SOMETHING TO SHOUT ABOUT
Bama rolls, records 9th straight season with at least 11 W’s
Alabama defensive back Shyheim Carter, left, celebrates after an interception against Michigan during the second half of the Citrus Bowl college football game in Orlando. MVP Jerry Jeudy led the Crimson Tide past the Wolverines in a 35-16 victory.
Alabama ended its season with at least 11 wins for the ninth consecutive year by blanking Michigan in the second half Wednesday afternoon in the Citrus Bowl.
Sophomore quarterback Mac Jones threw three touchdown passes to help No. 13 Alabama (11-2) pull away for a 35-16 win over No. 14 Michigan (9-4) in front of an announced crowd of 59,746 at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.
Jones, a Jacksonville native, finished 16-of-25 passing for 327 yards. Deerfield Beach native Jerry Jeudy was named the game’s most valuable player after leading all players with six receptions for 204 yards and one touchdown.
“It took us a little while to get our sea legs under us,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I’m especially proud of this team for the adversity they had to overcome this year, the perseverance they showed, and the grit they showed
to come out the way they did in the second half of this game.”
Alabama took the lead for good at 21-16 on the fourth play of the second half when Jones threw deep to DeVonta Smith, who made the catch while separating from a defender and turning upfield to complete a 42-yard score.
Jones was making his fourth start of the season in place of Tua Tagovailoa, who was sidelined for the year with a right hip injury in November.
“The bowl practices helped a lot,” Jones said. “Even in Tuscaloosa, we got extra work in and a whole month to prepare, so we were running plays and everyone was executing them really well.”
Jones later put the game out of reach on a 20-yard toss to Miller Forristall with 10 minutes to play. That scoring drive came after Michigan was hampered by penalties on offense and QB Shea Patterson was sacked by Shane Lee.
The Crimson Tide registered three sacks as a team before senior Shyheim Carter intercepted a pass midway through the fourth quarter while nursing a 28-16 advantage.
“We’ve been practicing that play a lot over the last few weeks, so I kind of saw it coming,” Carter said of the interception. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna go make that play.’ Big-time players make big-time plays in bigtime games.”
Lee led Alabama with eight tackles. Freshman linebacker Christian Harris and junior defensive back Xavier McKinney each finished with seven tackles.
Michigan went toe-totoe with the Crimson Tide in the first half while running the ball well and scoring on four consecutive possessions to take a 16-14 lead into the break.
“They were hurting us running the ball mostly when they were in two tight ends and two receivers,” Saban said. “In the second half, we decided to play nickel, which gives us more multiples of things that we can do. We’re a little smaller on the field when we do that, but it’s easier to adjust and the players did a really good job of it and we were able to pressure more, which really helped us stop the run.”
The Wolverines, who rushed for 162 yards in the loss, ended the second quarter with a 57-yard field goal by Quinn Nordin, which barely snuck over the upright to set a Citrus Bowl record.
Taylor Mehlhaff booted a 52-yard field goal for Wisconsin in 2007.
Nordin also connected on field goal tries of 36 and 42 yards during a string of 13 unanswered points in the first half that gave Michigan a 13-7 lead.
The Crimson Tide responded for a brief 14-13 lead on a 9-yard run by Najee Harris with under four minutes to spare before halftime. Harris scored for the second time on a short run with just 26 seconds to play and capped his day with 136 yards on 24 carries.
Harris’ first touchdown was an awakening of sorts for Alabama after punting on three previous drives.
The Tide appeared to be off and running early on when they forced Michigan to go 3-and-out at midfield, then connected on an 85-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Jeudy on their first play from scrimmage.
The touchdown toss marks the second-longest in Citrus Bowl history. Georgia’s Aaron Murray connected with Chris Conley for an 87-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 45-31 win against Nebraska in 2013.
“It was a very competitive game through the half, into the fourth quarter, until about six minutes left in the game,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Their ability to create the big play was critical in the game [along with] their ability to keep us out of the end zone. At the end, stopping us on the interception and then [driving] the length of the field, that was a huge difference in the game.”
Alabama running back Najee Harris fights for extra yardage as Michigan defenders (from left) Daxton Hill, Jordan Glasgow and Ambry Thomas try to stop him during the second half at the Citrus Bowl Wednesday at Camping World Stadium.
Alabama running back Najee Harris tries to elude the grasp of Michigan defensive back DeMarcco Hellams on Wednesday at the Citrus Bowl.