Alabama Smothers Cincinnati 27-6 in Cotton Bowl CFP Semifinal
The Alabama Crimson Tide defense dominated the Cincinnati Bearcats in a 27-6 victory in the first 2021 college football semifinal at the Cotton Bowl.
With Cincinnati's loss, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns own the longest winning streak in D1 football at 13 games.
The Bearcats out of the group of five played a hard-fought match, but Alabama's stout defense was too much for them to overcome.
For the first time in the 2021 season, the Cincinnati defense gave up an opening drive touchdown. Alabama established the run game early with 10 straight rushes to bring them deep into Bearcats territory. The first pass of the semifinal was from Heisman trophy winner Bryce Young to wide receiver Slade Bolden for an eight-yard score. The Crimson Tide offense looked very efficient on their opening drive that went 75 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead.
Cincinnati's offense answered the score with a very strong opening drive. They went 66 yards in 10 plays, using a 22-yard connection between quarterback Desmond Ridder and wide receiver Tyler Scott to set up a first-and-goal at the Alabama nine. However, two incompletions and a big tackle-for-loss forced the Bearcats to settle for a 33-yard field goal which they hit, making it 7-3.
The first play of the second quarter was a 26-yard field goal by Alabama that wrapped up a 13-play scoring drive to bring the score to 10-3. The Crimson Tide offense converted a fourth down on the drive, but decided to kick the field goal on fourth-and-goal at the three.
Finally the two defenses started to figure things out. Each team traded three-and-outs in the next two possessions. Cincinnati's offense had another chance to dig into the Alabama lead. Instead, a third-down pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage, and the Bearcats went three-and-out for the second straight drive. However, their punt was downed at the Crimson Tide nine.
Young and running back Brian Robinson Jr. effectively moved Alabama on a long drive into Cincinnati territory. On a third down at the Bearcats' 26, an incompletion set up a 44-yard field goal attempt which Alabama's kicker missed. The 12-play, 65-yard drive ended without any points, and the score remained 10-3 late in the second quarter.
For the third consecutive possession following their field goal on the opening drive, an incompletion on third down forced another quick punt for the Bearcats after a three-and-out. Alabama fumbled the punt, but recovered, starting their next possession at their own six.
A 23-yard pitch and 14-yard completion helped bring the Crimson Tide into Cincinnati territory with less than two minutes remaining before the halftime break. Alabama hit their largest play of the first half on a 44-yard touchdown pass from Young to wide receiver Ja'Corey Brooks.
The lead stretched to 17-3, and the Bearcats had a final opportunity to score before the break. They gained a first down, but the clock had ticked down to just two seconds remaining to set up a last-second heave on fourth down. Instead, Ridder was sacked for the third time in the first half, and Cincinnati's offense failed to answer the big touchdown drive by Alabama.
Alabama out-gained Cincinnati 302-76 in total yards in the first half. Robinson Jr. entered halftime with 134 yards on 17 carries.
The Bearcats started the second half well, moving the ball 56 yards in 11 plays into the Crimson Tide red zone. They settled for a 37-yard field goal to cut the lead to 17-6 at the start of the third quarter.
Alabama's offense gained a first down, but they punted after Young was sacked on third down. Cincinnati went three-and-out quickly following the punt, but their defense came up with their first turnover of the day when defensive back Bryan Cook intercepted a pass from Young.
With their next possession starting near midfield, the Bearcats had a great opportunity to bring the game back to one possession. Instead, an illegal shift penalty got them off to a poor start, and Ridder was sacked for a 10-yard loss on third-and-16. Cincinnati missed out on a huge chance and punted.
Alabama's offense started to put the game away with a few big plays on their next possession. Young connected with wide receiver Jameson Williams for 20 and 17-yard gains, and Robinson Jr. continued his stellar day on the ground. On the ninth play of the drive, Young hit tight end Cameron Latu for for a nine-yard touchdown. The lead ballooned to 24-6 early in the fourth quarter.
In desperation mode, Cincinnati's offense drove into Alabama territory thanks to a few nice runs by running back Jerome Ford and a 28-yard completion from Ridder to wide receiver Michael Young Jr. On second-and-four at the Alabama 23, a dropped touchdown kept the Bearcats off the scoreboard. They went for it on fourth down two plays later, but another sack by the Crimson Tide defense forced a turnover on downs.
Alabama tacked on a 43-yard field goal to make it 27-6 after their offense drove 49 yards in nine plays. With six minutes remaining and a 21-point deficit, the game was effectively put away.
Cincinnati turned the ball over on downs again and the Crimson Tide offense ran out the clock on their final drive of the contest. They held on to win 27-6 and advance to the college football national championship game.
Robinson Jr. had 204 yards on 26 carries for Alabama. As a team, the Crimson Tide ran for 302 yards on 47 rushing attempts. Cincinnati had 218 total yards, and their offense struggled on conversions, going 2-12 on third down and 0-3 on fourth down.
With the win, the defending champions are heading back to the national title game. They will face the winner of the Orange Bowl between Michigan and Georgia.