Sugar Bowl ends Alabama postseason run

Sugar Bowl ends Alabama postseason run

The Crimson Tide emerges from the smoke as they take the field to play Ohio State. CW | Pete Pajor

Kelly Ward

Alabama football tried to bet against the house. It lost in dramatic fashion to dash its championship hopes. A last-ditch Hail Mary pass intercepted in the end zone sealed the Crimson Tide’s fate in the Sugar Bowl, and Alabama left New Orleans with the same result as it had a year before: a loss to a team it was favored to beat.

Alabama’s whirlwind season led by unlikely quarterback Blake Sims was over.

“After the game, that’s our quarterback,” junior safety Landon Collins said. “We always tell him, ‘Let’s make history.’ He did a fantastic job at what he’s been doing. He played his heart out. As the quarterback we look up to him, and, man, all hands down to him. I love 
my quarterback to death.”

For the second time in as many years, a loss in the Sugar Bowl soured what was a promising season for Alabama. This time, the team battled injuries and losses to get to New Orleans. The team came back against Arkansas, LSU and Auburn to get to the SEC Championship Game. The team held off Tennessee, Mississippi State and Missouri to earn a No. 1 seed in the 
inaugural College Football Playoff.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “This team excelled all year long. They kept Alabama in the forefront of college football everywhere in the country, based on the hard work and the improvement that they made throughout the season. So I’m very proud of what this team was able to accomplish in winning the SEC as well as winning 12 football games in a very tough conference.”

This team made a Broyles Award finalist out of an outcast. Lane Kiffin, the coach no one wanted, was the coach Alabama didn’t know it needed. The offensive coordinator helped Alabama to 30 more yards per game and molded Sims into the single-season passing yards leader with 3,487 yards 
in the air.

Kiffin made wide receiver Amari Cooper into a Heisman finalist with an FBS-leading 124 receptions. Cooper had 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns.

In what will likely be his final game for the Crimson Tide, Cooper was limited to fewer than 100 yards on nine touches and two scores.

The last outing of this team didn’t meet expectations, but its season did.

“I’ve already said it,” Saban said. “What I said to the players about exceeding expectations this year and doing a great job keeping Alabama in the forefront, and I was very proud of what they were able to accomplish. I was also apologetic to them as a coach and a coaching staff that didn’t do a better job of helping them be able to play their best in this game.”

This team, which Saban has often credited for its chemistry and leadership, met and exceeded expectations all year. It won the SEC Championship behind a quarterback who switched positions three times. The team’s best corner started his career as a wide receiver. The team’s fastest player on offense broke his leg in Oxford, Mississippi, in the team’s only 
regular-season loss.

In the Ohio State loss, Saban took part of the credit for the team’s performance.

“I think everybody has to take responsibility for their part of that, and I certainly feel as a coach that if we don’t play well, it’s my responsibility,” he said. “And I just wish – especially for this team that had great team chemistry all year, worked so hard, had great senior leadership, you know, very little divisiveness and selfishness on this team, and this was a really fun team to coach – I really wanted to see 
them do well.”