Stuart McNair

Onsides kick recovery and Drake kickoff return gave Alabama upper hand

Alabama won the national championship in great part because of crucial plays by special teams players on kickoff situations

On a night when Alabama’s offensive line had problems opening holes for Derrick Henry and protecting quarterback Jacob Coker, and the defense had its hands full with the talented Clemson offense, two fourth quarter plays on kickoff situations were critical to the Crimson Tide’s 45-40 win for the College Football Playoff National Championship in Glendale, Ariz., Monday.


Alabama trailed by three points, 24-21, going to the fourth quarter. Bama drove to the Clemson 18 on the strength of two Coker to ArDarius Stewart passes, but the drive stalled and placekicker Adam Griffith – who had missed a field goal in the first quarter – was called on to kick a 33-yard field goal. He knocked it through to tie the game.


After a lengthy television timeout, Alabama Coach Nick Saban called for a strategy that no one would have expected. Clemson certainly didn’t expect it. Griffith, who routinely kicks off to the end zone, pooched one about 15 yards to the right side of the field, where Clemson had no men. Marlon Humphrey, an outstanding track athlete, raced downfield and caught the call at midfield, stealing a possession for the Tide.


Two plays later, Coker hooked up with tight end O.J. Howard on his second long touchdown pass of the night, a 51-yard play that put Bama ahead for good, 31-24.l


The Tigers drove it downfield on the next possession and got a field goal. But then Clemson had to kick off, and Kenyan Drake took it at his five-yard line. Drake started up the right side, then veered to his left and turned on the speed, avoiding all Tigers. He was caught near the end zone, but was able to dive and get the ball just inside the pylon for a touchdown and a 38-27 lead.


96 Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE Any national championship is special, and the specialists played a big part in Alabama’s 16th. And perhaps the most special 

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