Alabama Present Legacy With Ohio State Victory: Nick Saban’s Finest Staff
Alabama’s offensive was not in full swing in the final minutes of Monday’s college football playoff championship game.
Receiver DeVonta Smith left the game with a dislocated finger at the beginning of the third quarter. A recovering Jaylen Waddle was disabled to a limited extent. Quarterback Mac Jones hobbled off one last time after being awkwardly attacked early in the game. And center Landon Dickerson, who tore up his ACL in the SEC championship, played two symbolic snaps in a winning knee formation.
In this way, arguably the biggest crime in college football history ended its 2020 season: limping across the finish line.
Of course victorious.
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“A lot of the boys weren’t 100 percent and we were beaten up,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban after the game. “They showed a lot of courage and a lot of grit about the way they competed and how they played.”
No. 1 Alabama (13-0) referred No. 3 Ohio State (7-1) in session on Monday, 52-24. The Crimson Tide not only won a sixth national championship under Saban: they set a new standard for others to follow with an offensive masterpiece that posted a CFP title game record totaling 621 yards.
“It was a fantastic offensive effort from Mac and Smitty,” said Saban. “The whole group. The offensive line has done a great job all year round. So you really can’t say enough or put into words how proud I am of this group of this team because they are the ultimate team.”
Where should I start? Start with Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner and Sporting News 2020 Player of the Year. He finished with 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns in a single half. Smith tore up the Ohio State defense with four catches of 20 yards or more and those three points, the last from 42 yards just before halftime.
Smith left with a hand injury on the opening drive of the third quarter and did not return. Saban joked about his star player’s injury: “I told Smitty after the game, ‘You’re the only player I know who missed a whole half because of your finger.” Not that it mattered. There’s a reason Smith opened his post-game press conference by saying, “Teamwork makes the dream come true.”
When Justin Fields and Ohio State reduced the lead to 38-24 at 6:45 in the third quarter, Jones responded with a touchdown drive that pushed the lead back to three touchdowns. The Tide Beacon – winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and Davey O’Brien Awards – completed 36 of 45 passes with a CFP championship record of 464 yards and five touchdowns. That corresponded to the performance of Joe Burrow from LSU in last year’s championship game.
Doak Walker Award winner Najee Harris added 79 rushing yards, 79 receiving yards and three touchdowns behind his Joe Moore Award winning offensive line anchored by Outland Trophy winner Alex Leatherwood. Waddle, who hadn’t played since October 24, converted a key third place in the Crimson Tide’s first touchdown drive. The next wave of playmakers, including John Metchie III and Slade Bolden, postponed the game in the second half.
All of this was done with the help of Steve Sarkisian’s continued masterly prompt to play. The Broyles Award winner stayed focused after taking the job as head coach in Texas. The Buckeyes attempted a 4-4 alignment in defense in the first half, which he repeatedly exploited.
“I think we are the best team that has ever played,” said Jones. “There’s no team that will ever play an SEC schedule like this again, but at the same time we’re just so happy to win this game. … There wasn’t a lot of pressure. We just wanted to play the game.” We have been playing since we were 5 years old. We did really well. “
Smith said, “It was just the love for this team. Everyone wants to do what they can. It is to have the young people there ready when something happens and their commitment that they have for one another. It is the love, that we have for this team. ” . “
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This achievement earned Saban his seventh national title and almost always pushed him past Paul “Bear” Bryant. It wasn’t his first undefeated championship, but it could have been the most impressive. This was not the methodical ground-and-pound approach that spawned BCS titles against Texas (2009), LSU (2011) or Notre Dame (2012). But it wasn’t much like the CFP Nail Biters vs Clemson (2015) or Georgia (2017) either.
This was a football-like destruction in the arena that surpassed what SEC rival LSU Clemson did in last year’s championship game. We thought we’d never see an offense like the Tigers had with Burrow last season – the one that Alabama beat 46-41 in the last “game of the century”.
But Alabama built the passing of the century during a time hit by the pandemic of the century. The Crimson Tide averaged 48.5 points per game, an SEC record. Against an SEC schedule of 11 games, ACC runner-up Notre Dame and Big Ten champion Rose Bowl winner Buckeyes had an average.
These star players played it through one last time. NFL stars asked if Waddle should be on the field at all. Smith spent most of the second half in the medical tent and locker room before joining his teammates. Jones received a standing ovation at 3:31.
But it was the picture of Dickerson picking up Saban in the post-game celebration that will make the lasting image.
Jones announced after the game that his Rimington winners center would text him every morning at 7 a.m. saying he would play in the championship game.
“Most people can’t even go with the time period it’s in,” Jones said. “He scraped his bum to get back on the field.”
All of these leaders wanted to be in the field for that moment. In doing so, they made a strong argument as the best offense – and team – Saban has ever coached.
“I think,” said Saban, “there is a lot to write about when it comes to the team’s legacy.”
This is the ultimate team in person.