His teammates love him. That’s why they named him captain. He played very well tonight, from start to finish.”

Coker looked calm and prepared throughout. With Henry held in check, Coker had to come through early and he did. He was 16 of 20 passing for 177 yards in the first half.

There were many moments when Coker had to make a throw. And he did.

  • Late in the first quarter, when  both teams were struggling to move the ball, Coker hit ArDarius Stewart in the flat for a first down to keep a drive alive. He led him perfectly so he could get yards after the catch to move the chains.
  • On Alabama’s first scoring drive, Coker was a perfect 4-for-4 through the air. The big play was a perfect pass to a streaking Calvin Ridley that went for 50 yards to the 1-yard line. Ridley never had to break stride.

  • Coker also got his tight end involved, hitting O.J Howard twice on the second score that led to a field goal and a 10-0 lead. They connected for 14 yards on the first play of the drive and then 41 yards later in the possession to get into field goal range.

Coker got an assist from Ridley and the replay official on his first touchdown pass. His pass to the corner of the end zone was perfect and Ridley went up with a defender to battle for the ball. He came down with it and kept both feet down while gaining possession. He was ruled out of bounds at first, but it was reversed on replay.

Even his last touchdown pass was perfect. It was a great play call on first down, because with big lead it seemed obvious that Alabama would start working on the clock. Instead, Ridley  ran free on a post route for a 50-score to go up 31-0.

For Coker, it was a seminal moment for the former Florida State Seminole. He waited patiently for his magic moment at FSU and never got the chance behind James Winston. He watched from the sideline when FSU won the 2013 national championship.

When he transferred to Alabama, he did so hoping for that kind of moment himself. But 2014 didn’t turn out the way he wanted and it looked early like 2015 wouldn’t either. But he’s been better and better every week and he’s finishing the season with a flurry.

But he’s not finished yet. He’s got one more game to go.

Anyone betting against him now? Be careful.

Because Jake Coker is a winner.