ATLANTA, Ga. – Led by a Crimson Tide bowl-record 180 yards on the ground from running back Bo Scarbroughand an opportunistic and often stifling defense, the No. 1-ranked University of Alabama football team won the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, 24-7, over No. 4 Washington Saturday afternoon in front of a record crowd of 75,996 at the Georgia Dome.
Alabama is now 14-0 on the season and extended its 26-game win streak, the longest active streak in college football. With the win, Alabama earned its 36th bowl victory, the most in collegiate football history.
Scarbrough, the Peach Bowl Offensive Most Valuable Player, opened and closed the Tide’s scoring. He bulled his way 18 yards into the end zone in the first quarter to tie things up with Washington and then powered 68 yards early in the fourth quarter to make it 24-7. In between he added nearly 100 yards rushing. Senior linebacker Ryan Anderson, the Peach Bowl Defensive MVP, scored Alabama’s 11th defensive touchdown of the season in the waning moments of the first half, intercepting a pass and returning it 26 yards for a score.
Defensively, Alabama tallied five sacks of Washington quarterback Jake Browning for losses totaling 38 yards, nabbed two interceptions returned for 54 yards and one touchdown and had seven tackles for losses totaling 48 yards. Junior cornerback Anthony Averett led the Tide with six solo tackles, including a 13-yard sack and a forced fumble. Senior linebacker Reuben Foster had nine total tackles with a team-best six assists.
Alabama won the toss and deferred its option to the second half. Washington chose to receive the opening kickoff. The two teams traded three-and-outs to start the game before the Huskies took over on their own 36-yard line for their second possession of the game. Washington marched 64 yards in eight plays to a touchdown, scoring on a 16-yard pass from Browning to wide receiver Dante Pettis. Place kicker Cameron Van Winkle tacked on the point-after, putting Washington ahead, 7-0, with 7:56 left in the first quarter.
Alabama answered Washington with a touchdown drive of its own on the next possession. After starting with a two-yard run by running back Damien Harris, quarterback Jalen Hurts threw a sideline pass to tight end O.J. Howard for a first-down pickup of 16 yards. Harris then rushed twice for a total of 11 yards and another first down. Hurts then picked up another first down with an 11-yard rush followed by a 12-yard, first-down rush by Scarbrough that put the ball on the Washington 26. Hurts ran for five more yards before Scarbrough closed out the possession with a run of three yards, followed by a punishing 18-yard rush, bulling his way into the end zone. Place kicker Adam Griffith‘s point-after attempt was good and Alabama knotted the score at 7-7.
Washington was driving the ball on its next possession, picking up 33 yards and two first downs before Alabama’s Averett stripped the ball from receiver John Ross following a seven-yard completion, forcing a fumble that defensive end Jonathan Allen recovered at the 50. Following the turnover, Alabama drove to the Washington 23-yard line as the first quarter expired. Coming out of the quarter break, Griffith came on for a 41-yard field goal attempt, driving the ball through the uprights to put Alabama ahead, 10-7 with 14:55 left in the first half. During the drive, Hurts connected with wide receiver Calvin Ridley for a six-yard reception. Hurts also ran the ball for five yards while Harris rushed twice for 10 yards.
After running back Lavon Coleman ran for two yards to open Washington’s next drive, the Huskies lost yardage on the next two plays with UA cornerback Tony Brown forcing a loss of seven and defensive end Jonathan Allen forcing a loss of three on consecutive pass plays, bringing up a three-and-out and a Huskies punt.
Scarbrough opened the Tide’s next possession with three consecutive rushes that totaled 14 yards and a first down. After running for a yard, Hurts tossed a sideline dart to wideout Dieter Gehrig for 10 yards and a first down. The drive stalled after that and punter JK Scott came out, hitting a 42-yard punt that pinned the Huskies inside their 10-yard line.
