Ohio State Blown Out by Alabama, 52-24, in National Championship Game

By Dan Hope on January 11, 2021 at 11:47 pm
Justin Fields

There was no storybook ending for Ohio State in Monday night’s national championship game.

The Buckeyes’ defense was overmatched by Alabama’s offense, Justin Fields and Ohio State’s offense weren’t able to get going the same way they did against Clemson and the Crimson Tide rolled to a 52-24 victory, leaving the Buckeyes to cope with the heartbreak of coming up just one game short of their championship dreams.

The game got off to a bad start for Ohio State right out of the gates as the Buckeyes went 3-and-out on their opening possession. Making matters worse, starting running back Trey Sermon suffered an apparent shoulder injury on his first carry of the game and would not return, ultimately going to a nearby hospital for treatment.

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4  
#3 Ohio State 7 10 7 0 24
#1 ALABAMA 7 28 10 7 52

Alabama proceeded to drive 78 yards for a touchdown on its opening possession. The Buckeyes managed to force 4th-and-goal, but the Crimson Tide opted to go for it from one yard out and Najee Harris powered the ball into the end zone for the game’s first points.

Ohio State responded with its first touchdown of the game on its second possession. Justin Fields completed a 20-yard pass to Chris Olave to get the Buckeyes past midfield for the first time, then completed a 36-yard pass to Jeremy Ruckert to get Ohio State inside the 10-yard line. Master Teague capped off the drive with a 7-yard run into the end zone.

Alabama went right back down the field for another touchdown on its second drive, which DeVonta Smith started with a 32-yard catch and ended by going into the end zone untouched by a 5-yard score.

Ohio State was forced to punt again on its third possession, but Baron Browning gave the Buckeyes a much-needed boost of momentum by forcing a Mac Jones fumble and recovering it himself at the 19-yard line. The Buckeyes took advantage of the short field with Teague running for a 4-yard touchdown to tie the game.

From there, though, the game really started to get away from Ohio State.

Alabama scored its third touchdown on its fourth possession of the game as Harris went for a 26-yard touchdown after catching a pass on a wheel route of the backfield. 

A 28-yard run by Fields and a 29-yard run by Teague got Ohio State back into the red zone on its next possession, and a targeting penalty against Alabama safety Jordan Battle brought the Buckeyes inside the 10-yard line. But they were forced to settle for a field goal attempt, which Jake Seibert – kicking in place of Blake Haubeil, who was unavailable due to COVID-19 – made from 23 yards out.

5.1 AVERAGE per RUSH 4.1
19 1st DOWNS 33
5.5 YARDS per PLAY 7.5
4-5 RED ZONE 6-6
6-14 3rd DOWNS 6-11
4-29 PENALTIES 6-44
22:34 POSSESSION 37:26

That enabled Alabama to extend its lead to two scores as the Crimson Tide drove right back down the field, with Smith burning Shaun Wade for a 44-yard catch and following that up with a 5-yard touchdown catch to make it 28-17 with 3:19 to play in the second quarter.

Ohio State went 3-and-out again on its next possession, and Alabama took advantage again as Smith caught a 42-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 35-17 before halftime.

Smith caught 12 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone, while Mac Jones had 25 pass completions on 30 attempts for 342 yards and four touchdowns before halftime.

Smith checked out of the game on Alabama’s opening possession of the second half after suffering an apparent finger injury, but the Crimson Tide still drove down the field on the Buckeyes again, getting all the way to Ohio State’s 2-yard line – bleeding out nearly half of the third-quarter clock in the process – before settling for a 20-yard Will Reichard field goal.

Ohio State quickly drove down the field for a touchdown on its first possession of the third quarter, as Fields followed up a 33-yard run by throwing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson. But the Crimson Tide built the lead right back to 21 points with another touchdown drive, capped by a 5-yard pass from Jones to Slade Bolden.

After Teague was stopped on 4th-and-1 in Ohio State territory on the Buckeyes’ next series, Alabama took advantage of the short field and extended its lead to four touchdowns, with Harris running into the end zone from one yard out for his second score of the night.

Ohio State drove back inside the 10-yard line on its subsequent series, but finished without points after two near-touchdown catches by Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Chris Olave were ruled incomplete and Fields’ 4th-and-goal pass intended for Julian Fleming fell incomplete.

Monday night’s loss was Ohio State’s first loss in a College Football Playoff national championship game and its first loss in any national championship game since the 2007 season, when the Buckeyes suffered a 38-24 loss to LSU in the BCS National Championship Game.

Ohio State finishes the 2020 season with a 7-1 record after playing just five regular-season games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Game Notes

  • Ohio State had 13 unavailable players for Monday night's game, including starting defensive linemen Tommy Togiai and Tyreke Smith. Jerron Cage started in place of Togiai at nose tackle and Zach Harrison started in place of Smith at defensive end.
  • Matthew Jones made his second consecutive and third overall start of the season at left guard even though Harry Miller was available to play.
  • Tuf Borland, just as he has in every game he's been available for this season, served as the game captain for the opening coin toss.
  • With Sermon injured and Miyan Williams also unavailable, Marcus Crowley served as Teague's backup at running back and saw his only offensive playing time of the season. 
  • Wyatt Davis left the game with an apparent leg injury in the second quarter and did not return. Miller replaced him at right guard, and Paris Johnson Jr. also saw playing time at right guard in the fourth quarter.
  • 14,926 – the largest crowd Ohio State played in front of all season – was the official attendance of Monday night's game.
  • Mac Jones set a national championship game record with 464 passing yards and tied CFP records with 36 pass completions and five passing touchdowns.
  • Alabama is now 4-1 all-time against Ohio State.
  • Ohio State is now 3-3 all-time in College Football Playoff games.

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