Alabama wasn’t in the business of giving many chances to Washington Saturday, and as a result the Crimson Tide is in position to repeat as College Football Playoff National Champion.
Coach Nick Saban’s Alabama team shut down the Huskies for over three quarters, while the Tide had just enough on defense and a nice helping of Bo Scarbrough to take a 24-7 win over Washington in the Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Saturday.
That means Bama heads to Tampa next week and will play in the national championship game against the winner of the Fiesta Bowl game between Clemson and Ohio State on Jan. 9.
Last year Alabama defeated Clemson to win the title. In the first CFP two years ago, Ohio State won the championship after defeating Bama in the semifinals.
Saban said, “After the first (Washington offensive series) I thought we played pretty well. [Washington] did some stuff that got us a little off balance, and we didn’t do our responsibilities. But after we got the glow of the game, I thought we did pretty well on defense.”
The defense had three takeaways, a fumble recovery that led to a Bama field goal, a pass interception returned by Ryan Anderson for a touchdown, and an interception in the end zone that essentially ended the game.
Washington, which came into the game leading the nation in turnover margin and had 33 takeaways on the season, did not get a turnover from Bama.
Alabama had good field position much of the game, but couldn’t take advantage. It was discouraging, then, when early in the fourth quarter and Bama leading by 17-7, Washington quarterback Jake Browning quick-kicked and put the Tide on its two-yard line.
Two plays netted zero and Alabama was faced with a primary goal of just getting the ball out far enough to be able to punt.
Bo Scarbrough, Bama’s 6-2, 228-pound sophomore tailback did more than that, surging for 13 yards and a first down. Quarterback Jalen Hurts followed that with a 16-yard pass to O.J. Howard, and the Tide was well out of the shadow of its goalline. Two plays later, from the 32, Scarbrough made himself a second chance.
Scarbrough took a handoff and went left and appeared to be headed nowhere as Huskies surrounded him, but Scarbrough broke out of that trap, headed down the left sideline, cut back to the middle and completed a 68-yard touchdown run – the longest ever by an Alabama player in a bowl game, giving him a Bama bowl record 180 yards rushing on 19 carries.
That TD run was the only score of the second half.
Scarbrough also scored the Tide’s first touchdown on a brusing run and the Crimson Tide defense did its usual fine job with Ryan Anderson taking a pass interception 26 yards for a touchdown.
Saban said, “Bo’s been playing pretty well for us the last three or four games. He’s hard to tackle. He’s big and powerful. He’s playing with a lot of confidence and did a great job for us today.”
Washington tried one or two of the much talked about trick plays, but it was an Alabama staple – the non-offensive touchdown – that made the biggest difference in first half performance.
With Reuben Foster putting pressure on Washington quarterback Jake Browning, Browning tried to force a quick out pass. Ryan Anderson outfought the intended receiver for the ball, made the interception at the 26, then made his way down the sideline to the end zone for a 17-7 Bama first half lead.
Washington had drawn first blood on its second possession of the game. Alabama’s pass rush allowed Browning to escape for a 13-yard gain on a third-and-6 and then Browning completed a screen pass for 20 yards, followed four plays later by Browning’s 16-yard pass to an open Dante Pettis in the end zone. Cameron Van Winkle’s extra point made it 7-0.
The Huskies had gone 64 yards in eight plays and taken just under four minutes.
Alabama responded with a 9-play, 78-yard drive that featured a tough-running Bo Scarbrough at the end. Jalen Hurts completed a 16-yard pass to tight end O.J. Howard to jump-start the drive and Damien Harris had two runs for a first down to the Washington 49. Hurts followed with a strong 11-yard run.
Three of the next four plays went to Scarbrough. He went right end for 12 yards and after a 5-yard Hurts run went to the left for three yards. On third-and-2 from the 18, Scarbrough scattered Washington bodies on a run over left tackle and into the end zone. Adam Griffith’s extra point kick tied it at 7-7 with five minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Alabama took the lead on the first play of the second quarter following a Washington turnover. The Huskies completed a short pass to star receiver John Ross, but Tide cornerback Anthony Averett knocked the ball loose and it was recovered for Bama by Jon Allen, who picked it up at midfield and ran it to the Washington 40.
A Hurts pass to Calvin Ridley gained 6 and a 6-yard run by Harris earned a first down. Runs by Harris and Hurts made it third-and-1 at the Washington 19, but Bama was guilty of a false start.
On the first play of the second quarter, Griffith nailed a 41-yard field goal to make it Alabama 10, Washington 7.
Alabama had a couple of opportunities in Washington territory, but the Tide couldn’t cash again until the defense got the interception for a TD and a 17-7 halftime lead for Bama.
Alabama was not overwhelming statistically. Washington Coach Chris Peterson said after the game that he was not disappointed in his defense, which he called “really elite.”
Alabama had 16 first downs (13 rushing) to Washington’s 14.
Bama had 50 rushes for 269 yards (5.4 per rush) and 2 touchdowns. The Huskies had 29 carries for 44 net yards.
The Tide’s Jalen Hurts completed 7-14 passes for 57 yards. Washington’s Jake Browning completed 20-38 passes for 150 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Alabama had total offense of 64 plays for 326 yards, 5.1 yards per play, Washington 67 plays for 194 yards, 2.9 per play.
The Huskies fumbled twice and lost one, the Tide fumbled once but recovered it.
Bama was penalized 11 times for 66 yards, UW 3 times for 10 yards.
Washington punted 9 times for a 47 yards average, Alabama’s JK Scott 8 times for a 45.9 average.
Bama managed to convert only 4-14 third down conversions (but two of those were the Scarbrough rushing touchdowns, the Huskies 6-17.
The Tide had 5 sacks for 38 yards, Washington 3-20.
In addition to Scarbrough’s 19 carries for 180 yards and two TDs, Hurts rushed 19 timnes for 50 yards, Damien Harris 9-30, and ArDarius Steward 2-10.
Alabama’s team was charged with a one-yard loss, but it’s the kind of statistic that is dear to one’s heart – the victory kneeldown to end the game.
Tight end O.J. Howard was Bama’s top receiver with 4 catches for 44 yards. Gehrig Dieter had 1-10, Calvin Ridley 1-6, and Josh Jacobs 1-(-3).
In addition to Anderson’s interception and TD runback, Minkiah Fitzpatrick picked off a Washington Hail Mary in the end zone near the end of the game and returned it 28 yards.
Adam Griffith was good on his only field goal attempt and averaged 65 yards on kickoffs.
Reuben Foster led Alabama with 9 tackles, followed by Anthony Averett with 8, Rashaan Evans with 7, and Ronnie Harrison, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jonathan Allen with 6 each. Tony Brown had five tackles and was in on one sack and on two tackles for loss totaling 11 yards. Averett had a sack for 13 yards, Evans 1-7, Allen 1-5 (and another tackle for loss of 3), and Tim Williams was in on one 5-yard sack and Josh Frazier had 1-4.
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Averett also caused a fumble that was recovered by Allen.
Video by A.P. Steadham