ATLANTA — Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough sure is going to miss the Georgia Dome.
Four weeks after his two-touchdown performance here in a win over Florida in the Southeastern Conference championship came, Scarbrough and the College Football Playoff’s No. 1 Crimson Tide returned to the soon-to-be demolished dome on Saturday and defeated No. 4 Washington, 24-7, in the Peach Bowl, one of college football’s playoff semifinals.
With the win, Alabama (14-0) advanced to the national title game on Jan. 9 in Tampa, Fla., where it will play for its second consecutive championship and its fifth in eight years. The Crimson Tide will face either Clemson or Ohio State, who met in the Fiesta Bowl, the other semifinal, on Saturday night.
On Saturday afternoon, Scarbrough, a sophomore who had struggled with injuries and been a backup for most of the season, was practically unstoppable, as he swerved past defenders and barreled through those he did not manage to evade. He finished with 180 yards and two touchdowns. Scarbrough had entered the game ranked fourth on the Alabama roster in rushing yards.
“Bo has really played well for us, especially the second half of the season, when he got healthy,” Alabama Coach Nick Saban said. “We’ve been playing him more and more, and he has certainly delivered in a really positive way.”
Referring to his health, Scarbrough said: “I didn’t let it get to my head. So I just kept working and working, and I overcame the injuries.”
Scarbrough’s scores were more than enough to support Alabama’s top-ranked defense, which intercepted two passes by Washington’s star quarterback, Jake Browning, and limited him to 150 yards passing and one touchdown.
“That’s as good of a defense as there is out there in college football,” Washington Coach Chris Petersen said. “And they played like it.”
Early in the game, some Alabama jitters made the Tide’s path to Tampa seem a little less certain.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts’s first pass of the game was nearly intercepted, but a Washington defender bobbled the ball, and it fell to the ground.
Minutes later, Browning connected with wide receiver Dante Pettis on a 16-yard pass into the back corner of the end zone to give Washington (12-2) a 7-0 lead with about eight minutes left in the first quarter. Just like that, the Huskies had become only the third team this season to take a 7-point lead on the Crimson Tide.
On its next drive, Alabama went 78 yards in a nine-play drive that was punctuated by a 18-yard touchdown run by Scarbrough, who ran straight through every would-be tackler in his way.
From that point on, it was Alabama’s game. As the first quarter came to a close, the Crimson Tide recovered a fumble at midfield after defensive back Anthony Averett stripped the ball from Huskies wide receiver John Ross. Alabama then scored a field goal, taking the lead for good.
The defense increased the pressure as the game went on, and linebacker Ryan Anderson intercepted a pass from Browning and scored on a 26-yard return, giving Alabama a 17-7 lead with about two minutes left in the first half.
Scarbrough put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter with a 68-yard touchdown run, the longest ever by an Alabama running back in a bowl game.
And for the ninth consecutive time, Alabama left the Georgia Dome with a victory.