Alabama vs. Washington: Game Grades, Analysis for Crimson Tide
Alabama improved to 14-0 and will get a chance to play for a second consecutive national championship after beating Washington 24-7 in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Saturday. The Crimson Tide went down 7-0 in the first quarter but used a big outing by sophomore running back Bo Scarbrough. The SEC champions also got another defensive touchdown, their 11th of the season, to extend the lead just before halftime. Alabama's 17-point win was its smallest margin of victory since they beat LSU 10-0 on November 5.
Alabama did not get much out of Jalen Hurts and the passing game, but it never seemed to be needed. Hurts attempted 14 passes but showed good decision-making throughout the game. The freshman's first pass of the game was nearly intercepted so he often kept the ball before trying to throw the ball down field. Hurts finished 7-for-14 with just 57 passing yards. O.J. Howard was the game's leading receiver with 44 yards on four receptions. The Crimson Tide's offensive line struggled at times, allowing Hurts to be sacked three times for a loss of 20 yards.
Scarbrough was named the Peach Bowl Offensive MVP after rushing for 180 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 carries. The sophomore running back got the Tide on the scoreboard in the first quarter with an 18-yard touchdown run on his third carry of the game. His 180-yard performance was capped by a 68-yard touchdown run, the longest in Alabama's bowl game history. Hurts added 50 rushing yards on 19 attempts while Damien Harris only had nine carries for 30 yards. As a team, the Crimson Tide averaged 5.4 yards per carry.
Washington quarterback Jake Browning went into the game on Saturday with 42 passing touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Alabama intercepted him twice and allowed just one touchdown pass on the day. Ryan Anderson got the first interception of the game, returning it 26 yards for a touchdown to give Alabama a 17-7 lead. Minkah Fitzpatrick added an interception of his own late in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory. Cornerback Anthony Averett finished second on the team in tackles and forced a fumble in the second quarter. Marlon Humphrey recorded the team's only pass deflection.
Alabama's defensive line finished with five sacks on Saturday. Jonathan Allen, Rashaan Evans, Joshua Frazier and Averett all recorded a solo sack.
Alabama's front seven seemed to be in the backfield for the entire game. Tony Brown and Jonathan Allen were the only players to record tackles for a loss on a Washington rush attempt, but the Tide put together a complete performance against the run. The Huskies finished with just 44 rushing yards on 29 carries, surmounting to just 1.5 yards per carry. Washington had three rushes go for 10 yards or more, but the other 26 rushes totaled just 5 yards.
Alabama got a few unlucky bounces on special teams but still put together a strong performance. Senior kicker Adam Griffith made his only field-goal attempt of the game, cashing in on a 41-yard field goal to give the Tide a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. J.K. Scott put three of his eight punts inside the 20-yard line but also put three kicks through the end zone. The junior punter finished with a 45.9 yard average.
Trevon Diggs struggled returning punts throughout the game. The freshman was often backtracking to try to pick up a bouncing ball, which did not make head coach Nick Saban very happy. ArDarius Stewart averaged 22.5 yards per return on kickoffs.
Nick Saban will be going to Tampa, Florida to try to win his sixth national championship, so the coaching speaks for itself. The play-calling may continue to be frustrating at times, but Alabama ran the ball 50 times, compared to 14 pass attempts, which is already one-dimensional. The defensive coaching staff made adjustments throughout the game, specifically to counter Washington's pre-snap shifts that gave the Tide trouble in the first half.
Alabama's biggest weakness from the game seemed to be discipline. Although Saban may not have agreed with all of the calls, the Tide finished with 11 total penalties for 66 yards. Personal foul penalties near the end of the game may have been something the fans enjoyed, but it is likely something the coaching staff will focus on to prepare for the national title game.
Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Bleacher Report. He also works as a columnist and contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.