Inconsistent play on offense costs Alabama in national championship


By Hannah Saad

Cody Estremera, Sports Editor

SANTA CLARA, Calif.— Alabama’s offense, which for most of the season seemed like it was impervious to any opposing defense, finally misfired. The second highest scoring offense in the country couldn’t find the end zone in the 44-16 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship.

In the first half, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa misfired on four passes, two of which cost Alabama. It started on Alabama’s first drive. Tagovailoa completed two passes before A.J. Terrell jumped in front of a pass and sprinted 44 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

Seventeen minutes of game time later, the left-handed sophomore over threw receiver Jerry Jeudy, who was in triple coverage, and was intercepted for the second time. It was returned 46 yards.

“That was totally a bad decision,” Tagovailoa said. “It was a poor decision on my part. I just think we came out, and we were killing ourselves. We shot ourselves in the foot by me throwing that interception for a touchdown, and then not finishing drives the way we wanted to. Just didn’t go the way we wanted to.”

Outside the two interceptions, Tagovailoa was 13-of-15 for 137 yards, with a pair of touchdowns in the first half.

Third downs, which Alabama had excelled at for most of the season, killed Alabama, as it converted just 30 percent.

While his counterpart Trevor Lawrence excelled on third downs, throwing for 220 yards on the down alone, Tagovailoa didn’t impress on the key down as he did earlier in the season, completing three passes for 48 yards.

The two first half touchdowns the Crimson Tide scored came off a 62-yard strike from Tagovailoa to Jeudy, who shook his man and was wide open down field and a play action pass that fooled the entire Clemson defense. Hale Hentges caught the one-yard strike.

Alabama had an opportunity for another touchdown late in the first quarter. On second-and-one from Clemson’s one-yard line, tackle Jedrick Wills started early, pushing the Crimson Tide back, leading to a field goal.

The Crimson Tide struggled to find consistency on offense in after the first 15 minutes of the game. After gaining 224 yards in the first quarter, it gained just 219 yards for the final three quarters, most of which came in the third quarter (163 yards).

For the rest of the game, Alabama made it to the red zone only two more times. It failed to score on either attempt.

“We just shot ourselves in the foot,” receiver Henry Ruggs said. “We made mistakes on our own. Clemson did a hell of a job on defense, but I think everything comes down to the mistakes we made.”

Alabama’s biggest miscue in the second half came on the first drive. It started with the ball and drove to the Clemson 22-yard line. Instead of kicking the 37-yard attempt, Alabama elected to fake a field goal, which went for a loss of two yards.

“I think it was a poor decision on my part not to kick the field goal,” coach Nick Saban said. “We thought we had a really, really good fake, and somebody didn’t block the guy they were supposed to block, so it didn’t work, so it was a bad call. It’s always that way.”