Kenyan Drake

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Clemson’s Charone Peake: I felt like we dominated Alabama

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The Clemson Tigers fell five points shy against Alabama in the national championship game earlier this month. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson put on a performance reminiscent of Vince Young in the Rose Bowl, although Watson and the Tigers let a fourth quarter lead slip away as Alabama took the upper hand and brought home another national championship under Nick Saban. Though Clemson lost the game, there was absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in the performance. Wide receiver Charone Peake certainly didn’t feel any shame in his team’s performance.

We felt like we dominated the game,” Peake said following a Senior Bowl practice on Thursday, per Al.com. “Those couple two or three plays took over and kinda overshadowed our play. The scoreboard didn’t show it but I felt like we dominated the game.”

The plays Peake was likely referring to were an onside kick called by Alabama following a touchdown, a 95-yard kickoff return by Kenyan Drake and a long touchdown run by Alabama’s Heisman Trophy-winning running back, Derrick Henry, and a long touchdown pass to seldom-used O.J. Howard. To support Peake’s case, Clemson’s offense did a fantastic job against a defense that was heralded as one of the best in the nation, anchored by the top defensive line and defensive front in the game. Clemson rolled up 550 yards of offense and scored 40 points on Alabama, so in a sense, yes, Clemson’s offense was dominant. Peake was responsible for 99 receiving yards on six receptions as well. Clemson defensive tackle D.J. Reader agreed.

“They capitalize. If you’re going to beat them, you really have to beat them,” Reader said. “You can’t go out there and have a fluke game and just win against them. You have to beat them straight up. That’s what I respect about them as a team. They’re going to do the things that matter. They’re going the little tackles, even if it doesn’t count, they’re going to make them. They just do things the right way.”

It must be open season on the newly crowned national champions down at the Senior Bowl. This week also saw Ohio State players suggest they would have given Alabama a better fight than their Big Ten division foes from Michigan State. Who will be next to suggest they could take Alabama?

Nick Saban closes in on the Bear as ‘Bama bests Clemson in title game for the ages

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A week ago was the 10th anniversary of the epic 2006 BCS championship game between Texas and USC.  While the second College Football Playoff title game couldn’t quite match that level of iconic history, it did its damnedest in trying to get there.

In a back-and-forth affair that featured a plethora of long-range scores instead of the expected body shots — and the normally-reserved Nick Saban channeling his heretofore unknown inner riverboat gambler for good measure — No. 2 Alabama used a wild fourth quarter surge fueled in large part by special teams to drop top-ranked and undefeated Clemson 45-40.  With the win, Saban has now won five national championship — four with the Tide — one behind ‘Bama coaching legend Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most in FBS history.

And, in the end, this one was unlike any of the previous four in that it was both literally and figuratively “special.”

The Tide entered the fourth quarter down 24-21; seven and a half minutes later, the Tigers found themselves on the wrong end of 38-27 score.  The keys to the lightning-quick half-quarter turnaround were a pair of special teams plays.  With 10:34 remaining and coming off a field goal that tied the score at 24, Saban called for an onside pooch kick that was recovered by UA; two plays later, Jake Coker hit O.J. Howard on a 51-yard touchdown pass, the tight end’s second busted-coverage score of the game after not catching a touchdown pass of any kind since 2013 (watch that play here).

The ensuing possession for Clemson ended with a field goal that cut the lead to 31-27.  That four-point deficit lasted all of 16 seconds as Kenyan Drake returned the kickoff 95 yards to push the lead back out to 38-27.

A Deshaun Watson touchdown pass, his third of the game, with 4:40 remaining trimmed the deficit to five at 38-33 — the same score, incidentally, by which Texas trailed USC with four minutes remaining in that epic Rose Bowl.  Howard, of all people, helped ensure there would be no Vince Young-like fairytale ending for Watson and the Tigers as the tight end rumbled 63 yards on a second-and-12 screen pass to set the Tide up at the Clemson 14 with just under four minutes left on the clock.

Five plays and and nearly three minutes later, Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry put the final nail in Clemson’s comeback coffin, bulling into the end zone from a yard out with just over a minute remaining.  Henry’s third touchdown of the game pushed the lead back out to 45-33 and essentially ended the SEC’s mini title drought at two straight seasons.

Watson did connect on his fourth touchdown pass with :12 left, but Clemson was unable to recover the onside kick to officially end the instant classic.

Howard was the unlikely offensive star of the contest, outshining even the reigning Heisman winner.  Coming into the game with just 394 yards receiving, the immensely-talented junior totaled 208 yards on his five receptions.  Henry, who broke Shaun Alexander‘s school rushing record in the third quarter, would finish with a game-high 158 yards rushing, and became the first Heisman winner to win a national championship in the same season since Florida State’s Jameis Winston pulled off that trick in 2013.

Henry also became just the fifth running back to pull that off, joining Alabama’s Mark Ingram (2009), Pittsburgh’s Tony Dorsett (1976), Army’s Doc Blanchard (1945) and Minnesota’s Bruce Smith (1941).  Henry’s teammate, quarterback Jake Coker, also made some history as the Florida State transfer become what we believe is just the third player to win two national championships at two different schools — Cam Newton won titles at Florida (2008) and Auburn (2010), while J.T. White won two at Ohio State (1942) and Michigan (1947).

Watson, a Heisman finalist himself, threw for 371 yards and ran for another 73 in a losing effort.  He also became the first quarterback in FBS history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.

Clemson, which was looking for its first national championship since 1981, had entered this title game having won an FBS-best 51 straight games when leading entering the fourth quarter.  The Tigers had also been looking for its first win over the Tide since October of 1905, a stretch of 40,255 days.

Instead, it was Alabama that claimed its fourth national championship in the last seven years, an unprecedented feat in this day and age.  One final note: Saban and Urban Meyer-coached teams now own seven of the last 10 titles.

In any discussion of the best current coaches in the game,it begins and ends with those two titans.  And, based on how both teams are constructed, a head-to-head title matchup at some point down the road is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Big plays give No. 2 Alabama halftime lead at No. 17 Mississippi State

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Alabama has been in a bit of a battle with Mississippi State so far this afternoon, but the big plays have gone Alabama’s way in the first half. A 69-yard punt return for a touchdown by Cyrus Jones, a 60-yard touchdown catch by Calvin Ridley and a 74-run by Derrick Henry have given Alabama a 21-3 lead in an otherwise evenly played game.

Alabama has needed the big plays to come through as they have, because the Crimson Tide have struggled against the Bulldogs defense. Alabama was without a third-down conversion before the big pass from Jake Coker to Ridley on a third-and-five situation. Ridley had plenty of open field with Mississippi State not pressing on coverage, and he get a heck of a block heading downfield as well. Later in the quarter, Henry had his first big run of the day, and it counted in a big way. After being contained for the first few possessions, Henry found room to run 74-yards for a touchdown. That run set a new SEC record for most consecutive games with a rushing touchdown (15).

Mississippi State had a chance to get in the endzone in the first quarter, but a goal line stand by Alabama was not fooled by Mississippi State sending multiple players in motion before Dak Prescott attempted to push straight forward. Mississippi State also missed a 50-yard field goal try in the first half, but Westin Graves connecting on his second try of the half for the first points of the day for Mississippi State. Alabama’s defense has already sacked Prescott five times.

Alabama running back Kenyan Drake was taken to the locker room in the second quarter with an air cast around his right arm. A medical staff member of Alabama’s was seen on TV holding the arm level as Drake made his way to the locker room. Alabama head coach Nick Saban was also hurt after being on the receiving end of a player running out of bounds, but he survived with a minor scrape on his face.

