By (Matthew Speakman)

NEW ORLEANS- In the third quarter, quarterback Jalen Hurts find the widest of his wide receivers.

Lined up in a jumbo package, 6-foot-2, 308-pound Da’Ron Payne released in the flat. Hurts rolled right and found Payne, who delivered a toe-tapping, ballerina-like touchdown catch that required the foot work of a regular pass catcher.

The play put Alabama up 11 points over Clemson, and greatly shifted the momentum towards the Crimson Tide.

“We run it every day,” Payne said of the play call. “I was just ready to see them throw it to me…I catch it every day. I haven’t dropped it yet.”

Payne lobbied all week for Alabama to throw him the ball out of the jumbo package because of his success in practice.

It’s not often you see a player of his size demonstrate the footwork he needed to keep himself in bounds. It showed the type of athleticism that even a guy of his size can possess.

“We’re not shocked at all,” defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand said of the catch by Payne. “We have some athletic big men.”

Payne may have been named defensive MVP, but his efforts on offense yielded positive results in No. 4 Alabama’s 24-6 win over No. 1 Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal.

From the start, Alabama’s offense attacked Clemson’s defensive line with strong runs from running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scabrough.

After weeks and weeks of talk about those two players not getting enough carries, they combined for 31 of Alabama’s 42 rushing attempts. Harris and Scabrough are a big reason why Alabama will now face No. 3 Georgia in the College Football Playoff national championship.

“It’s a one-two punch,” Scarbrough said. “We work together every day in practice. We try to make each other better in each and every way that we can. That’s what we did. We’re trying to run the ball as physical as we can.”

Harris led the way for those two, gaining 77 yards. Scarborough struggled for most of the night, but converted big third downs for Alabama. He finished with 24 yards.

“We’re always focused on doing whatever it takes to make this offense as successful as possible,” Harris said. “We were able to do that tonight.”

The physical game plan by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll took a lot of pressure off of Hurts. He completed 16-of-24 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. He also picked up 40 yards rushing.

That was good enough for him to earn offensive MVP honors. His big highlight came when he escaped the pressure, and made an athletic throw to wide receiver Calvin Ridley for an 18-yard touchdown.

His teammates are grateful to have a leader like him at that position.

“He handles everything the way he’s supposed to,” Harris said. “I think he’s a perfect example of what leadership is supposed to look like. We’re really privileged to have someone like that as our quarterback.”

Overall, Alabama’s offense played with a chip on its shoulder.

The Crimson Tide heard all of the talk about how their offense could not move the ball against a team like Clemson. Against one of the strongest front seven’s in the country, Alabama established itself as a physical presence.

The Sugar Bowl was all about silencing the critics. Alabama’s offense feels like it did just that.

“We felt disrespected,” Scarbrough said. “We want everybody around here to respect us. Whatever it takes to get that respect, we are going to earn our respect.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports