2018 Sugar Bowl recap: Tide rolls over Tigers in rubber match

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Classic Bama.

The Tide rolled through Clemson down at the Superdome Monday, putting forth a dominating
performance against a Clemson team that just couldn’t handle them. The defence held Tigers QB Kelly
Bryant to under 150 total yards (!!!) while picking him off twice and sacking him 5 times. The
revenge factor was evident early in this game; Clemson couldn’t get a 1st down in the first
quarter and the offensive struggles persisted throughout the game as they were only able to
muster 188 total yards of offence.

The Clemson defence did a decent job of holding firm in the first half and only gave up 17 points on the day as Bama had a pick 6 to add to their point total. Jalen Hurts wasn’t too consistent but he managed the game well enough to let the defence do their job.

The game started slow with the first points not being scored a Bama field goal
with 5 minutes left in the first quarter. Then Jalen Hurts connected with Calvin Ridley for a touchdown to make it 10-0 just before the end of the quarter. Clemson got on the board in the 2nd quarter to cut the lead to 10-3. Towards the end of the half, the Tide offence made their way down the field, only to miss a 38- yard field goal.

Clemson stayed within 7 at the half.
The Tigers caught a little burst of momentum to start the 2nd half, as a fumble on Alabama’s first play from scrimmage was recovered by the Tigers’ top tackler, Kendall Joseph. But they were only able to get 3 points off the turnover which was a
huge letdown for the comeback. At 10-6, Clemson was heading back across into Alabama territory before the turning point came. Faced with pressure, Kelly Bryant barely got off a weak toss that went straight into the hands of lineman Da’ron Payne. That led straight to a goal line touchdown pass from Hurts to Payne himself for the always awesome “big man touchdown”

Clemson needing to make something happen down 17-6 but the very next play from
Kelly Bryant was returned to the house by Bama's Mack Wilson.The 3rd quarter is a little early to call the game but this Clemson offence was almost lifeless, and the Tigers fell 24-6.

A brief look at the offences will show that this game did not match the offensive explosions of 2017 and 2016. Calvin Ridley (4 catches, 39 yards, 1 touchdown) and Damien Harris (19-77-0) had solid but unspectacular performances for Alabama while Bo Scarbrough struggled to get going. On the other side, Deon Cain (6-75- 0) had a decent game but Hunter Renfrow was shut down in his 3rd game against the Tide. In his previous 2 games he had 17 catches for 180 yards and 4 touchdowns. Today he had just 5 catches for 31 yards.

This game was all about Alabama’s suffocating defence. Let’s look at some outstanding
individual performances. Rashaan Evans is a high end linebacker prospect for the upcoming NFL draft and may have solidified his spot in the 1st round with this terrific output. He had 9 total tackles to lead the team along with a sack and a pass defended. Minkah Fitzpatrick is a lock for the top 10 in the draft and put up a good case for him to be the highest drafted defensive player. He was tasked with shutting down Hunter Renfrow and he definitely accomplished that. If you look at the pick 6 by Mack Wilson you will see Fitzpatrick deflected the pass before it goes up and into Wilson’s hands for the pick six.

A player who made a name for themselves in this game: Anfernee Jennings. He had 4 solo tackles with a sack and 3 tackles for loss, and he was the rusher that forced the first Kelly Bryant interception. The Tigers offensive line couldn’t keep Jennings in check.

Clemson’s defence featured some strong draft prospects. Christian Wilkins had 7 solo tackles from the DL spot and was instrumental in resisting the 3 headed rushing attack of the Tide. The 6’5” DE Clelin Ferrell added to his impressive sack total on the season with 1 today along with 2 tackles.

Alabama’s defence was clearly still an elite star studded lineup that showcased their talents at each position. The Bama offence actually wasn’t as great as last time and Clemson had their best defensive showing of the 3 matchups. The key difference was the Tiger offence. The difference in the level of play between former QB Deshaun Watson and Kelly Bryant was much more significant than many thought. While Watson shredded that vaunted Bama defence in back to back years, Kelly Bryant was ineffective from the very beginning. Saban and his team were not going to let Clemson beat them again; as they got their revenge.

This time the Elephants hunted the Tigers.