TAMPA, Fla.- Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts dropped back as if to pass then did what he’s done so well all year- he ran.
He was fast enough to complete the 30-yard touchdown run and strong enough to shake off the only Tiger defender that got a hand on him. Alabama had retaken the lead, but he wasn’t ready to celebrate the victory yet.
“I knew the game wasn’t over,” Hurts said. “With a guy like that on the other side of the ball anything’s possible.”
So many times it happens too fast…
“We always finish [practice] with our victory formation, and I said, ‘Tomorrow night in that stadium is how we’re going to end the game,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
And that’s exactly what happened when the Tigers recovered an onside kick with a single second remaining on the clock after Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson found receiver Hunter Renfrow in the end zone to give Clemson the late 35-31 lead that would deny Alabama a fifth national championship in eight years, and 17th total.
As late as Saturday afternoon, Clemson defenders could be heard expressing their regret over losing track of Alabama tight end O.J. Howard in last year’s national championship game. They vowed this year would be different.
It was a promise they failed to keep when Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts found Howard wide open downfield for a 68-yard touchdown.
“It was just a good call by coach Sark,” Howard said. “It was the same play I scored on last year. The exact same play. You know they fell for it again.”
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In the locker room after the game, Hurts insisted that Alabama coach Nick Saban’s decision to bump out-going offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and promote offensive analyst Steve Sarkisian up a week ahead of schedule had no impact on the outcome of the game.
He finished the game completing 13-of-31 passes for a total of 131 yards and one touchdown.
Sarkisian’s plan early on seemed to center on Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough who finished the first half with 12 carries for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Clemson defenders stacked the box in the second half and held him to nine yards in the only four carries he saw after the break before he was sidelined with an injury he refused to discuss after the game.
“This guy was running through those guys,” Howard said. “They didn’t really want to tackle him. It was a huge loss for us. A guy that big and that explosive, you know you hate to lose a guy like that at running back.”
The loss stung for the entire Crimson Tide team, but for the seniors that had led Alabama to 26 consecutive wins it was an unexpectedly bitter goodbye.
“To lose the last game of the year you know it hurts,” Howard said. “It’s something you’ll never forget, but I hope it fuels these guys next year to come back and win it.”
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The few Alabama players who allowed themselves to speak after the game echoed Howard’s sentiments. Quarterback Jalen Hurts even seemed intent to watch film from the loss before his head found a pillow.
“My sophomore season starts tomorrow,” Hurts said.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports