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At best, Mac Jones was supposed to be a placeholder. Top prospect Bryce Young was the quarterback everyone around Alabama was excited about.
Jones was merely the former backup few people had expectations for. As it turned out, he shocked everyone, leading the Crimson Tide to an undefeated season and national championship.
“It just goes to show that anything is possible,” Jones said after No. 1 Alabama’s 52-24 thumping of third-seeded Ohio State at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. “When you put your mind to something, believe in your teammates and coaches, you can get things done.”
Jones finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting and capped a memorable junior year by completing 36 of 45 passes for 464 yards and five touchdowns. He threw 41 touchdown passes and just four interceptions this season, and was the winner of the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback. As a freshman redshirting, Jones got to see a championship up close and now he experienced one by playing.
“I just am so blessed to be on each team,” he said. “Two national championships, one kind of watching from the sideline, one getting a chance to play.”
Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle played in the national championship game less than three months after fracturing his ankle. Waddle didn’t have a huge role, catching three passes for 34 yards, but he was able to contribute.
“That shows what type of person he is, to put literally his career and body on the line to help us out and help us to win a game,” Jones said. “That means so much to everybody.”
He wasn’t the only injured Alabama player to get in the game, though. Center Landon Dickerson, who tore his ACL in the SEC championship game just over two weeks ago, got to snap the ball in the final seconds when the Crimson Tide took a knee. After the final whistle, Dickerson carried coach Nick Saban around the field during the celebration.
“He wasn’t supposed to play in the game,” Saban said. “He just came off of surgery. But he wanted to go in and snap the ball, so we let him do that and I guess he was pretty happy for me. But I enjoyed the ride.”
Ohio State played without starting defensive end Tyreke Smith, starting defensive tackle Tommy Togiai and starting kicker Blake Haubeil. The Big Ten school does not offer a reason for inactive players. Co-starting running back Master Teague was active after getting hurt in the Big Ten championship game against Northwestern and missing the playoff semifinal, and scored two touchdowns in the first half. He was needed after running back Trey Sermon suffered a collarbone injury on the game’s first play from scrimmage.