ATLANTA — It played almost exactly as Vegas initially predicted it, with the defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide rolling through Washington on its way to another championship game appearance. Alabama will go for its fifth title in eight years next week in Tampa after beating UW 24–7 in the Peach Bowl semifinal.
1. We should have known better
I wish I could say I came up with this genius analogy on my own, but it’s from someone else I talked to this week: Playing Alabama in the postseason is like getting back together with your ex. You tell yourself it’s going to be different this time, that things have changed and you’ll have a happier outcome. But the exact same problems—like Alabama’s suffocating defense—rear their head, like they always do, and you are left heartbroken again. In this case it was two UW turnovers, a fumble and an interception, which led to nine Alabama points. After that came Bo Scarbrough's back-breaking, how-did-he-do-that? 68-yard scoring run that proved to be the dagger.
In truth, we all should have seen this coming. We knew better.
2. Speaking of those turnovers …
Ultimately, they’re what did UW in. Washington was rolling early, moving the ball on that vaunted defense, and scored the first touchdown of the game on a 16-yard pass from Jake Browning to Dante Pettis midway through the first quarter. Minutes later the offense started to unravel when John Ross caught a seven-yard pass and then fumbled at the 50. Alabama scored a field goal off that extra possession, but it sucked the life out of UW. Then, just before halftime, Browning was intercepted by Ryan Anderson, who returned the pick 26 yards for Alabama’s 15th non-offensive touchdown of the year. UW was stagnant after that. The Huskies racked up 64 yards on their only scoring play, and just 130 yards the rest of the night. Scoring on Alabama is hard enough, but you put a lot more pressure on yourself when you let the Tide’s defensive and special teams players get in the end zone.
3. The Huskies can come back next year
While UW was hyped most of the 2016 off-season, many believed 2017 was the year the Huskies would make their run to the postseason. They were a season early, though, rolling through most of the Pac-12 on their way to earning the No. 4 seed. While UW is expected to lose a handful of key guys to the NFL (junior safety Budda Baker and redshirt sophomore John Ross are two names that come to mind) it returns Browning, who finished the year with 3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns, safety Taylor Rapp, the Pac-12 freshman defensive player of the year, among others, and it has one of the top coaches in college football in charge. Washington will be just fine for the future.