Tagovailoa outduels Murray as Alabama rolls past Oklahoma in Orange Bowl
Tide QB throws 4 TDs, including 4th-quarter pass to Jeudy, at Hard Rock Stadium
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – It was touted as a likely shootout between the top two quarterbacks in college football -- Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa vs. Oklahoma's Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray. But when it was over, Tagovailoa looked like the more finesse passer, throwing for 318 yards and four touchdowns as top-ranked Alabama beat No. 4 Oklahoma 45-34 Saturday night in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Orange Bowl.
Tagovailoa completed all but three of his 27 pass attempts, throwing touchdowns to four different receivers.
Murray finished 19-of-37 passing for 308 yards and two touchdowns. He was also Oklahoma's leading rusher, gaining 131 yards on 17 carries and a score in what is expected to be his final game with the Sooners. He was a first-round draft pick of the Oakland A's earlier this year and has said he will not return for his senior season.
Alabama didn't waste any time showing off Tagovailoa's skillset. He found DeVonta Smith on a 50-yard strike on the opening play of the game to put the Crimson Tide (14-0) in scoring territory. After a loose ball recovered by Oklahoma on the 1-yard line was overturned on review, running back Damien Harris punched it into the end zone.
Murray was sacked on second and third down on Oklahoma's first possession, forcing the Sooners (12-2) to punt the ball away.
Tagovailoa then connected with Henry Ruggs III in the back corner of the end zone to give Alabama a 14-0 lead.
The Sooners were plagued by a sluggish start. By the time Murray completed his first pass in the second quarter, Alabama had a 21-0 lead.
"I think it was really important in that game that we got off to a great start, got ahead in the game, got off the field on third down on defense in the first half, and that allowed us to get ahead in the game," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said.
Biletnikoff Award winner Jerry Jeudy, who played high school football in nearby Deerfield Beach, caught a 40-yard pass from Tagovailoa late in the first quarter, setting up a 1-yard score by Harris.
Alabama cushioned its lead to start the second quarter with a 27-yard touchdown from Tagovailoa to Josh Jacobs.
Oklahoma finally got on the scoreboard after running back Trey Sermon lined up behind center and plunged into the end zone on a 2-yard run.
The Sooners cut the lead to 28-10 on a 26-yard field goal by Austin Seibert, but Alabama's Joseph Bulovas booted a 38-yarder with 25 seconds to go before halftime to give the Tide a comfortable 31-10 lead at the break.
"They made a run on us there early," Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said. "We just had a hard time breaking their string of momentum."
Both of Murray's touchdowns came in the second half, including a 49-yard pass to Charleston Rambo that trimmed the deficit to 11, but Oklahoma's defense didn't have an answer for Tagovailoa or Alabama's prolific offense.
South Florida's Marquise Brown, who played high school football a few miles north of Hard Rock Stadium in Hollywood, had a poor outing in his homecoming. Oklahoma's leading receiver was held without a catch the whole game and dropped a crucial third-down pass in the third quarter that forced the Sooners to settle for another 26-yard field goal from Seibert.
Jeudy finished with four catches for 73 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring for Alabama.
The Tide will next face No. 2 Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship for the third time in four seasons. The Tigers handled No. 3 Notre Dame 30-3 in the Cotton Bowl earlier in the day.
It will be the fourth consecutive meeting between the two teams. Alabama knocked off Clemson 24-6 in last year's College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl.
Alabama has won five national titles since 2009 and is the only team to participate in each College Football Playoff.
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