No. 4 Alabama again the class of the SEC in blowout of No. 2 LSU

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There was a six minute period Saturday night when it appeared No. 2 LSU could play with No. 4 Alabama. Trailing 10-0, the Tigers mounted a six-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 40-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Harris to Travin Dural to pull within 10-7, pushed the Tide backwards six yards on three plays on their next possession, then moved 45 yards to notch a game-tying field goal with 2:22 remaining before the half.

Those six minutes belonged to LSU, and the other 54 belonged to Alabama. The Crimson Tide manhandled LSU, winning 30-16 in Tuscaloosa and claiming their fifth-straight triump in this hotly contested series.

Alabama’s defense swallowed Heisman Trophy favorite Leonard Fournette for the entire evening, limiting him to only 31 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries. The inability to get Fournette going in turn stifled LSU’s entire offense, as Alabama defenders blanketed LSU pass-catchers, which limited Harris to just 128 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception on 6-of-19 passing.

Meanwhile, Tide running back Derrick Henry posted the type of night Fournette could not, rushing a career-high 38 times for 210 yards and three touchdowns. Jake Coker was a typically efficient 18-of-24 passing for 184 yards, and Kenyan Drake added 10 carries for 68 yards.

After LSU tied the game at 10-10, Alabama notched a 55-yard Adam Griffith field goal just before the half, and then extended that momentum into the third quarter, as a pair of Henry scoring jaunts pushed the lead to 27-10.

Griffith added a 30-yard field goal with 12:45 remaining to nudge the score to 30-10, and LSU scored three minutes later with a one-yard Fournette plunge.

Instead of mounting a comeback, LSU watched Henry put the game away. The Tigers, in fact, never touched the ball again as Alabama consumed the final 9:18 with a 12-play, 80-yard drive.

In the end, Alabama out-gained LSU 434-182, held a 28-12 first downs edge and snapped the ball 79 times to LSU’s 45.

The win, coupled with Ole Miss’s loss earlier Saturday, put Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) firmly in control of its destiny to meet Florida in the SEC championship game, needing only wins at Mississippi State (next week) and Auburn (Nov. 28) to win the SEC West for the second straight year and third time in the last four years. LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC) would need to win out against Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M while waiting on another Alabama loss.

And, as the Tigers saw up close and personal Saturday night, that isn’t likely to happen.

No. 10 Alabama leading No. 9 Texas A&M 28-13 at the half

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The legs of Derrick Henry and the arm of Kyle Allen have staked No. 10 Alabama to a comfortable 28-13 lead at the break in College Station.

After the teams traded punts to open the game, Alabama opened the scoring when Minkah Fitzpatrick took an Allen interception 33 yards for a touchdown at the 7:58 mark of the first quarter, and Henry pushed the lead to 14-0 two-and-a-half minutes later with a 55-yard touchdown run.

Taylor Bertolet put the Aggies on the scoreboard with a 54-yard field goal, but Henry answered nine seconds into the second quarter with another scoring plunge, this from six yards out. Texas A&M threatened to get back in the game when, after a 52-yard Bertolet field goal, Allen moved the ball into Alabama territory, but he was again intercepted. Eddie Jackson grabbed the available pigskin and raced it 93 yards for a touchdown, turning a potential 21-13 score to 28-6.

Alabama missed on a chance to fully break the game open, though, and dynamic freshman Christian Kirk capitalized with a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown with 3:03 to go before the half.

Henry rushed 15 times for 178 yards and two scores in the half, and Jake Coker complimented him by completing 9-of-12 throws for 65 yards. Kenyan Drake left the game with an apparent leg injury.

The Aggies’ offense struggled mightily in the half. Allen connected on only 12-of-24 throws for 135 yards with a pair of interceptions while Tra Carson led the Aggies’ ground efforts with 10 carries for only 30 yards.

Bertolet missed a 55-yard try as time expired in the half.

Alabama will receive to open the second half.