Defense bends, breaks in Sugar Bowl loss

Defense bends, breaks in Sugar Bowl loss

Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliot ran for 230 yards against a highly-ranked Alabama defense. CW | Pete Pajor

Kelly Ward

The Crimson Tide defense bent all year and finally broke, allowing 281 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the ground. Alabama had allowed three rushing touchdowns going into the matchup. The Buckeyes’ Cardale Jones was 18-for-35 for 243 yards and a touchdown. He threw one interception. Ohio State’s wide receiver Evan Spencer also threw a 13-yard 
touchdown pass.

“We did not control the football game like we usually do, and it wasn’t anything that they did differently,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They had a good plan. They executed it well against us. And we gave up far too many big plays in the game, which has been a problem for us toward the end of the year, and that was when you give up big plays you don’t get off the field on third down, you’ve got lots 
of problems.”

Third down doomed Alabama. Ohio State was 10-of-18 on 
third-down conversions.

“They hurt us on third down, lots of times on third and longs, and converted. And we didn’t do very well on third down, so we didn’t continue drives, and they were able to continue driving and convert scores, especially when we were ahead 21-6,” Saban said. “And they scored 28 unanswered points.”

Alabama had no answer for running back Ezekiel Elliott, who torched the Crimson Tide on the ground for 230 net yards and both 
rushing touchdowns.

Alabama had the Buckeyes on their own 15-yard line with about three and a half minutes left in the game. The Crimson Tide was down 34-28 when Elliott took off for an 85-yard touchdown run. The ensuing two-point conversion put the game all but 
out of reach.

Junior safety Landon Collins recorded a game-high 12 tackles, despite leaving the game twice for injury. Collins had one fumble recovery for four yards and one tackle for an eight-yard loss. Junior cornerback Cyrus Jones had a game-high four pass breakups. He also had a 32-yard interception return.

The defense finished the year allowing 102.4 yards rushing per game and 328.4 yards per game. Its opponents averaged 38 percent on their 
third-down conversions.