MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Alabama’s offense was just like the confetti that rained down after the Orange Bowl. There was a quick pop. Then all the pieces fell down one after another until they reached their final destination.
The show started with a 50-yard pass from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to wide receiver DeVonta Smith. It was the longest play out of both teams. Running back Damien Harris then had back-to-back carries and a quick 15-yard reception before ultimately scoring on a 1-yard run.
That first-drive touchdown was just the first to fall, as Alabama defeated No. 4 Oklahoma 45-34 in Saturday night’s College Football Playoff semifinal at Hard Rock Stadium.
“It felt good coming out fast, starting out fast and putting together a touchdown on the opening drive,” said Harris, who scored twice. “That’s our goal: strong first possession every game, kind of set the tone and set the standard of how we want to play throughout the course of 60 minutes.”
And that worked, for the most part.
The Crimson Tide controlled the time-of-possession battle, hogging the ball for 12 minutes and 16 seconds more than the Sooners. UA even had a long 7:05 drive right before halftime and gave OU only 25 seconds to try something.
“You want to keep playmakers off the field because you can’t make plays on the sideline,” Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams said. “It was important. I don’t think we were thinking that as the drive was going, I think that we were just trying to execute the play and we kept getting positive yards, first downs and extending the drives.”
The only time Alabama didn’t have a major time advantage was the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide and the Sooners each had the ball for seven minutes and change.
Alabama rushed for 200 yards. Leading the way was running back Josh Jacobs with 98 rushing yards on 15 carries.
“I really didn’t come into this game with any kind of expectations or any kind of emotions,” said Jacobs, the only Oklahoma native on Alabama’s roster. “I approached this game how I approach every game. When I seen the opportunity to score, I just wanted to try my best to score.”
He did. Just not by a rushing touchdown.
In the second quarter, Tagovailoa hit Jacobs with a 27-yard pass. Jacobs took off and plowed through an Oklahoma defender to get into the end zone.
OU defensive back Robert Barnes had to be assisted off the field afterward.
“I tried to beat him any way I could,” Jacobs said. “It happened to be running him over.”
Said Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III: “He’ll let you know that he has a purpose and that he don’t feel like he can be stopped.”
With 528 total offensive yards, the Crimson Tide set a new SEC record for yards in a season. Alabama has 7,387 yards, breaking the previous mark of 7,261 set by Texas A&M in 2012.
This win means Alabama will play No. 2 Clemson for the CFP national championship on Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, California.
“We did a great job of controlling the game (Saturday) the way our offense played,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “The only time we really got stopped was when we stopped ourselves.”
Reach Terrin Waack at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.