Crimson Tide prevails over Washington Huskies in College Football Playoff, 24-7
Atlanta, GA – On a rainy day outside the covered Georgia Dome, the Alabama Crimson spotted Washington the first touchdown of the game and then its defense and effective special teams held the Huskies to their lowest total yardage and point total of the season. Later in the game, a 99-yard drive would seal the 24-7 victory to advance them to the CFP Championship next Monday night in Tampa. The Huskies’ defense stood basically toe-to-toe with The Tide offense through much of the game, but their west coast offense lacked the speed and arm strength needed to beat the Bama secondary deep. The Crimson Tide had their game plan figured out and stuffed their offense which had averaged 44.4 points per game. Two turnovers including the Crimson Tide’s 11th defensive TD of the season made the big difference early to start them rolling. Alabama is big, strong, fast, talented, and well-coached, no doubt, putting them at the top of the heap among all 129 FBS schools. Only Clemson remains in their path to a second straight championship.
Both teams’ first possessions resulted in three and out drives. UW took over next from its 36. The eighth play later resulted in a 16-yard over the shoulder catch by WR Dante Pettis in the end zone for a 7-0 Husky lead. I turned to Guest Game analyst Charlie Murren (Auburn) and asked, “What did you think?”, after such an efficient looking drive. Charlie, respectful of his arch-rival’s head coach, dead-panned, “It’s early.” Early enough. Bama came right back with a 78-yard drive completed by Bo Scarborough’s 18-yard TD run. Before the period ended at 7-7, CB Anthony Averett (Woodbury, NJ) forced a fumble from WR John Ross and DL Jonathan Allen recovered to take over on the Washington 40.
Five seconds into the second quarter, Adam Griffith kicked it through the uprights for a 41-yard FG and a 10-7 Crimson Tide lead. Through the balance of the half, Crimson Tide P JK Scott kept the UW offense with their backs against the wall. His long hang times gave the Tide great coverage starting their last three drives of the half at the nine, twenty, and four-yard lines. After Scott’s third punt, the Huskies finally seemed to build a little steam getting out to their 32, but with 1:13 left, Jake Browning’s pass to the right flat under pressure was picked off by Bama LB Ryan Anderson. He returned it to the end zone for a Tide 17-7 lead, deflating what little momentum the Huskies were starting to build on before halftime.
Through the too many typical time-outs we fans have to sit through during a college football game, in this one I observed the coaching interactions along both sidelines. There were two distinctive, yet successful styles, observed along both sidelines. Chris Peterson, who has turned the Husky program around since coming over from a very successful stint at Boise State, roams the sideline as his primary coordinators gathered with their respective charges to review strategies and situations. Peterson rarely ventured into these meetings. On the Alabama sideline, several assistants would huddle with their respective squads during each break. However, Saban seemed to have something to say to the entire team at some point during the breaks, or he would communicate something to a specific player each time before breaking from the huddle, in most cases before the other coaches were finished. He had constant input, but it was generally to a specific player, evidently about something he saw, wanted to create an awareness about, or wanting to review a technique.
In the third, Scott continued to impress with his punts (indoors today) pinning the Huskies deep in their territory. Surely throughout the season, Scott may not have punted as often as many others, but with his impressive hang times, he looks like a likely candidate to help out some team playing on Sundays in the future. Finally, the Husky offense got some breathing room at the end of the third.
They failed to score, but on third and three at the UW 48, Browning punted from his QB position for a successful coffin corner kick that rolled out at the two pinning the Tide with the worst field position they had all day. In third and nine from the three, however, Bo Scarborough (19 carries for 180 yards and two TDs, Game MVP) picked up a first down with a 12-yard run. Two plays later, he ran left, broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage, cut across field and toward the end zone evading would-be tacklers for a 68-yard TD run to give the Crimson Tide a comfortable 24-7 lead. UW return man John Ross did what he did unsuccessfully during the entire game. He returned the kick back out to the 17 after fielding it in the end zone instead of settling for a touchback to start from the 25. The teams exchanged punts, and then the Husky defense stopped Scarborough on a fourth and one for a three-yard loss to take control on downs. Browning continued to throw on short passes and misfired short on his lone long attempt. Bama’s coverage was as tight as could be, but Browning doesn’t seem to have the arm strength to throw the ball long. On fourth and 17, DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (Old Bridge, NJ) intercepted Browning’s pass and took it out to the 28. Two UW players were on the ground with injuries, supposedly in retaliation for some previous “cheap shots”. Two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were called against Alabama, but no one was ejected.
The game ended with Alabama’s 14th win against no losses this season, their 26th in a row over two seasons. The Crimson Tide will move on to play Clemson, a 31-0 victor over Ohio State in the other CFP semi-final, for a rematch of the 45-40 title game win last season. It should be a good one as Clemson HC Dabo Swinney uses Alabama, his alma mater, as a model for building his Tiger program. I’m still looking for a ticket if you got one.
Extra Points: It’s amazing that a beautiful, 24-year old facility like the Georgia Dome is coming down. There’s nothing wrong with it. Charlie mentioned that this one went up for $400 million. The new one has a price of $1.5 billion. For what? Sky boxes? Hello! Big companies are cutting back on those kinds of entertainment expenses now. They have too many other goodwill expenditures they have to reserve for the rest of society. Those entertainment costs are long gone. This was the last college football game to be played in the Dome. The Falcons have at least one more playoff game there. I wonder where all the tons of steel and concrete will be disposed of.
An Alabama fan seated next to me and I got to discuss several things including his insight on Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin’s eventual departure. He said he could live with him or without him. We agreed Nick Saban was smart to keep him under wraps, out of the media, and out of recruiting. We also agreed that Florida Atlantic, the school he will be head coach of next year, will be on probation after next season. In news heard today (Monday), we found out that we all saw Kiffin for the last time on the Alabama sideline. He’s out as Saban decided he’s not satisfied with his latest performance as he’s probably trying to balance his new opportunity with his Bama job. Saban won’t stand for that at this point. Who can blame him? Kiffin probably has to get busy finding hostesses to help with his recruiting process at FAU. His replacement Steve Sarkisian , former fellow USC assistant coach with Kiffin, is on his way to Tuscaloosa to be OC for the CFP title game, a season ahead of schedule. He may be familiar with Kiffin’s system, but of course not the personnel. I’m sure Saban will be in all those offensive sideline huddles next Monday. Kiffin, I can’t believe anybody would take that chance to see how he behaves. Who at FAU is going to keep him under wraps? He probably has the go-ahead to do whatever he wants. That’s scary. I hope the administration there is not that ignorant. Universities are supposed to be educators of higher learning. I sometimes wonder about that.
Before the game, I got to visit the College Football Hall of Fame right around the corner from the Georgia Dome on Marietta Street. It’s got some great memorabilia, historical info, and interactive opportunities for the fans. Stop by when you go by the new stadium opening next year. Alabama will play Florida State in the first college game there.