Early scoring propels Alabama to win against Oklahoma


By Hannah Saad

Cody Estremera, Sports Editor

MIAMI GARDENS Fla.— Alabama has started games off fast, and Saturday’s 45-34 win against Oklahoma wasn’t any different.

It started the game with a run/pass option (where the quarterback can either hand the ball off to the running back or keep it and throw it). Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa kept the ball, faking a handoff to senior back Damien Harris. He looked up and spotted receiver DeVonta Smith running a slant route. Tagovailoa hit Smith in stride and Smith sprinted 50 yards before being knocked out to the ground at the Oklahoma 25-yard line.

The Crimson Tide controlled the opening 15 minutes of game time, especially through the air. Tagovailoa threw for 167 yards in the quarter.

On its second drive, Alabama primed to try and extend its lead, faced a third-and-six. Sitting at the Sooner’s 10-yard line Tagovailoa took a shotgun snap and looked left where receiver Henry Ruggs was running a post route to the corner of the end zone.

Ruggs quickly turned and leaped, catching the ball with a defender draped on him. He got both feet down in the process.

“I was on him,” Oklahoma cornerback Tre Brown said. “It was just a good catch; good catch and throw by [them]. There was nothing I could do about that [except] try to swat the ball out. It was just there perfectly.”

It looked like Alabama was going to blow out the No. 4 team in the country, but the Crimson Tide slowed in the middle quarters. It went up 28 points by the 13-minute mark of the second quarter.

From then on it had two possessions in the half, which didn’t end the way the Crimson Tide wanted. On the first, it went three-and-out. The second it methodically drove down field, taking up a large chunk of the clock.

Two straight penalties by tackle Jedrick Wills nearly stalled out the drive, moving Alabama from a third-and-one to a third-and-10. Tagovailoa ran nine yards, and coach Nick Saban kept the offense out there to try and convert the fourth down. Then Harris fell forward for a false start, leading Saban to throwing his headset down in frustration.

Alabama settled for a field goal.

“We were shooting ourselves in the foot with the flags,” Ruggs said. “That’s something we need to clean up, so we can be more efficient.”

In the second and third quarter, Alabama gained just 183 yards of offense, scoring just 10 points.

Alabama’s offensive line, which finished as a finalist in the Joe Moore Award (given to the best offensive line in the country) held the Sooner defensive front in check, as the Crimson Tide held the ball for 12 more minutes than the Sooners.

“We knew it was going to be a game of heavy punches thrown, trying to outlast each other,” center Ross Pierschbacher said. “We knew it was going to be tough on our defense so we just kind of took it upon ourselves to just execute and have longer drives to keep those guys off the field.”

The biggest question for the Alabama offense coming into the game was Tagovailoa’s health, as the Heisman runner up left the SEC Championship midway through the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.

Tagovailoa had surgery and recovered quickly enough to have a bounce-back game in his first playoff start, finishing with 318 yards through the air and four touchdowns. He completed 89 percent of his passes, which was the second best of his career.

“I think we’re continuing to make progress with getting better, going to rehab, treatment, 24-hour treatment protocol is still on the line for us now,” Tagovailoa said.