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Big efforts by Scarbrough, Alabama defense lead No. 1 Crimson Tide back to national title game (via Crimson Magazine)

01 Jan 2017 Stan J. Griffin

By Stan J. Griffin: December 31, 2016

Saturday's Chick Fil A Peach Bowl playoff semifinal contest between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Washington brought together two teams with fairly different offensive approaches as well as a pair of elite teams with smothering defensive units.
But on this day in Atlanta, it was all about the highly-touted Tide defense, Alabama's domination of the field position battle and the huge effort of sophomore tailback Bo Scarbrough as Nick Saban's Crimson Tide team snagged a 24-7 victory over Chris Petersen's stubborn Pac 12 champion Huskies before a capacity crowd at the Georgia Dome.
With its 26th straight win overall dating back to the 2015 season, Alabama improved to 14-0, the third time the Tide has reached that victory total under Saban, while the Huskies saw their stellar season end at 12-2.
Most importantly, the win advanced the Crimson Tide to the Jan. 9 College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Tampa, Fla. against Dabo Swinney's No. 2 Clemson Tigers, where it will have the opportunity to collect its second consecutive national title and its fifth in the last eight seasons.
The Tide and Tigers will meet for the second straight year in the title game, and the Tide knocked off Swinney's team 45-40 in 2015 to claim its 16th national title. Clemson defeated No. 3 Ohio State 31-0 Saturday in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.
The smothering Crimson Tide defense, paced by Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster and others, held the Huskies to 194 total yards, including only 44 on the ground, while forcing three turnovers.
Scarbrough, meanwhile, tallied 180 yards on 19 carries to set a new UA bowl game rushing mark while scoring a pair of touchdowns.  He averaged nearly 10 yards per carry on the way to his record-setting day.
"Washington had us a little off balance (in the first half) and we didn't do our responsibilities, but after we got in the flow of the game, I thought we played pretty well on defense," said Saban. "(Scarbrough) has really been playing well for us the past three or four games and we want to play him more and the guy is hard to tackle. He's big and powerful and playing with a lot of confidence right now. He did a great job for us today."


Both teams went three and out on their opening possessions, but on Washington's second series, the Huskies were able to march 64 yards in eight plays for the first points of the game, via a 16-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Jake Browning to Dante Pettis that put Petersen's team up 7-0.
On Alabama's ensuing possession, however, the Tide struck for its first points, completing a 78-yard drive with an 18-yard run by Scarbrough. Scarbrough (with a tote for 12 yards earlier in the series) and freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts (with carries for 11 and five yards) had several key ground-gainers on the drive and Hurts also connected with senior tight end O.J. Howard on a 16-yard pass during the march.
Disaster struck the Huskies on their next possession as Allen recovered a Washington fumble forced by Anthony Averett, setting the Tide up near the Washington 40 near the end of the first period. On the first play of the second quarter Adam Griffith hit a 41-yard field goal to put Alabama up 10-7 as UA was able to capitalize on the UW miscue.
Although Scarbrough continued to run the ball well the rest of the half, finishing with 80 yards in the first 30 minutes, the Tide was unable to convert this success into points as the aggressive Washington defense was able to keep pressure on Hurts and stop Alabama on key third down plays.
But with just over a minute left, the Tide defense came up in huge fashion as Ryan Anderson picked off a Browning pass and returned it 26 yards for a score, making the score at the half 17-7. It was the 11th defensive touchdown for the Tide this season.
The Huskies actually outgained the Tide 145-138 in the first half, but Washington turnovers proved to be the crucial difference in the contest.
The two defenses continue to dominate play for the majority of the third quarter and the Tide also continued to routinely stop itself offensively with crippling penalties and an inability to consistently create running holes or time for Hurts to pass the ball.
At the 11:58 mark of the final period, however, the Tide finally put a dagger in the heart of the Washington stop unit as Scarbrough rambled for a 68-yard TD to cap a demoralizing six-play, 98-yard drive to make the score 24-7.
Other key plays on the game-sealing march were a 12-yard run by Scarbrough and a 16-yard pass from Hurts to Howard.
Alabama as a team finished with 326 yards offensively, including 269 yards on the ground and 57 through the air.
Hurts added 50 yards rushing on 19 carries, with a long run of 33 yards, while Damien Harris contributed 30 yards on nine carries.
Hurts completed seven of his 14 pass attempts for 57 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Howard hauled in four catches for 44 yards.
Defensively, Alabama was led by Foster with nine tackles and the Tide tallied five sacks of Browning.
Anderson and Minkah Fitzpatricks both had interceptions for the Crimson Tide.
Junior punter JK Scott played a pivotal role in Alabama winning the field position battle, as he had eight kicks for an average of 45.9 yards, including a long kick of 55 yards.
The College Football Playoff National Championship Game between Alabama and Clemson is set to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. CT at Raymond James Stadium, and ESPN will televise the contest.

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