Nick Saban-coached teams are tough to beat. Saban-coached teams with a lead at halftime, as Alabama owns over Clemson in the National Championship Game, are virtually unbeatable.
The Crimson Tide took a 14-7 lead into intermission over Clemson. If the Tigers rally, they’ll be just the seventh opponent in Saban’s decade-long tenure at Alabama to rally from a halftime deficit to win.
For the Tigers to do it on a national championship stage would be unprecedented. Alabama came into Monday’s title bout 5-1 in conference championship games, and a perfect 4-0 in national championships with Saban at the helm. The loss was Saban’s first SEC Championship in 2008.
Alabama built its lead with a pair of Bo Scarbrough touchdowns. His second had the feeling of a python’s squeeze; that undeniable despair that Crimson Tide opponents feel after a closely contested first few minutes fade, and a multiple-score deficit mounts.
The Crimson Tide leads by a score going into the half.
Bo Scarbrough's TD in the 2nd quarter is the difference for Bama. pic.twitter.com/OR3jvq7i6c
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 10, 2017
Scarbrough’s scores satisfied the big-play element needed to be Alabama’s X-factor — especially to compensate for quarterback Jalen Hurts struggling on the big stage.
Hurts 7-of-16 and 2.5-yard per attempt passing limit the Tide’s offensive options, but Scarbrough rolling off long rushes extends the margin for error.
To that end, it’s curious Steve Sarkisian moved away from Scarbrough in the second quarter. Less curious is how stagnant Alabama looked from that point.
Giveaways are damning against Alabama, and a failed fourth-down conversion and fumble early proved damning for the Clemson offense.
So, too, did Deshaun Watson’s delivery after taking a lariat from Reuben Foster on the initial drive.
Seriously, compare this…
— USA TODAY Sports (@USATODAYsports) January 10, 2017
…and Kenta Kobashi’s Burning Lariat.
Still, Watson’s recovered nicely to pass for 143 yards and rush for a touchdown — the first rushing touchdown Alabama’s surrendered to a quarterback on the season.
Can Watson summon more magic to deliver a few more firsts to the Crimson Tide, namely their first second-half loss in years under Nick Saban?