Alabama Ends Cincinnati’s Undefeated Season, Moves On To National Championship

When you’re the big boy on the block, sometimes you have to remind your opponent that you’re bigger and stronger than they are.

Alabama did just that against Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl, establishing a dominant running game and making Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder look like he was in over his head.

With nearly four weeks to prepare, Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide rolled, moving on to their sixth national championship game appearance in the College Football playoff era, beating Cincinnati 27-6.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game, we did a great job of running the ball offensively,” Saban said in his postgame interview. “Defense came up with some really big stops, some really big plays in the game. So, I’m really proud of this group to come this far. They have an opportunity now. Now isn’t the time to be relieved, but it’s also time to enjoy what we accomplished tonight.”

On the game’s opening drive, Alabama set the tone, running the ball on ten consecutive plays, ending with an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bryce Young to wide receiver Slade Bolden to cap off a 10-play, 75-yard drive.

Without wide receiver John Metchie — out with an ACL injury suffered against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game — it was clear that Alabama wanted to establish the run game early, physically dominating a smaller Cincinnati defense with their ground game. Running back Brian Robinson Jr. carried the ball 17 times for 134 yards in the first half, finishing the game with 204 yards on 26 carries, an Alabama bowl game record.

Robinson, who had to wait until the 2021 season to become the feature back, came back for a fifth season at Alabama and was rewarded with his performance Friday evening.

“It’s a great feeling just having this team behind me, this team trusting me to go out there and give it my all,” Robinson said. “I’d do anything for this ‘A’ on my chest. I’m glad I got to show the world how much this university means to me.”

Cincinnati’s offense — ranked ninth in points per game (39.2) entering the game — managed just 81 yards in the first half, 60 of which came on their first drive of the game. Ridder — who needed to be exceptional for the Bearcats to hang with Alabama — was 8-17 for 59 yards heading into the locker room.

The Bearcats held their own through most of the first two quarters, forcing Alabama’s offense into a field goal, a three and out, and a missed field goal following Alabama’s opening drive touchdown. But then Young — as he’s done all year — once again made the big play, getting a critical touchdown at the end of the half on a 44-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Corey Brooks.

The second half was much of the same, with Cincinnati’s offense unable to muster more than a field goal, and Alabama eventually wearing down the beleaguered Bearcats defense.

A nine-yard touchdown from Young to Cameron Latu put Alabama up 24-6 with just under 14 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, putting the game out of reach. Young finished the day with a season-low 181 yards through the air, but accounted for all three of Alabama’s touchdowns on the day.

Cincinnati finished the night with just 218 total yards on offense, with Ridder completing only 17 of his 32 passing attempts for 144 yards.

Alabama will play the winner of the Orange Bowl matchup between No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Georgia.

Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to sports@dailywire.com.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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