Clemson-Alabama III was a dud
NEW ORLEANS — In the movies, the third movie in a series is usually the worst of them. So is it really a surprise that Clemson vs. Alabama III was a dud?
From the start on Monday night, the Crimson Tide dominated the lines of scrimmage and then back-to-back turnovers by Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant in third quarter did the Tigers in as the Tide rolled over Clemson 24-6 to win the Sugar Bowl at the Superdome in New Orleans.
With the win, Alabama advances to next Monday night’s College Football National Championship Game where it will play Georgia in Atlanta. The Bulldogs rallied earlier in the day to beat No. 2 Oklahoma, 54-48, in double overtime.
It appeared Clemson had an opportunity to take the lead midway through the third quarter when it was driving. However, Bama closed the door on that opportunity when Anfernee Jennings got around right tackle Tremayne Anchrum and blew the Clemson quarterback up, causing the ball to pop up in the air and into the arms of defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne at the Alabama 37.
Payne returned the interception 21 yards to the Clemson 42 before Anchrum pulled him down from behind. However, to add insult to injury, Anchrum was charged with a horse-collar tackle and Alabama started the drive at the Clemson 27.
After Damien Harris picked up four yards on a fourth-and-one play from the Clemson 18, Jalen Hurts hit Calvin Ridley for 13 yards to the one and two plays later, on a trick play, Hurts threw a one-yard score to Payne to make the score 17-6 with 5:40 to play in the third.
On the Tigers’ next offensive play, Bryant tried to force a pass to Deon Cain. The ball popped in the air off the deflection and Mack Wilson picked off the pass and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown. The interception all but ended the Tigers hopes of defending their national championship.
Alabama’s defense smothered Clemson all night. Bryant was sacked five times, was intercepted twice and completed just 18 of 36 passes for 124 yards, by far the junior’s worst game of the season.
The running game was just as bad as the Tigers managed just 64 yards. Clemson had just 124 total yards.
Clemson, who finished the season 12-2, trailed just 10-3 at the break despite being outplayed in the first half. Then linebacker Kendall Joseph opened the second half with a strip fumble on Hurts, which he recovered at the Alabama 20.
However, Bryant and the Clemson offense sputtered on the ensuing drive and Alex Spence made his second field goal of the night, a 42-yard kick that made the score 10-6 with 12:45 to play in the third quarter.
Clemson’s defense then forced a three-and-out and the offense moved the ball into Alabama territory before Evans made the play of the game that took away the Tigers’ national championship hopes.
Field position also played a big role in the game from the start. Alabama’s average field position was its own 43, while the Tigers started at their own 24.
Alabama controlled the line of scrimmage from the start and field position as it lived on the Tigers’ side of the field in the first 30 minutes. Because of it Clemson totaled minus-7 yards in the opening quarter while the Tide had 102 yards and got a 24-yard Andy Pappanastos field goal and then a 12-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley from Jalen Hurts.
Spence made a 44-yard field with 10:00 to play in the second quarter to get the Tigers on the scoreboard. However, that left a sour taste in the Tigers mouth when the officials missed an obvious pass interference from Tony Brown on Tee Higgins who was going up for Bryant’s third down pass in the end zone.
Brown grabbed Higgins left arm as he tried to go up for the ball. Higgins was injured on the play and did return.