NEW ORLEANS — Third down, third down, third down.
That particular subject has been the cause of many headaches and heartaches for Alabama and for its fans over the past month and a half.
There were many stories written about it and many questions posed to both coaches and players. UA coach Nick Saban said his staff spent its fair share of preparation time self-scouting its third down efficiency on both offense and defense.
Judging by the first half of the Sugar Bowl against Clemson, it paid off.
Alabama converted five of its 9 third-down attempts in the first half and held Clemson to three of eight.
Of course it was in last season’s College Football Playoff national championship game against Clemson that Alabama’s offense converted a miserable two of 15 while allowing the Tigers to convert seven of 18. Clemson eventually wore down Alabama and dominated time of possession thanks to its third-down efficiency.
Alabama kept on schedule during the first half and kept in manageable third-down situations, for the most part. The Crimson Tide a few third downs with short runs.
The streak lives
Keep them coming, Calvin Ridley.
Alabama’s junior wide receiver has played in 43 consecutive games over the course of his career. He has caught at least one pass in every single one of those games. That ranks him third among all active Football Bowl Subdivision players.
The streak was extended with 12 seconds left in the opening quarter of the Sugar Bowl, and it was for a touchdown. Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts found Ridley in the end zone with a 12-yard pass. It was the only touchdown in the first half.
Hurts chucked Ridley a deep pass during the second quarter, but Clemson defensive back Van Smith broke it up. It was a first-down play. Alabama was at its own 40-yard line. That series ended with a punt. That was the only pass to Ridley that fell incomplete.
Come halftime, Ridley had two catches for 21 yards.
Hall of Fame
Former Alabama coach Gene Stallings (1990-96) and former running back Major Ogilvie represented Alabama in the Sugar Bowl’s inaugural Hall of Fame class, and both men were recognized on the field before the game.
Alabama has and long and storied history in the Sugar Bowl. Monday’s game was the Crimson Tide’s 16th appearance in the game.
Stallings coached in two during his seven seasons, including the 1993 Sugar Bowl in which Alabama won the national championship for the 1992 season.
Ogilvie scored a touchdown in three Sugar Bowls, the only UA player to achieve that distinction.
Just horsing around
A horse named Jalen Hurts ran third in a seven-furlong race at Gulfstream Park on Monday. The claiming race for three-year-olds had a field of seven horses and a total purse of $50,000. Jalen Hurts has one win in six career races, breaking his maiden on Oct. 13, 2017 at Gulfstream. A $2 bet on Jalen Hurts to show on Monday paid $3.60. Jockey Julian Leparoux was aboard Jalen Hurts on Monday. The horse is owned by Gus King and trained by Patrick Biancone.
Bradley Bozeman, Rashaan Evans and Minkah Fitzpatrick served as game captains. Shaun Dion Hamilton was an honorary captain…Alabama won the toss and elected to defer until the second half…Several former Alabama players were at the game, including Mark Ingram, Cam Robinson, T.J. Yeldon, Trent Richardson, O.J. Howard, DeAndrew White, Marlon Humphrey and Vinnie Sunseri.
Ben Jones and Terrin Waack contributed to this report.
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.