MIAMI GARDENS, Florida (AP) – The celebration was both familiar and unique. The confetti cannons sent a purple-and-white shower into the air, and Alabama players ran to the sidelines to retrieve their championship hats and T-shirts.
This is a ritual if you played for Crimson Tide under coach Nick Saban.
This time, however, the band playing the battle song was recorded on a trumpet, and when “Sweet Home Alabama” erupted, only a few thousand Tide fans were still in the stadium to sing.
The final game of the college football season in a pandemic, a season he wasn̵
DeVonta Smith can’t be found, Najee Harris is unstoppable, and Mac Jones is impeccable as top-ranked Tide won the college’s 24-24 National Football Championship against Ohio’s No. 3 in Ohio on Monday night. They finished the year 13-0 – a full season when many wondered if it would be possible to play one.
“I think we’re the best team to ever play,” Jones said.
For Saban, it was the number 7 title of his career as a whole, breaking the tie with the great Alabama Paul Bear Bryant for the most of a great coach in college.
“For me, this is the best team,” Saban said. “There is more cohesion in this team than in almost any team we have ever had. They had to overcome and continue so much this season and they did it great. “
Ohio (7-1) just couldn’t handle it. Justin Fields, playing what may be his last game before heading to the NFL, passed 194 yards and a touchdown. Is it hard to know for sure if Fields is 100% after receiving a brutal side kick during his brilliant semi-final performance against Clemson.
“I was able to be there,” was all the youth quarterback would say.
From Bucky’s first drive, they lost a star, returning Trey Sermon to injury, and in a game that had to run at full speed, facing one of the biggest violations in recent history, they sprayed too much. Ohio has never allowed more points in a cup game.
“I think there’s a feeling that if you don’t score, you’ll fall behind and then the pressure will go up,” said Buckeys coach Ryan Day, who faced a heavy foul on Tide.
Fans can argue about which team from the Saban dynasty is the best, but no one will be more memorable than this group.
“They’re all so close,” Smith said. “People said last year that the dynasty was over. We do not stop. We just keep recharging. “
After spending two whole seasons without winning a national title, Tide finished perfectly in a season that could not be further from him. COVID-19 forced teams into quarantine and endless testing and uncertainty each week with matches played in mostly empty stadiums.
“For me, this team has achieved more than almost any team,” Saban said. “There was no disrespect to other teams we had, but that team won 11 SEC games. No other team has done that. They won the SEC and remained undefeated in the SEC and then beat two great teams in the playoffs without a break. I think there will be quite a bit to write about the legacy of this team. “
Only about 15,000 fans were at Hard Rock Stadium, with a capacity of 65,326, to see the last great performance in Smith’s college career. The Heisman Trophy winner had a catch of 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns, all in the first half.
“Heaven knows what he would do if he played the whole game,” Saban said.
Using a set of moves and misguided instructions, outgoing offensive coordinator Steve Sargsyan made Ohio heads of state spin, trying to track down Smith. At one point, he suddenly faced a backback, whom he left in the dust for a score of 42 yards to make 35-17 with 41 seconds left in the second quarter.
Smith, who finished his freshman season by winning the 2017 Tua Tagovailoa National Championship, ended his career in Alabama as the leading career successor in Southeast Conference history and the most notable offensive player in his third title game.
As for Sarkisian, he is on his way to Texas as head coach. Longhorns fans must have liked what they saw. If only he could bring Smith and his fellow Heisman contenders to Austin.
Jones, who finished third in Heisman’s vote, was 36 against 45 for a record of 464 yards and five touchdowns in the CFP championship. In one of perhaps the most overlooked seasons the quarterback has ever played, Jones set a one-season record for scoring 203.
Harris, who was fifth in the Heisman race, had 158 yards from the collision in 29 touches, scoring three times to give him an SEC record of 30 touchdowns this season.
Smith barely played in the second half, leaving with an injury. He returned to the sideline in the fourth quarter with his right hand wrapped around his wrist, two fingers glued together, and wearing a Heisman mask.
Alabama almost missed it and broke 50 at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Harris entered intact from the yard.
Smith and Harris surprised some by returning to college after last season for their final years.
Boy, did it turn out to be worth it. Together with Jones, another member of this recruitment class in 2017, they will leave Alabama as team leaders who managed to make a difficult march through the pandemic seem easy.
“We all had a mission, trying to get things done right,” Smith said. “We all went to work and everything ended the way we wanted.”
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