By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
On Alabama’s third offensive play in last Monday’s (Jan. 7) national title game, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was intercepted by Clemson’s A.J. Terrell, who promptly returned the ball 44 yards for a touchdown. Alabama kept the game close for most of the first half, the Crimson Tide couldn’t keep up with the Tiger offense.
UA responded with a quick three-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 62-yard touchdown strike to Jerry Jeudy to even the score, but Clemson answered that touchdown in four plays on a 17-yard run by Travis Etienne to regain the lead at 14-7.
The back-and-forth game continued as Alabama marched down the field on a 10-play, 75-yard drive when Tagovailoa found tight end Hale Hentges for a 1-yard score, though the extra point was no good.
Alabama took its final lead of the game on a 25-yard field goal by Joseph Bulovas with 14:18 remaining in the first half. The Tide led 16-14, but it was all Clemson for the remainder of the contest. The Tigers added two more touchdowns before halftime, as true freshman Trevor Lawrence picked apart the Alabama defense. Tagovailoa threw his second interception of the game before halftime, and Clemson converted the turnover into points as they carried a 31-16 lead into the locker room.
The second half wasn’t any better for the Tide, as Alabama was shut out in the second half for the first time this season. Clemson scored on its first two drives of the half to extend the lead to 44-16, and the game was essentially over before the fourth quarter began. Entering the game, a Nick Saban-coached team at Alabama never lost by more than 14 points.
The Tigers outgained the Tide 482 to 443, and Alabama didn’t force a turnover. Lawrence threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns, while Etienne rushed for two scores and 86 yards. True freshman Justyn Ross from Phenix City caught six passes for 153 yards and a touchdown.
Tagovailoa threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns along with the two interceptions. Jeudy snagged five passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. No Alabama running back rushed for more than 60 yards, and UA only averaged four yards per carry.
Alabama finished the season 14-1, while Clemson improved to 15-0.
SEC postseason awards
Offensive Player of the Year
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Defensive Player of the Year
Quinnen Williams, Alabama
Newcomer of the Year
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
Coach of the Year
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
First Team Offense
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Benny Snell, Kentucky; Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss; Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M
Jonah Williams, Alabama; Greg Little, Ole Miss; Bunchy Stallings, Kentucky; Martez Ivey, Florida; Lamont Gaillard, Georgia
Deebo Samuel, South Ca-rolina
Cole Tracy, LSU
First Team Defense
Quinnen Williams, Alabama; Montez Sweat, Mississippi State; Jachai Polite, Florida; Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State Linebacker
Josh Allen, Kentucky; Deshaun Davis, Auburn; Devin White, LSU
Greedy Williams, LSU; Grant Delpit, LSU; Deandre Baker, Georgia; Deionte Thompson, Alabama
Braden Mann, Texas A&M
Second Team Offense
Drew Lock, Missouri
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Van-derbilt; D’Andre Swift, Georgia
Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt; Justin Jefferson, LSU
Irv Smith, Alabama
Andrew Thomas, Georgia; Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms, Missouri; Zack Bailey, South Carolina; Deion Calhoun, Mississippi State; Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama
Mecole Hardman, Georgia
Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia
Second Team Defense
Derrick Brown, Auburn; Terry Beckner, Missouri; Isaiah Buggs, Alabama; Raekwon Davis, Alabama
Dylan Moses, Alabama; D’Andre Walker, Georgia; Erroll Thompson, Mississippi State
Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State; C.J. Henderson, Florida; DeMarkus Acy, Missouri; Mike Edwards, Kentucky
Joseph Charlton, Texas A&M