MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Alabama Crimson Tide lead the Buckeyes of Ohio State at the half in Miami 35-17. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones threw for a College Football Playoff National Championship Game first-half record of 342 yards, while Heisman Trophy winner, Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith stole the show with a CFP title game record of 12 receptions.
Alabama won the toss and elected to defer to the second half, giving Ohio State the first possession. They were swiftly escorted off the field by the Alabama defense, going three-and-out and forced to punt.
The Crimson Tide took their first possession at the 22-yard line and got right to work. On their second play from scrimmage, Jones connected with Smith on a dump-off pass to the left side. Smith found the sideline and picked up a 22-yard gain.
Jones followed that with a 12-yard completion to running back Najee Harris, putting the Tide across midfield. The attack continued as they moved swiftly into the red zone, with Jones connecting with wide receiver Jaylen Waddle for 15 yards on a third and three from the 22-yard line.
The Buckeyes defense was on their heels and put a short pause to the Crimson Tide’s momentum, forcing a fourth-down conversion attempt at the goal line for the Crimson Tide but Alabama was ultimately able to win the battle upfront as Harris took in the score on fourth and one for the touchdown. This put Alabama on top 7-0 with 8:07 left to play in the first quarter.
The Buckeyes’ second possession would again start at their own 25-yard line, and it started off much the same as the previous. However, on third and one from the 34-yard line, Ohio State backup running back Master Teague III picked up the first down, and things got rolling for the Buckeyes.
Two plays later, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields connected with wide receiver Chris Olave on the right sideline for 20 yards. Shortly after, Fields threw a strike downfield over the middle to tight end Jeremy Ruckert, who snagged it with his outstretched right hand, for the one-handed grab. This gave Ohio State first and goal at the 8-yard line. Then Teague III took the ensuing handoff and got to the left edge on his way to the endzone untouched to tie this one up at 7.
However, some bad news came from that drive. Star Ohio State running back Trey Sermon suffered a collarbone injury and had to leave the game and go to the hospital for further evaluation, as reported by ESPN’s Maria Taylor on the sideline.
Alabama went back to work, with Jones throwing a strike to the left side to Smith for a gain of 32 yards. Jones went right back to Smith, this time to the right sideline for 12 yards. Two plays later, Alabama had rolled into the red zone, with a first and ten at the 19-yard line.
Faced with a second 4th down in as many drives, Harris once again picked up the first for Alabama at the Buckeyes seven-yard line. As the first quarter came to a close, things were all knotted up at seven. However, the Tide were in striking distance as the second quarter got underway.
Jones would open the second quarter with a five-yard TD pass to Smith, who went nearly untouched on his way to the left pylon into the endzone for the score. This made it 14-7 Alabama with 14:53 left to play in the second quarter.
The Buckeyes’ next drive started great with Fields connecting on a pass to wide receiver Jameson Williams for 14 yards and a first down. However, after a second first down, things fizzled out for Ohio State, as Fields got sandwiched between two defenders on a third down and nine from the Crimson Tide 44-yard line. He was slow to get up but made his way to the sideline under his own power.
Disaster struck for Alabama on the first play from scrimmage on their third drive of the game, as Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning put a hit on Jones, forcing a fumble and giving the Buckeyes possession at the Alabama 19-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Fields threw a strike to the endzone, and Alabama cornerback Josh Jobe was called for pass interference, setting up a first and goal at the 4 for the Buckeyes. This led to a handoff to Teague III, who muscled his way up the gut and into the endzone to tie this one up at 14.
Aiming to make up for the previous turnover, Jones got the Crimson Tide back rolling. After two strikes to Smith, Alabama was already in Buckeye territory. Three plays later, Jones threw a pass to the left side for Harris, which he had to slow up a bit to grab it. He then turned upfield and made a juke from the left sideline, back to the inside, slipping past a couple of Buckeye defenders, before leaping into the endzone for the 26-yard score.
With Alabama leading 21-14, Ohio State went right back to work. They went with a heavy dose of the run on the next four plays, highlighted by runs of 28 from Fields and 29 from Teague III. After getting into the red zone, the Buckeyes were faced with a third and 11 at the 16-yard line.
After thinking it over during their first timeout of the game, Fields threw a strike over the middle to Ruckert, who was lit up by Alabama safety Jordan Battle. However, it was a clear and obvious targeting penalty, as the replay showed Battle launching into the neck area, leading with his helmet on the tackle of Rcukert. Battle was ejected from the game and the Buckeyes drive stayed alive.
However, Ohio State was unable to capitalize and get into the endzone and had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from backup kicker Jake Seibert. This made it a four-point game with Alabama leading 21-17 with 5:21 left to play in the first half.
Alabama answered the field goal with a touchdown as Jones led an efficient five-play 75-yard drive. It was highlighted by a 44-yard dime of a pass from Jones to Smith, who capped off the drive with a five-yard TD reception.
A quick three and out by Fields and Ohio State followed. Then it was as easy as one, two, Smith. Lined up the left slot, Smith went across the field on a deep-slant route, where Jones found him in stride at the 11-yard line and went untouched into the endzone for the score. That 42-yard TD reception by Smith gave him a CFP Title Game record 12 receptions in the game. Meanwhile, on the same play, Jones surpassed former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow for the most passing yards in a half of a title game with 319 yards as a result of the play.
Yet another Ohio State three-and-out followed suit, and it was Alabama ball at their 28-yard line with 42 seconds left to play in the half. Alabama was unable to get their final drive going and the teams went to the locker room with the Crimson Tide on top 35-17.
- Passing: Mac Jones 25-30 passing for 342 yards
- Receiving: DeVonta Smith 12 receptions for 215 yards and 3 TDs
- Rushing: Najee Harris 11 carries for 45 yards and 1 TD
- Passing: Justin Fields 6-15 passing for 90 yards
- Receiving: Chris Olave 2 receptions for 23 yards
- Rushing: Master Teague III 12 carries for 62 yards and 2 TDs