TAMPA – For the first drive of the College Football Playoff National Championship, the University of Alabama went three-and-out. Bo Scarbrough started at running back and was given the ball on the second play. The Crimson Tide lost a yard, and Damien Harris immediately took his place.
Scarbrough didn’t blow his chances the next time he took the field at Raymond James Stadium on Monday night, but it didn’t end up being enough. Alabama lost, 35-31, and gave Clemson its second championship title, and its first since 1981.
For a while, there was hope, as Scarbrough kicked it into gear and scored the first touchdown of the night from 25 yards out. Breaking left, he dodged one Clemson defender and dragged another with him across the line to score. It marked his 10th touchdown this season.
“You know, Bo’s a hard runner,” center Bradley Bozeman said. “We opened up a few lanes, made some people miss, broke some tackles and got him in the end zone.”
The 6-foot-2, 228-pound bulldozer – or, as some lovingly call him, “Bo-dozer” – wasn’t done making an early impact just yet. Scarbrough was patient enough to wait until the second quarter for his next surprise.
Except, it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise since he took the ball left again. This time it was longer. Scarbrough scored on a 37-yard run. That was No. 11.
By halftime, Scarbrough had already carried the ball 12 times for 76 yards and the two touchdowns. He averaged 6.3 yards per attempt. He added four more carries for 17 yards during the second half to finish with a game-high 93 rushing yards.
But then time stopped for Scarbrough. He went down late in the third quarter with an injury. Although he was spotted on the sideline during the final period, Scarbourgh never returned to the game.
“He’s certainly been a bell cow for us,” UA head coach Nick Saban said. “He has certainly, because of his size and durability, he makes it difficult when the defense gets worn down a little bit. Not to have him was probably a little bit of a disadvantage for us.”
Harris filled in as soon as Scarbrough walked off onto the sideline. Josh Jacobs shared time on the field, too. Saban was pleased with how the two played. Together, they picked up 40 yards on the ground.
Overall, the Crimson Tide finished with 221 rushing yards, 143 of which came during the first two quarters.
“We kind of petered out in the middle,” Bozeman said. “Then, we got our mojo back towards the end. It just wasn’t enough.”
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts needed to complete passes to open up the running game because Clemson’s defense starting suffocating the line of scrimmage.
The Crimson Tide averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Hurts completed 13 of his 31 passes for 131 yards.
“As time went on, they started loading the box to keep us from running the ball,” Harris said. “As the game went on, it kind of got tougher, but I don’t think anything dropped off or anything like that.
“When you’re playing a good defense, it’s hard to always score.”