Alabama takes early 14-6 lead over Ohio State
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Derrick Henry scored on a 25-yard run, Blake Sims hit Amari Cooper for a 15-yard touchdown strike, and Alabama led Ohio State 14-0 after the first quarter in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Thursday night.
The winner will advance to the championship game in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12 against Oregon. The Ducks pummeled Florida State 59-20 on Thursday in the semifinal played at the Rose Bowl.
Henry had 56 yards rushing in the quarter, about half on the drive that culminated with Cooper's touchdown.
Ohio State twice drove inside the Alabama 10 before settling for field goals and also hurt itself with a turnover that set up Henry's score.
Ohio State (12-1) struck first after running back Ezekiel Elliott stiff-armed cornerback Eddie Jackson to get the corner on the right sideline and then hurdled Landon Collins to break loose for a 54-yard gain to the 5.
The Crimson Tide defense did not allow another yard on the next three plays Jones' run for no gain and two incompletions forcing the Buckeyes to settle for Sean Nuernberger's short field goal.
Alabama (12-1), the top seed and Southeastern Conference champions, punted after three plays on its first two series. But Jackson and Collins redeemed themselves for their failure to make a tackle on Elliot's long run on Ohio State's next possession. Jackson punched the ball out of Elliott's grasp during a run to the right side, and Collins made the scoop and short return to the Ohio State 33. Henry scored two plays later.
The Buckeyes were in position to regain the lead after Devin Smith's 40-yard catch to the Alabama 1. But Jones bobbled a shotgun snap on the next play and was brought down by Collins for an 8-yard loss. Again, Ohio State was unable to get in the end zone, and Nuernberger's second field goal made it 7-6.
Alabama is trying to win its fourth national title under coach Nick Saban since the 2009 season.
The Buckeyes, the Big Ten champions, entered the Sugar Bowl on an 11-game winning streak and were seeking their first official bowl victory against a team from the Southeastern Conference. Ohio State came in 0-10 against the league in the postseason, having vacated a 2011 triumph over Arkansas because of NCAA violations.