A seven-yard Browning to Pettis completion opened Washington’s next series before the Huskies lost four yards on a sack by nose guard Joshua Frazier. An incompletion on third down brought out the Huskies’ punt unit. The two teams proceeded to trade three-and-outs over the next two possessions.
Scarbrough rumbled for 28 yards and two first downs on a pair of carries to get Alabama’s next possession started before an intentional grounding penalty stalled the Tide’s momentum. Scott came on and punted the ball inside the Washington 10-yard line for the next drive.
Starting on its four-yard line, Washington got a 16-yard rush on a sweep from wideout Chico McClatcher to open the drive. Browning added four more on the ground before completing a five-yard pass to Ross. Running back K.J. Carta-Samuels then ran for three yards. On the next play, Anderson picked off a Browning pass, returning the interception 26 yards for a touchdown with 1:13 left in the half. Griffith connected on the point-after attempt and Alabama extended its lead to 17-7 with just over a minute left in the second quarter. The pick-six was the Alabama defense’s 11th touchdown (by eight different players) of 2016.
After the kickoff, the Huskies began at their 25 following a touchback. Washington ran six plays, gaining 14 yards in a minute and 13 seconds to close the half.
In the first half, Hurts completed five passes on nine attempts for 32 yards for Alabama while Scarbrough led all rushers with 80 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Howard led the Tide’s receiving corps with two catches for 19 yards. For Washington, Browning was 12-of-21 passing for 83 yards with one interception. Tailback Myles Gaskins had rushed for 25 yards on six carries and had a team-leading three catches for 31 yards. Pettis had two catches for 23 yards and a touchdown.
After opening the second half with a 25-yard kickoff return by Tide wide receiver ArDarius Stewart, Hurts dashed for a 33-yard pickup on the ground before giving the ball to Harris for three yards on two carries. A pair of penalties moved Alabama back 10 yards to the Washington 49. A nine-yard Hurts to Howard pass forced a fourth down and brought out Scott for a 40-yard punt. Washington then went three and out, bringing Alabama back out on offense. The Tide gained 12 yards and a first down on six plays before punting the ball away with Scott again pinning Washington inside its 10-yard line. The two teams went three-and-out over the next two possessions.
After failing to move the ball on the first two plays of Washington’s next possession, Browning completed an 11-yard pass to wide receiver Aaron Fuller followed by a two-yard completion to Gaskin. Tailback Lavon Coleman ran for five more yards, moving the ball to the Washington 43 as the third quarter closed. An incompletion to start the fourth quarter brought up fourth down, with Browning taking the snap and punting 50 yards to the Alabama two.
Starting at it two-yard line, Alabama gained one yard on its first two plays before Scarbrough burst through for 12 yards and a first down. A Hurts to Howard toss picked up 16 more followed by a one-yard rush by Hurts. Scarbrough, touching the ball for the second time in the drive, powered his way 68 yards to the end zone and another score, breaking two tackles on the weaving run. Griffith’s PAT was good and Alabama pushed its lead to 24-7 with 11:47 left in the fourth period.
Washington picked up eight yards on six plays on a set of downs that included a five-yard Allen sack of Browning. Alabama went three-and-out on its next possession before Washington closed out its next set of downs with a 13-yard sack of Browning by Averett.
Stewart opened Alabama’s last offensive possession with a nine-yard carry, which was followed by three successive Scarbrough runs, gaining a total of seven yards. A five-yard run by Hurts on third down brought the Tide a yard short of a new set of downs. Alabama went for it on fourth down, coming up short and turning the ball over on downs.
Washington took to the air late in the quarter, with Browning hitting Fuller for pickups of 16 and 12 yards, moving to the Alabama 27. A fourth-down heave toward the end zone by Browning resulted in Alabama’s second interception of the game, which strong safety Minkah Fitzpatrick returned 28 yards from the end zone, effectively ending the game.
The Crimson Tide advances to the College Football Playoff Championship Game for the second year in a row and will face the winner of the Ohio State-Clemson game. The CFP Championship Game will be played Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.