Lynne Sweet / AP
Tuesday, January 12, 2021 | 00:05 am
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The celebration was familiar and unique at the same time. The confetti cannons blew a purple and white shower in the air, and Alabama players ran to the sidelines to grab their championship hats and t-shirts.
It’s a rite of passage if you’ve played for the Crimson Tide under Trainer Nick Saban.
This time the band playing the fight song was pipe-in, and when “Sweet Home Alabama” roared there were only a few thousand Tide fans in the stadium to sing along.
The last game of a college football season in a pandemic, a season unplayable in the summer and disrupted in the fall, ended in the most predictable way: Alabama became national champions for the sixth time in the past 12 years under the years Saban.
DeVonta Smith was revealed unstoppable Najee Harris and Mac Jones impeccable when top-ranked Tide won the college football playoff national championship game 52-24 against Ohio State No. 3 on Monday night. They ended the year 13-0 – a full season that left many wondering if it would be possible to play some.
“I think we are the best team that has ever played,” said Jones.
For Saban, it was the # 7 overall career title that was broken most by a great college coach with the great Paul “Bear” Bryant of Alabama.
“For me this is the ultimate team,” said Saban. “There is more togetherness in this team than in almost any other team we’ve ever had. They have had to overcome and endure so much this season and they have. ” did it great. “
Ohio State (7-1) just couldn’t keep up. Justin Fields, who played his last game before joining the NFL, passed for 194 yards and a touchdown. Whether Fields was 100% successful after a brutal hit during his brilliant semi-final performance against Clemson was hard to say.
“I could be out there,” was all the junior quarterback would say.
On the Buckeyes’ first run, they lost the star who ran Trey Sermon back from an injury, and they stuttered too much in a game where they had to run at top speed and face one of the biggest crimes in recent history. The state of Ohio has never allowed more points in a bowl game.
“I think there is a feeling that if you don’t score, you’re going to be left behind and then the pressure rises,” said Buckeyes coach Ryan Day as he faced the productive offense of the tide.
Fans can debate which team is the best in the Saban Dynasty, but none will be more memorable than this group.
“Everyone is so together,” said Smith. “People said last year the dynasty was over. We don’t stop. We just keep reloading. “
After two seasons without winning a national title, the tide ended perfectly in a season that couldn’t be further from it. COVID-19 forced teams into quarantines and endless testing and uncertainty every week, with games played in mostly empty stadiums.
“For me, this team has achieved more than almost any other team,” said Saban. “No disrespect to other teams we’ve had, but this team won 11 SEC games.” No other team did that. You won the SEC and went undefeated in the SEC. Then they beat two great teams in the playoffs without a break. I think there will be something to write about this team’s legacy. “
Only about 15,000 fans were at Hard Rock Stadium with a capacity of 65,326 to watch the last great performance of Smith’s college career. The Heisman Trophy winner had catches for 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
“Heaven knows what he would have done if he had played the whole game,” said Saban.
Outgoing offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian made a series of moves and misdirections, turning the heads of Ohio State to track down Smith. At one point, he was suddenly faced with a linebacker he dumped in the dust for a 42-yard score, only to bring him to 35-17 with 41 seconds in the second quarter.
Smith, who ended his season as a freshman with the touchdown pass to the 2017 Tua Tagovailoa national championship, ended his career in Alabama as the leading career receiver in the history of the Southeastern Conference and as the standout offensive player in his third title game.
Sarkisian is heading to Texas as the head coach. Longhorn’s fans must have liked what they saw. If only he could get Smith and his competitors from Heisman to Austin.
Jones, who finished third in the Heisman poll, was 36 for 45 for a CFP championship record of 464 yards and five touchdowns. In perhaps one of the most overlooked seasons a quarterback has ever played, Jones set a record for passer-by efficiency at 203.
Harris, who finished fifth in the Heisman race, had 150 yards to go on 29 strokes and scored three hits to give him an SEC record of 30 touchdowns that season.
Smith barely played in the second half and injured himself. In the fourth quarter, he returned to the sidelines with his right hand on his wrist, two fingers taped together, and a Heisman mask.
Alabama barely missed him, cracking 50 early in the fourth quarter when Harris walked in untouched from a courtyard.
Smith and Harris surprised some by returning to college for their senior years after last season.
Boy was it worth it? Along with Jones, another member of that 2017 recruiting class, they will be leaving Alabama as the leader of a team that has managed to make an arduous march through the pandemic easy.
“We all had missions trying to get things right,” said Smith. “We all went to work and it ended the way we wanted it to.”