Offensive woes cost Alabama a shot to defend its CFP national championship

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (No. 2) attempting a pass vs. Clemson in 2017 College Football Playoff national title game: Cedric Mason - Touchdown Alabama Magazine

The sea opened, only this time a comeback was too late. It was reminiscent of Alabama’s 2016 regular season game versus Louisiana State University, when quarterback Jalen Hurts reached the painted grass.

Crimson Tide fans were elated as its offense finally generated success, but why did it have to occur with two minutes and change remaining in the fourth quarter? Reasons for this would cause the average football consumer to reach its boiling point, yet and still, the issue returns to Alabama’s lack of a passing attack.

Regardless of how most arose on Tuesday, a true freshman signal caller assisted the Tide to the biggest stage that college football has to offer.

Hurts wowed the nation with huge plays and a poise well beyond his 18 years; however, one must take the good with the bad in this day and age. After struggling against Florida and Washington, the Texas native had a chance to out play a first-round NFL Draft pick in Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. While the Tide’s defense did its job in the first half, Hurts failed to keep drives going with his arm. Numerous misfires on deep patterns led to his worst completion percentage of the season—42 percent, 13 of 31 passing—and 11 punts from JK Scott.

Aside from its four touchdown drives, Alabama’s offense suffered seven three-and-outs on 17 possessions (41.2 percent). During this time, its longest drive lasted nine plays for 22 yards.

Prior to Monday night, third down offense was not an issue for the men in crimson.

Despite moving the chains 40 percent of the time coming in, Hurts and Alabama converted just two of 15 third downs (13 percent) against the Tigers. This not only allowed Watson to settle down, but it gave Clemson’s offense a chance to control the pace. Coach Dabo Swinney and company started gaining confidence late in the second quarter, and would possessed the ball for 34:44—which is a little over half the game. Being inept on offense tired Nick Saban’s defense, even after Hurts was able to lock in and create a much needed score.

It will be another year before Saban catches legendary coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant in championships, but for now the goal is helping Steve Sarkisian develop an identity in the passing game.

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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