ATLANTA – Bo Scarbrough stands 6-foot-2, weighs about 230 pounds and can usually be found in the Alabama backfield with dreadlocks hanging over massive shoulder pads. When he runs, which isn’t enough, he moves like a Talladega stock car, squared up, yet churning out speed and power.
You’d think he’d be hard to miss. Somehow the Tide kept missing him, or not calling his number as the slow churn of a defense-first national semifinal against Washington played out here Saturday.
There they were, mid-fourth quarter, the game somehow still ostensibly in doubt, tucked back on their own 3-yard line and facing third-and-9. Washington was counting on field position and momentum. Somehow Big Bo Scarbrough had just 12 carries on the day – albeit for 95 yards, a 7.9 average. If by math alone, no one could figure why he wasn’t getting more use. In the stands, fans were shouting: “Give it to Bo.”
Desperate for a first down, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin decided to go away from an anemic passing game and gave it to Bo.
Scarbrough promptly rumbled for 12 yards and a first down, a backbreaking play. Three snaps later, he got it again and barreled for 68 more for the game-cinching touchdown, lifting Alabama to a 24-7 victory and a spot in the national championship game on Jan. 9 in Tampa. He finished with 19 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
Look, with all due respect to Clemson, Alabama is probably going to win its second consecutive national title, and Nick Saban’s fifth since arriving in Tuscaloosa, as long as:
1.) Clemson doesn’t find a magical way to contain such a fast, ferocious runner in a way a physical Huskies defense couldn’t.
2.) Alabama forgets he’s on the team.
Here’s guessing Alabama isn’t going to forget he’s on the team down in Tampa.
“You guys know me,” Saban said, “Whoever’s hot, that’s who’s going to get the ball and he’s been hot lately and he’s going to get the ball.”
Scarbrough has been hurt a lot during his time at Alabama. That can slow development and cause even a hometown Tuscaloosa kid to fall on the depth charts. Those injuries appear gone, though, as Washington learned.
“It’s probably new to you about Bo, but it’s nothing we were surprised by,” offensive tackle Cam Robinson said. “We know what Bo can do. It’s just a matter of Bo doing it.”
“I thought he was a monster,” linebacker Ryan Anderson said.
So why wasn’t Bo doing it more often? Why not just ride the dude?
Robinson just smiled and offered that he didn’t know.
Here’s guessing Birmingham talk shows will decide it’s all Kiffin’s fault. Whatever, Saban appears ready to override everything.
“We’ve been playing him more and more and he has certainly delivered in a really positive way,” Saban said. “… He’s got great size and speed. He can run behind his pads. He’s got good vision. He’s a good receiver and he can block. So he can do all the things that any good running back can do.”
This is about where we are at with Alabama, finding reasons of concern in a 17-point semifinal victory.
The emotion on the field and in the locker room afterward could be described as moderate satisfaction. There were few hugs of joy or screams of satisfaction. The Tide got their championship hats and T-shirts and looked at the confetti and that was about it. The biggest drama was whether all the enormous corporate billboards could fit down the Georgia Dome tunnel. A trip to Tampa felt inevitable, so why act surprised?
Saturday was a depressing afternoon for college football, yet one that brought a glimmer of hope. The Tide rolled but did not display much of an offense.
They managed a respectable, but not fear-inducing 326 total yards. Jalen Hurts was just 7-of-14 passing for 57 yards. He was sacked three times and gained only 50 net yards on 19 carries. They punted eight times. Other than Bo, nothing else stood out. That kept the game close on the scoreboard but not in the minds of anyone here.
Washington’s inability to mount any kind of sustained offensive attack (194 total yards, three turnovers given away and nine punts) made this game as exciting and inevitable as watching a pot of coffee get brewed.
That’s the constant of the ‘Bama defense. “That’s the best defense in America,” Robinson said. “Best against the run. Best against the pass. You may slip a touchdown in there but not many.”
So the focus was on if anyone knows why Bo wasn’t getting the ball more. There aren’t many regrets in the annals of Alabama football, but allowing archrival Auburn to get Bo Jackson a generation or so ago is one of them.
Now they have their own Bo. So run him, even if the player himself said he wasn’t concerned about it.
“It’s just trust in the process and believing in your teammates and believing in yourself that you can get the job done if the coach can trust you,” Scarbrough said.
“I’d like to make a comment about that,” Saban said, “Because Bo has always been a really hard worker, and he’s had some obstacles to overcome, mostly little injury-type things that have plagued him a little bit. But never once did he put his head down. Never once did he get frustrated or discouraged. Just kept working. Every time you call on him, he’s ready to roll.”
It took a while Saturday for the Tide to remember what they had, a star in the making not merely capable of churning out seven, eight yards a clip, but busting one straight across Atlanta.
Here’s guessing the same mistake won’t be made again. Bo’s ready to roll. Good luck to Clemson in dealing with that.