Alabama Football: Tide ate Frosted Tigers out of the 2018 Sugar Bowl

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Quarterback Jalen Hurts
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Quarterback Jalen Hurts /

Alabama football rediscovered their identity, pounding the ball on offense and pounding the Clemson quarterback on defense to win the 2018 Sugar Bowl.

Did the Clemson Tigers party too hard in NOLA for New Year’s?

Tonight’s game between the fourth ranked Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson, the number one ranked team in the country, did not look much like the first two games of this stunning trilogy. The kickoff was delayed till 9 p.m. EST in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Did the late start compound the problem of a night game for the Tigers? Because they did not look very sharp at any point in the game.

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Tony the Tiger’s Frosted Flakes could not have looked more glazed than Clemson did. Other than a few Houdini runs for first downs, Tigers starting quarterback Kelly Bryant could not do much to quell the storming Tide defense, which looked like a team possessed by the football gods. Bryant completed just 18 of 36 pass attempts for 124 yards, while throwing two critical interceptions that blew the game wide open for Alabama.

At one point, Clemson only had negative yards on offense in the first quarter. The issues stemmed from Alabama’s relentless control of the trenches, filling the box with defensive linemen and linebackers who destroyed anything standing in their way. They were a wall against Clemson’s rushing attack, allowing only 64 total yards on 33 carries.

Bryant had to run for his life most of the game, earning only 19 yards on 19 carries. He was also sacked five times. Fans couldn’t believe how the wheels fell off for the young Clemson quarterback:

The player who highlighted the night’s proceedings was Alabama’s defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne. While Bryant was being crushed by yet another hit, he threw an absolute albatross of a pass into Payne’s waiting arms. Payne made a decent runback, but could not move his 308-pound frame fast enough to earn a pick six.

However, Alabama’s offensive coordinator Brian Daboll refused to let Payne be denied. A few plays later, near the Clemson goal line, Payne was brought in to block, presumably. Instead, Payne slipped by the Clemson defense as quarterback Jalen Hurts faked the handoff and passed the ball to him in the end zone.

Payne had to be ‘Twinkle Toes’ to keep his feet in bounds, which he did. The Crimson Tide fans got their wish:

Mack Wilson, coming back from injury, also intercepted a pass and ran it back 18 yards for a touchdown of his own.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Alabama football. A missed field goal and Hurts’ inability to find open receivers in the first half equated to only a 10-3 lead in the first half, despite controlling the ball possession. However, the running game was much improved compared to the recent Iron Bowl match against Auburn.

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Led by offensive lineman Lester Cotton, who punched holes to allow big inside runs, the rushers were able to gain 141 yards on 42 carries. Damien Harris earned 77 of those yards. He was the right man for the job, as his quick feet made him leap for first downs and cut across the grain for extra yards that Bo Scarbrough could not seem to do as effectively through brute strength.

Hurts decently managed the game, completing 16 of 24 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. He did the job needed of him, even if it was not in a dominating performance. The major improvement from last season’s national championship game was the third down efficiency. Alabama only converted two of 15 attempts last time while they were able to convert eight of 17 attempts tonight, controlling the ball for just over half of the game.

Both Cotton and linebacker Anfernee Jennings had to leave the game with injuries. Both men looked to be in severe pain that could keep them out for a long time. Further updates to follow once they are further evaluated, but it didn’t look good to the average fan or reporter:

If they are both out of the national championship, these injuries could seriously hamper Alabama’s chances of winning against Georgia.

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This moment, however, is the time to celebrate for Alabama football fans. For an entire month, haters have been saying that the Crimson Tide did not deserve to be in the Sugar Bowl. They didn’t think that Alabama should or even could battle for a national title. Yet, the Tide just put a crimson beating on the top ranked team in the country. The sweet taste of victory in this season’s Sugar Bowl has only made the Tide hungrier for another national title, while the doubters are still up tonight wondering what just happened.