MIAMI GARDENS, FL – The Alabama Crimson Tide didn’t let up in the second half despite a banged-up receiving core as they claimed their third College Football Playoff-era National Championship and 18th national title overall.
With this victory, Alabama head coach Nick Saban won his sixth national championship with the Tide and record-breaking seventh overall title passing legendary Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. The final score was 52-24, with the Crimson Tide defeating the third-ranked Buckeyes.
Here’s how the second half transpired at Hard Rock Stadium.
After dominating the first half and jumping out to a 35-17 lead over the Buckeyes, the Crimson Tide took the second-half kickoff and went right to work. Running back Najee Harris ripped off a 13-yard carry on the first play from scrimmage. Then star wide receiver DeVonta Smith suffered an apparent finger injury as he went into the medical tent on the Alabama sideline.
Shortly thereafter, Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle came up limping a bit. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones continued to methodically lead the Crimson Tide downfield on a 16 play 75-yard drive that ate 7:08 off the clock. However, after getting into a goal-to-go situation, the Buckeyes defense stood tall and forced a 20-yard field goal from kicker Will Reichard, which he put through the uprights.
Trailing 38-17 with only 7:47 left to play in the third quarter, time was not on the Buckeyes side, so they got to work quickly. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields connected with wide receiver Garrett Wilson for 17 yards to start the drive. Then after a five-yard offsides call on the Crimson Tide, Fields ripped through the defense for a 33-yard scamper. On the following play, Fields connected with Wilson again, dropping a dime in the breadbasket for him into the back left corner of the endzone for the score.
With the Buckeyes now within two scores, it was back to work for Jones and the Crimson Tide. Backup running back Brian Robinson, Jr. took the first carry of the drive for a short two-yard gain. Then Jones connected with Waddle for six yards and converted a first down, facing a third and two with a 22-yard completion to tight end Jahleel Billingsley. Alabama went to the ground and pound attack after this as they worked the clock.
Jones took one for 10 yards, followed by three straight carries for Robinson Jr. that combined for 30 yards. This set up a first and goal for the Tide, and on 2nd down, Jones passed the ball to the left flat to wide receiver Slade Bolden, who then turned upfield and dove across the goal line for the score.
Trailing 45-24 with 2:52 left in the third quarter, Ohio State went on the attack. Fields started the drive with a quick first down connection with wide receiver Chris Olave for 11 yards. The next set of downs would bring up a fourth and one from their own 45, and they elected to go for it. Fields took the snap and handed it off to running back Master Teague III, who was smothered behind the line for a two-yard loss.
This gave the Tide possession with a 21-point lead and rolled us into the fourth quarter. This time it only took the Crimson Tide six plays to get into the endzone as Harris capped off the 43-yard drive with a one-yard rushing score to make it 52-24 with 13:15 left to play.
Ohio State was nearly past the point of no return, though they got back to work from their own 25-yard line. Fields connected on his first three passes of the drive, as the Buckeyes were running out of time. However, despite this fact, their sense of urgency was not showing up on the field.
By the time they got into a goal to go, the Buckeyes drive had eaten five minutes off the clock. Fields was able to connect with wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba for a touchdown near the left pylon. However, after the play was reviewed, it was determined that the pass was incomplete.
The Buckeyes would get new life on the ensuing play after a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty was assessed on Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore. It was of no use though, as Fields’ next four passes were incomplete including a toe-tapper that was bobbled at the last second before gaining control by Olave. Then on fourth down, Fields rolled to his right on the snap and threw across his body to the middle of the endzone. The pass sailed a bit and was just out of grasp for wide receiver Julian Fleming, as the Buckeyes turned the ball over on downs.
Alabama took over at their own six-yard line with 7:52 left to play and were only focused on chewing the clock. They would have to punt in what was their lone three and out of the game.
With 6:22 left to play, Fields took the snap and was met in the backfield by Barmore on a six-yard sack. The pressure continued, and Fields took another hit on third and 16, which was all that Ohio State head coach Ryan Day needed to see to call it. The Buckeyes punted it away, trailing by 28 with under five minutes to play.
The Tide took over, and after 23 yards on three carries by Robinson Jr., Alabama was firmly into chew clock mode and backup quarterback Bryce Young came in for the Crimson Tide. Five plays later, it was triple zeros on the clock, and Alabama took home the National Title in Miami.