The doubt that will haunt Alabama: Sark or Kiffin?

10:30 AM ET

As Alabama manager Nick Saban spends a subsequent few weeks and months reflecting on his initial detriment in a inhabitant championship game, we competence consternation if he overreacted in forcing out former descent coordinator Lane Kiffin and replacing him with Steve Sarkisian usually a week before a game.

It was a biggest “woulda, coulda, shoulda” of Saban’s shining career, and it was one of a many overwhelming moves in what has been a “process” built on thoughtful, distributed decisions.

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  • Did Saban make a right choice in vouchsafing Kiffin go before a Crimson Tide played a biggest diversion of a season? Saban already was disturbed that Kiffin had one feet out a doorway when he was named Florida Atlantic’s new conduct manager final month. He was recruiting for a Owls and interviewing coaches as he worked to arrange his FAU staff.

    After Alabama’s offense looked unsure in a 24-7 feat over Washington in a CFP semifinal on New Year’s Eve, Saban knew something had to be finished — even if it was a unsure and mostly rare decision.

    While a preference to go with Sarkisian, who already had been named Kiffin’s inheritor for subsequent season, didn’t outcome in a feat over Clemson, it was still a right move, notwithstanding a 35-31 loss in Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship.

    Alabama scored 31 points opposite a Clemson invulnerability that close out Ohio State in a CFP semifinal. Behind tailback Bo Scarbrough‘s dual touchdown runs, a Tide built an early 14-0 lead and led 24-14 entering a fourth quarter.

    Going into Monday night’s game, Alabama was 106-6 in games it led during a half and a ideal 96-0 when it entered a fourth entertain with a double-digit lead. Sarkisian stable a lead and a offense didn’t make a large mistake to put it in jeopardy.

    In a end, Alabama didn’t remove to Clemson given Sarkisian was job descent plays while Kiffin was examination and tweeting about a diversion in his sweatpants in Boca Raton, Florida.

    “I consider we had some drops. we consider we had some sloping balls. we consider there were things we could have finished better, though we suspicion a credentials was good,” Saban said. “I suspicion a classification was good, and we suspicion we gave a players a possibility in this diversion to have success.

    “Was it challenging? Yes. Did everybody concerned hoop it intensely well? Absolutely.”

    The Crimson Tide mislaid a diversion given a Tigers had a many improved and some-more gifted quarterback. Deshaun Watson, who will leave propagandize as a biggest actor in Clemson history, finished 36 of 56 passes for 420 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. He threw a winning 2-yard touchdown to Hunter Renfrow with one second left in one of a many thespian endings in college football history.

    Jalen Hurts, who was perplexing to turn a initial loyal beginner quarterback to win a inhabitant championship given Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway in 1985, finished 13 of 31 passes for 131 yards with one touchdown.

    For a second true week, Hurts never looked gentle in a pocket, and Clemson’s invulnerability was committed to interlude a run, generally after Scarbrough left a diversion in a second half with a right leg injury. Alabama ran a round 21 times in a initial half, 13 in a second.

    After Scarbrough left, Alabama’s best offense seemed to be carrying Hurts pitch a round down a margin and wish for a pass-interference call opposite a most-penalized delegate in a FBS. But he never gave Alabama’s receivers a possibility to pull a chastisement given he overthrew a passes.

    Behind Watson, tailback Wayne Gallman and a ultratalented receiver corps, Clemson outgained Alabama in sum offense, 511 yards to 376. The Tigers ran 99 descent plays to a Crimson Tide’s 66. This season, Alabama averaged 70.4 plays on offense and a invulnerability usually faced 65.5 plays.

    Worse, Alabama went 2-for-15 on third down and couldn’t means a drive. The Tide defense, that already had a hands full with Watson and Clemson’s up-tempo style, wore down given it was on a margin distant too mostly and distant too long.

    “We never unequivocally hexed a round to keep a invulnerability off a field,” Sarkisian told ESPN’s Chris Low after a game. “Ultimately, a drives were short. We scored fast or we were off a margin fast and put a invulnerability in a unequivocally formidable situation. The flitting diversion was spotty. We suspicion we had some good things though couldn’t means drives to get a movement behind in a favor.

    “In a end, they ran roughly 100 plays, and we ran in a mid-60s, and that’s not a good regulation for success opposite a unequivocally good group like Clemson.”

    But notwithstanding all that went wrong — Hurts personification like a beginner and Scarbrough spending many of a second half in a medical tent on a sideline — Sarkisian still helped put Alabama in position to win a game.

    With Alabama trailing 28-24 with reduction than 3 mins left, Sarkisian called a pretence play. Hurts lateraled to receiver ArDarius Stewart, who threw a 24-yard pass to parsimonious finish O.J. Howard. On a subsequent play, Hurts pennyless giveaway for a 30-yard touchdown run, that looked like it would be a memorable impulse of one of a sport’s biggest games.

    But a Crimson Tide left some-more than dual mins on a clock, and Watson took his group 68 yards down a margin to score.

    “You go behind and demeanour during all that we did and wish we could have finished one some-more thing right, given that competence have been a disproportion in a game, usually one some-more play,” Sarkisian said.

    No, Alabama didn’t remove given Sarkisian — and not Kiffin — was job a descent plays.

    The Crimson Tide mislaid given a Tigers had improved and some-more gifted players using their plays.

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