MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — For 18 minutes, the Alabama Crimson Tide sprinted. For the next 42 minutes, it ran at a steadier pace, fitting for the coming cross-country journey from Miami to Santa Clara, California.
For a fourth straight year, No. 1 Alabama won its semifinal game in the College Football Playoff, outlasting No. 4 Oklahoma 45-34 in the Orange Bowl and heading for a fourth straight meeting with Clemson since 2015, the third meeting in the CFP Championship.
The championship game is Monday, Jan. 7.
“I think our offense really controlled the tempo of the game,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “The only time we really got stopped in the game, we stopped ourselves. It would have been much more difficult for them to get back in the game if that didn’t happen.”
The first quarter was an Alabama onslaught with the Crimson Tide scoring on each of their first three drives to take a 21-0 lead. Damien Harris scored on a 1-yard run after a fumble call on his preceding carry was overturned by replay. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hit Henry Ruggs III with a 10-yard touchdown pass and Harris added his second short touchdown run to cap the quarter.
Alabama (14-0) continued on its next possession as Josh Jacobs scored on a 27-yard pass from Tagovailoa, leveling Oklahoma safety Robert Barnes along the way.
With its lead at 28-0, however, Alabama began to sputter, scoring only a field goal over the final 13:10 of the half. Oklahoma (13-1) scored its first touchdown and a field goal in the meantime, giving the Crimson Tide a 31-10 halftime lead.
In the second half, Alabama seemed as content to run clock as run up the score, putting the “survive and advance” mode in full effect. Oklahoma outscored Alabama 24-10 in the half, but the Sooner defense stopped the Crimson Tide only once in the half (Alabama also elected to kneel down inside the Sooner 10-yard line as time expired.)
Tagovailoa, who looked better than the “85 percent” he had pronounced his injured ankle earlier in the week, threw for more touchdowns (four) than incompletions (three) and finished with 318 yards on 24 of 27 passing. His fourth touchdown pass, a 13-yarder to Jerry Jeudy, ended Oklahoma’s last realistic chance with 6:08 to play.
Jacobs finished with 98 yards on 15 carries. Alabama amassed 528 total yards and more than 36 minutes in time of possession.
“Early in the game, we found it hard to break their momentum,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “But we were one play away in the fourth quarter from making it a close game. The fight we showed is going to do wonders for our program in the future.”
Kyler Murray, OU’s Heisman Trophy quarterback, was 19 for 37 for 308 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 109 yards and a score.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.