For the sixth time in the 14-year tenure of Nick Saban, Alabama is college football’s national champion.
The Crimson Tide capped off an undefeated season by trouncing Ohio State, 52-24, in Miami on Monday night. It was a close game early, but Alabama opened up a sizable lead as the second quarter progressed thanks to the outstanding efforts of Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith.
The senior wide receiver caught 12 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns — all in the first half. His second and third scores came in the final 3:19 of the second quarter and increased the Tide’s lead from 21-17 to 35-17 at the break.
Though Smith would leave the game with a hand injury early in the third quarter, his teammates did the necessary work to complete the job.
The team’s two other top-five Heisman finishers — QB Mac Jones and RB Najee Harris — had monster performances of their own. Jones finished the night 36-of-45 for a whopping 464 yards and five touchdowns. Harris, meanwhile, rushed for 79 yards, caught seven passes for 79 yards and scored three total touchdowns.
Though it was a game that ended up being lopsided, there are a handful of plays that propelled Alabama to its latest national championship.
Najee Harris’ fourth-down conversions
After Ohio State opened the game with a three-and-out that included an injury that knocked running back Trey Sermon from the ballgame, Alabama marched right down the field.
Eventually, though, the Tide was faced with a decision on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The coaching staff didn’t hesitate. The offense stayed on the field and Harris followed a cavalcade of blockers into the end zone to put Alabama ahead 7-0.
Ohio State responded and tied the score on the ensuing drive. When the Tide’s offense returned to the field, a similar fourth-down decision emerged. This time it was fourth-and-1 from the OSU 10-yard line.
Again, Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian turned to Harris, who barreled ahead for a three-yard gain and another first down. Three plays later, Jones hit Smith for a five-yard score to put Alabama, 14-7.
DeVonta Smith takes over
Late in the first half, Alabama found itself in a tight game. It was 21-17 after the Alabama defense held OSU to a field goal.
That’s when Smith took over the game.
On the fifth play of the ensuing drive, Jones found Smith behind the defense for a 44-yard gain. Smith glided past OSU defensive back Shaun Wade and quickly separated, allowing Jones to hit him in stride.
Two plays later, Smith scored from five yards out to open up a two-score lead for the Tide. It was a unique design from Sarkisian where he took advantage of getting Smith one-on-one in man coverage. Smith came in motion and faked out his defender before the ball was even snapped.
Take a look:
That score increased the lead to 28-17 with 3:19 left in the half.
DeVonta over the top
The Alabama defense then forced a punt, allowing Smith, Jones and the offense to return to the field.
Smith took the first two plays of the drive off after taking a big hit on a punt return. When he returned to the field, he somehow found himself matched up one-on-one with Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland. You know how that went.
Smith glided right past the overmatched Borland and scored yet again, this time from 44 yards out.
By the time the first half ended, Smith had outgained and outscored Ohio State single handedly.
An unlikely scorer extends the lead
Smith went down with a hand injury on the second play of the second half, leaving the Alabama receiving corps without its leader.
But it’s Alabama. There were other capable players ready to step up.
Ohio State managed to cut the deficit to 38-24 with a three-play scoring drive, but that was as close as the Buckeyes would get. Jones led the offense right back down the field. He got help from Brian Robinson, the team’s backup running back.
Eventually, though, it was Slade Bolden who finished off the drive with his first career touchdown catch. Bolden did a solid job throughout the season playing in the slot with Jaylen Waddle sidelined. He was finally rewarded with a trip to the end zone.
Alabama defense seals the deal
On the ensuing drive, one of Alabama’s top defensive players made a play that pretty much spelled the end of Ohio State’s championship hopes.
Ohio State faced a fourth-and-one play from near midfield. Trailing 45-24, the Buckeyes had no choice but to keep the offense on the field. Ryan Day dialed up a running play with Master Teague, seeing an increased role in the place of Sermon.
But Teague was stuffed for a loss of two yards by Christian Barmore, Alabama’s standout defensive lineman.
Barmore worked his way down the line of scrimmage, shed an Ohio State blocker and got to Teague for a turnover on downs.
Barmore finished the game with five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack en route to Defensive Player of the Game honors.
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