ORLANDO — It wasn’t quite as explosive as Alabama’s offenses of the recent past. It wasn’t quite as dominant as some of the defensive performances for Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide. But as the start of another decade in college football, it was classic Crimson Tide.
Alabama did get explosion, especially for wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, and it did get domination in the second half, when some well-considered adjustments helped UA pitch a shutout for the final two quarters in a 35-16 victory over the Michigan Wolverines in the Citrus Bowl.
Alabama trailed by two points, 16-14, after Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin hit a 57-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. The Crimson Tide probably felt fortunate to be within two points, having been outgained 286 yards to 205. An 85-yard Mac Jones pass to Jeudy to open the game accounted for over 40 percent of that yardage. Najee Harris also had a nine-yard touchdown run in the second quarter for UA.
“It took us a little while to get our sea legs under us. I’m especially proud of this team and the adversity they had to overcome (and) the grit they showed in the second half today,” Saban said.
In the second half, Alabama looked like the traditional Alabama, perhaps not as high-scoring but capable of the quick strike and resilient on defense, an improvement that Saban attributed partly to a switch to more “nickel” defense, giving UA more experience on the field and increasing their options in pressuring Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson.
The Crimson Tide took the lead for good on the first possession of the second half with Jones finding DeVonta Smith for a 42-yard touchdown to cap the drive. The offense continued to be hit or miss, but was big when it did hit, and the defense limited Michigan to 109 yards in the second half.
A 58-yard Jones-to-Jeudy completion was the highlight of the decisive 91-yard touchdown drive early in the first quarter, a march capped by a 20-yard touchdown reception by tight end Miller Forristal, back on the field for the first time since suffering a serious throat injury in October game against Arkansas. Harris, who finished with 136 yards rushing, capped the scoring with his second touchdown, a 2-yard run in the final minute.
Jeudy had 204 yards on six catches in earning the game’s MVP honors.
“That’s as good a group (of receivers) as you’re going to see,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said of Jeudy and his fellow wide receivers. “They are fast but they also make the contested catches. They’re tough to guard.”
The victory was Alabama’s 43rd bowl win in its history, extending its own NCAA lead in that category. The 2019 season was the ninth in a row in which Alabama (11-2) has won 11 games or more.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt