MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — For a moment, it looked like we had a battle on our hands.
But it didn’t take long for things to get very, very ugly.
A strange but memorable season for Ohio State ended with a resounding thud Monday night with a 52-24 loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship game. The Buckeyes were within four midway through the second quarter, but the Crimson Tide subsequently scored 17 unanswered points and rolled away from there.
Missing two contributors from the front seven in Tommy Toigai and Tyreke Smith (as well as others), the already-suspect OSU (7-1) defense was in shambles, giving up 621 yards of total offense. The offense wasn't much better, with star running back Trey Sermon getting knocked out with a shoulder injury on the first series and quarterback Justin Fields completing just 17-of-33 passes in what was likely his final collegiate game.
The loaded Alabama (13-0) offense was simply phenomenal, as Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith caught 12 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns in the first half before he was sidelined with a bad finger. Davey O'Brien Award winner Mac Jones threw for 464 yards and five scores, while Doak Walker honoree Najee Harris had 158 total yards and found paydirt three times.
Ryan Day suffered just his second loss since becoming Ohio State's head coach last year, and the 52 points are the most ever allowed by the team in a bowl game, shattering the previous mark of 42 set by USC (another unbeaten, No. 1 team) in the 1973 Rose Bowl. On the other side, Kent State grad Nick Saban earned his seventh career national title, including his sixth at Alabama and 18th for the program overall.
Below is a drive-by-drive recap of tonight's action, with the most recent plays and updates closest to the top. Stay tuned for updates and analysis all evening long on WKYC.com.
4:53: Justin Fields is sacked by Christian Baremore, pretty much summing up tonight's overall OSU performance. Drue Chrisman's punt goes to the Alabama 18, and the Crimson Tide will look to run out the clock on its 18th national title.
6:22: Alabama goes three-and-out for the first time tonight, and Charlie Scott comes out for just his second punt. Ohio State returns it to the Tide 47-yard line.
7:52: Following multiple replay reviews of what could've been touchdown catches, Ohio State is forced to go for it on fourth-and-goal. Justin Fields' pass deflects off the hands of Julian Fleming, and Alabama takes over at its own 6.
13:15: Fans in Tuscaloosa can start celebrating.
Alabama continues to carve up the Ohio State defense and caps off its latest drive with a 1-yard Najee Harris touchdown. The Crimson Tide has opened up a 52-24 lead on the Buckeyes.
1:02: The Buckeyes decide to go for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 45, but Christian Barmore stuffs him for a 2-yard loss. The Tide take over on downs, having perhaps hammered the final nail in the coffin.
2:52: DeVonta Smith is in the locker room getting his hand looked at, but it might not even matter at this point.
The Tide rolled down the field again, even with other players like Mac Jones and Najee Harris banged up. Jones ended up finding Slade Bolden for the latter's first touchdown of the year, and Alabama is back up by three scores at 45-24.
6:45: Some life for Buckeye Nation: Justin Fields breaks off a 33-yard run, then hits Garrett Wilson for a 20-yard touchdown pass. Ohio State is hanging around, cutting the deficit to 38-24.
7:47: Alabama begins the second half with a long drive and burns almost half the quarter away, but Ohio State stops them short of the end zone. Will Reichard comes out for a 20-yard field goal and makes it, putting the Crimson Tide up 38-17.
A bit of a concern for Bama, though, as DeVonta Smith appeared to injure a finger on his right hand.
0:04: Bama drives to near midfield, but OSU finally comes up with a stop, and Charlie Scott comes on to punt for the first time tonight. It sails to the Buckeye 18, where Justin Fields will take a knee to end a long first half.
0:42: The Buckeyes fail to move the ball again and have to punt...again. Drue Chrisman boots it to the Bama 28.
1:48: DeVonta Smith catches his third touchdown of the night, breaking wide-open to grab a 42-yard pass from Mac Jones. OSU is helpless to stop him, and they now trail 35-17.
2:29: Ohio State goes three-and-out, and fails to burn much time off the clock. DeVonta Smith returns Drue Chrisman's punt to his own 40, and Alabama has a chance to blow this game open.
3:19: Alabama takes its largest lead of the game on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Mac Jones to DeVonta Smith. It's 28-17 Tide.
5:21: Jordan Battle is ejected for a targeting foul against Jeremy Ruckert, and the penalty sets up a 23-yard Jake Seibert field goal. Ohio State pulls to within 21-17.
9:00: Mac Jones bounces back from the turnover and ends up connecting with Najee Harris for a 26-yard touchdown. The Bama running back juked his way to the gal line before hurdling his way into the end zone, and the Tide are back up 21-14.
11:43: A Josh Jobe pass interference penalty puts the ball on the 4-yard line, and Master Teague III takes it the rest of the way. We're all knotted back up at 14.
11:54: The OSU defense finally gets a break, as Baron Browning hits Mac Jones and recovers the fumble. The first turnover of the game gives the Buckeyes the ball at the Bama 19.
12:32: The Buckeye offense stalls near midfield, and Justin Fields is feeling the pressure of the Tide defensive front. Drue Chrisman punts it to the Alabama 11.
14:53: Following another fourth down conversion, Mac Jones hits DeVonta Smith for the Heisman winner's 21st touchdown of the season. The 5-yard score puts Alabama back up 14-7.
An update on Trey Sermon: ESPN's Maria Taylor confirms the running back was been taken to Broward General Hospital with a shoulder injury, and he will miss the rest of the game after just one carry. Master Teague III, who began the season as the starter, will take his place.
4:55: Justin Fields settles in with some razor-sharp passes, including a one-handed catch-and-run by tight end Jeremy Ruckert.
It sets up an 8-yard Master Teague III touchdown, and the Buckeyes tie it at 7.
8:07: Bama marches down the field before Najee Harris punches it into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the half-yard line. The Tide jump out to an early 7-0 lead.
Some worse news for the Buckeyes: Running back Trey Sermon appeared to injure his left shoulder on the first play of the game and is back in the locker room.
13:39: Ohio State goes three-and-out on its first series after Justin Fields is tripped up trying to scramble. Drue Chrisman's ensuing punt puts Alabama at their own 22 after DeVonta Smith is hit right away.
Some back news for the Buckeyes, as kicker Blake Haubeil will not be available for the game. The senior and former All-Big Ten player confirmed on Instagram he has tested positive for COVID-19, making freshman Jake Seibert tonight's kicker.
Defensive tackle Tommy Toigai and defensive end Tyreke Smith (a Cleveland Heights native) are also out for unspecified reasons. On the Bama side, receiver Jaylen Waddle could possible play for the first time since Oct. 24, when he broke his ankle against Tennessee.