Offense makes strong statement in final game of 2019 season


CW / Joe Will Field

James Benedetto | @james_benedetto, Assistant Sports Editor

ORLANDO, Fla. — When Mac Jones completed his first pass of the Citrus Bowl to junior wide receiver Jerry Jeudy for an 85-yard touchdown, it seemed like the second the ball was snapped Jones knew Jeudy would be open down field.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback took the snap, faked the handoff to junior running back Najee Harris, took two steps back in the pocket and found Jeudy streaking across the middle of the field. Once his receiver crossed the plane into the end zone, gave a Michael Jordan-esque shrug as if to say, “I knew that was going to happen.”

“Its kind of how it played out in practice,” Jones explained after the game. “… They played eight-flip coverage and that’s what we wanted them to do so we motioned the tight end in and we knew we would have a one-on-one with Jerry. So it was just a perfect look. I knew Jerry was going to beat the guy and the line was going to block the guy, so [we were] really just all in.”

The touchdown pass would be the first of three for Jones, who completed 16 of his 25 passes and totaled 327 passing yards in the 35-16 win over Michigan. Jones put up big numbers against a Wolverines defense that has allowed more than 300 passing yards to just one other team this season: No. 2 Ohio State.

“Mac Jones is a really good quarterback,” redshirt junior tight end Miller Forristall said. “I don’t know why people look down on him, he is going to be a really, really good player. So I expect big things from him in the future.”

One of the beneficiaries of Jones’ performance was Jeudy, who set a new career high in receiving yards in a game with 204.

Jeudy also became the second UA receiver since D.J. Hall in 2006-07 with back-to-back seasons with 1,000 receiving yards.

“For Jerry to go out there and play the way he did and be the MVP of the game and have over 200 yards, certainly he used this opportunity to showcase his ability, so it probably even enhanced his opportunities at the next level,” coach Nick Saban said.

Jeudy, a member of Alabama’s star-studded junior class, was rumored to be sitting out the bowl before tweeting that he would play. In the final game before at least a few juniors are expected to declare for the NFL draft, Saban looked back on those players’ accomplishments and legacy at Alabama.

“I’m especially proud of a lot of our juniors. … Those guys all chose to play in this game. This has been one of the best recruiting classes we have ever had at Alabama. They were close from the time they came here. And I think all these guys wanted to play for Alabama and they wanted to play for their team and they wanted to play for their teammates and, you know, that’s what college football is all about.”

As time in the fourth quarter began to wind down, Harris began to put his stamp on the game, finding success against a stingy Michigan run defense.

Through three quarters, Harris totaled 67 yards on 11 carries. In the final drive of the fourth quarter, Harris equaled his rushing total through three quarters as he carried the ball 11 times for 70 yards, culminating in a 2-yard touchdown run, his second of the game.

After the game, Forristall explained that the offense was “ready to put it in the end zone,” and when they got the call from the sidelines the feeling from the players was “alright, let’s go.”

The idea of returning to the “Alabama standard” was a talking point among the players and the coaches heading into the matchup with Michigan. With the offense tallying 480 total yards of offense against the Wolverines, the Crimson Tide made a statement that it will look to build upon next season.

“… You want to send [the seniors] out the right way,” Forristall said. “You are still sending your seniors out in the last game, those are the guys that you spent the best four years of your life with.”