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College Football: Alabama crushes Clemson, headed back to title game

January 02. 2018 10:22PM
Alabama linebacker Anfernee Jennings hits Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant forcing an interception by defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne during the third quarter of the 2018 Sugar Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday. (Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports)

Jalen Hurts threw two touchdown passes to complement a stifling defense as Alabama defeated Clemson, 24-6, in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The No. 4 Crimson Tide (12-1) will face No. 3 Georgia, which beat No. 2 Oklahoma, 54-48, in the Rose Bowl, in an all-SEC CFP Championship on Jan. 8 in Atlanta. The defending CFP champion Tigers finished 13-2.

Hurts, who ran 11 times for 40 yards, completed 16-of-24 for 120 yards and tossed a 12-yard touchdown to Calvin Ridley and a 1-yarder to defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne.

Alabama led by seven at halftime, but committed the game’s first turnover on the first play of the third quarter when Hurts fumbled and Kendall Joseph recovered for Clemson at the Alabama 20. The Tigers lost five yards in three plays and Alex Spence kicked a 42-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 10-6.

Clemson was approaching field-goal range again on its next possession when Kelly Bryant was hit while releasing the ball and it fell to Payne for an interception. His 21-yard return and a penalty on the Tigers for a horse-collar tackle put the Tide at the Clemson 27.

Seven plays later, Payne entered the game apparently as a blocker but the 308-pound defensive tackle instead caught a Hurts pass.

Alabama defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne (94) catches a touchdown pass during the third quarter against Clemson in the 2018 Sugar Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday. (Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)

On the first play of the ensuing possession, another Bryant pass was tipped and Mack Wilson grabbed the ball and ran 18 yards for a touchdown that gave the Tide a 24-6 lead.

Alabama coach Nick Saban has the Crimson Tide in the national championship game for the sixth time.

Bryant completed 18-of-36 for 124 yards and the Tigers had just 188 total yards.

Alabama had a big edge in early field position and took advantage. It drove 47 yards to Andy Pappanastos’ 24-yard field goal and 46 yards to Hurts’ touchdown pass to Ridley for a 10-0 lead after one quarter.

Clemson didn’t have a first down in the first quarter, but put together a 13-play, 54-yard drive to Spence’s 44-yard field early in the second quarter.

Pappanostos’ 38-yard field-goal attempt with 12 seconds left in the second quarter, bounced off the left upright and landed in the end zone, leaving the Crimson Tide with its 10-3 halftime lead.


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