MIAMI GARDENS, FL (AP) – The celebration was both familiar and unique. The scrapbook cannons sent showers of crimson and white in the air, and the Alabama players ran to the sidelines to grab their championship caps and shirts.
It’s a rite of passage if you play for Crimson Tide under coach Nick Saban.
This time, though, the band playing the fight song was a choppy recording, and when “Sweet Home Alabama” came out, there were only a few thousand Tide fans in the stadium to sing.
The final game of a college football season ended in a pandemic, a season that has never been certain to play in the summer and full of turmoil in the fall, in a predictable way: Alabama as national champions for the sixth time in the last 12. Years under Saban.
DeVonta Smith was revealed, Harris survivor was unstoppable and Mac Jones was flawless as the highest-rated Tide won the National College Football Playoff 52-24 against No. 3 Ohio on Monday night. They finished the year 13-0 – an entire season in which many wondered if it would be possible to play.
“I think we’re the best team we’ve ever played,” Jones said.
For Saban, the career title was No. 7 overall, breaking more points with Paul “Bear” Bryant in Alabama than any major college coach.
“For me this is the ultimate team,” Saban said. “There is more cooperation in this team than almost any other team has ever had. They have had to conquer and persevere a lot during this season, and they have done it great.”
Ohio State (7-1) couldn’t keep up. Justin Fields, playing what may have been his last game before heading to the NFL, ran 194 yards and landed. It was hard to tell if Fields was 100% after he took a hard punch to the side during his impressive semifinal performance against Clemson.
“I was able to be there,” the young midfielder said.
At Buckeyes’ first drive, they lost their star as they retreated from Trey Sermon due to injury, and in one match they needed to run at full speed, facing one of the biggest infractions in modern history, they got it wrong a lot. Ohio has never allowed more points in a bowl game.
“I think there’s a feeling that if you don’t score, you’re late and then the pressure builds,” Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said of facing the tidal attack.
Fans can argue which team in the Saban bloodline is the best, but nothing will be more outstanding than this group.
“Everyone together,” Smith said. Last year, people said the ruling family was over. We don’t stop. We just keep reloading. “
After two full seasons without winning a national title, the tide ended perfectly during a season that wasn’t too far behind. COVID-19 has forced teams into quarantine, endless testing and uncertainty every week with matches playing in most empty stadiums.
“For me, this team has accomplished more than almost any other team,” Saban said. “There is no disdain for the other teams we have had but this team won 11 SEC matches. No other team has done that. They won the SEC and were unbeaten in the SEC then beat two big teams in the qualifiers without interruption. I think there will be a lot to write about.” On the legacy of this team. “
Only about 15,000 fans were at the 65,326-capacity Hard Rock Stadium to witness the last great performance of Smith’s college career. The Heisman Trophy winner had 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns, all in the first half.
“Heaven knows what he would have done if he had played the whole game,” said Saban.
Using a combination of moves and misdirections, outgoing attack coordinator Steve Sarkissian prompted Ohio heads to try to track down Smith. At one point, he was suddenly faced with a midfielder, leaving him in the dust to score 42 yards to make it 35-17 with 41 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Smith, who finished his new season with the 2017 national championship landing pass from Toa Taguvelua, ended his career in Alabama as the leading recipient in Southeastern Conference history and the most prominent offensive player in his third title match.
Sarkissian is on his way to Texas as head coach. Longhorns fans had to love what they saw. If only he could bring Smith and his fellow contenders from Heisman to Austin.
Jones, who finished third in the Heisman vote, was 36 to 45 for the CFP Championship – a record 464 yards and five touchdowns. In one of the most neglected seasons ever, Jones set a record for one season for rating a passerby at 203.
Harris, who finished fifth in the Heisman race, had 158 yards of melee at 29 touches and scored three times to give him a SEC record 30 touchdowns this season.
Smith barely played in the second half, and was left injured. He returned to the lateral line in the fourth quadrant with his right hand wrapped to the wrist, with two fingers joined together, and he wore a Heisman mask.
Alabama barely missed it and cracked 50 early in the fourth quarter when Harris went untouched from Square.
Smith and Harris surprised some by returning to college after last season in their final years.
Boy, did you turn out to be worthwhile. Along with Jones, another member of the recruiting class of 2017, they will leave Alabama as leaders of a team that has managed to make the arduous march through the seemingly easy pandemic.
“We all had a mission trying to get things done the right way,” Smith said. “We all went to work and it ended up the way we wanted.”
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