No. 4 Alabama Football Takes Down No. 1 Clemson, 24-6, in 84th Allstate Sugar Bowl
The No. 4-ranked University of Alabama football team defeated No. 1-ranked Clemson, 24-6, Monday night in the 84th Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La.
The Crimson Tide (12-1) scored 14 points off two turnovers by the Tigers (12-2) in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
On the defensive side of the ball, Alabama dominated with five sacks, allowing Clemson just 188 total yards of offense, while holding the Tigers to their lowest point total since the 2014 season.
Sophomore linebacker Mack Wilson grabbed his first career pick-six to go along with six tackles and a pass breakup, while junior defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne got his first-career interception and caught a one-yard touchdown pass, also a first in his time at UA. Senior linebacker Rashaan Evans led the team with nine tackles including one sack and a pass breakup.
On offense, sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts finished 16-of-24 with 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air while picking up 40 rushing yards on 11 carries in the win. Junior running back Damien Harris led the Tide on the ground with 77 yards on 19 attempts.
The Alabama defense forced the potent Clemson offense into a three-and-out on the opening drive of the game. The Tigers responded in kind, as the Tide was forced to punt after its first three plays from scrimmage. Clemson took over at its own 16-yard line before being forced to punt again after another three-and-out.
The UA offense started its second drive from its own 47-yard line. Alabama used a heavy dose of the run game, with three different players carrying the ball for 40 yards on seven carries, before senior placekicker Andy Pappanastos converted a 24-yard field goal attempt to get the Tide on the board. The field goal capped a 10-play 47-yard drive, giving Alabama a 3-0 lead with 5:23 left in the opening quarter.
On the following Clemson drive, the Alabama defense came up with yet another three-and-out. After sophomore defensive back Trevon Diggs returned the punt 14 yards, the UA offense took over at the Tiger 46-yard line.
Alabama took full advantage of the favorable field position, scoring the game’s first touchdown when Hurts found junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley for a 12-yard pitch-and-catch to cap an eight-play, 46-yard scoring drive. Following the Pappanastos point after, the Tide led 10-0 with 12 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The touchdown grab moved Ridley into a tie with Dennis Homan (1965-67) for second place on Alabama’s career touchdown receptions list with 18 career scores.
At the end of the first quarter, Clemson had a total of -7 yards of offense, while UA had amassed 102 yards.
The Tigers answered to begin the second quarter, going 54 yards on 13 plays and ending with a 44-yard field goal to cut the Tide lead to 10-3 with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
The two sides traded punts before Alabama took over at its own 41-yard line, where UA put together a drive down to the Clemson 20-yard line where Pappanastos’ field-goal attempt hit off the left upright and bounced out to keep the score at 10-3 heading into the half.
After an Alabama fumble 12 seconds into the second half, Clemson capitalized with a 42-yard field goal to cut the UA lead to 10-6 with 12:45 left in the third quarter.
With Clemson gaining momentum to start the second half, the Tigers controlled the ball at the UA 35-yard line when sophomore linebacker Anfernee Jennings came with the pressure that forced Tiger’s quarterback Kelly Bryant to throw the ball directly to Payne who returned his first career interception 21 yards to the CU 42. A personal foul on Clemson during the return then advanced the ball to the Clemson 27-yard line.
Four plays into the drive, Harris converted a crucial fourth-and-one with a four-yard rush to the CU 14-yard line. Three plays later, Hurts found the aforementioned Payne who came into the game in the jumbo package, for a one-yard score to cap the seven-play, 27-yard drive. After the Pappanastos kick, the Tide led 17-6 with 5:40 left in the third quarter.
On the next play from scrimmage, Bryant dropped back to pass when the ball was tipped by senior defensive back Levi Wallace into Wilson’s hands who returned it 18 yards for the touchdown. The Tide scored 14 points in 13 seconds after Pappanastos converted the PAT to put UA up 24-6 with 5:27 remaining in the third quarter.
The two sides each punted multiple times in the fourth quarter with no change in the score. Alabama made a final stand with 1:43 left in the game, keeping the Tigers out of the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the UA five-yard line to seal the win.
With the win in the College Football Playoff Semifinal the Tide advances to the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. CT, inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., against Southeastern Conference foe, No. 3 Georgia.