A 64 Team College Football Tournament The Simulation (The Final 4)
The Cyclones received the opening kickoff in our first final four matchup, and it was obvious that Brock Purdy was nervous, as after Breece Hall picked up 6 yards on first down his first two passes missed wildly. Mac Jones led the Tide on a methodical drive after the punt, but the ISU D held up after they cracked the red zone and held Alabama to a field goal.
Another 3 and out by the Cyclones and a solid return set ‘Bama up at their own 45, but a three and out of their own led to a punt, which was dropped inside the 5 and placed Iowa State at their own 2. Holding in the end zone was called when Purdy dropped back on second down, and the safety brought the score to 5-0. It didn’t stay there long; Jones hit Slade Bolden on a deep corner route for 52 two plays after the free kick for a score.
The Cyclones broke into the scoring column after a 13 play drive, highlighted by a 25 yard by Hall, that led to a FG. The first quarter ended with the Crimson Tide up 12-3.
The second quarter began with the Tide on the move again, but that drive ended when Jaylen Waddle was stripped after a 20 year crossing route completion. Greg Elsworth recovered for the Cyclones, and another ball control drive ensued, mostly again on the back of Hall, who accounted for 50 of the 72 yards, including the last 3 on a screen pass to bring ISU to within 12-10. The second quarter became something of a defensive struggle at that point, with the two teams exchanging 3 and outs and punts.
Jones led Alabama on a quick scoring drive in the half’s final 90 seconds, completing 7 of 8 passes leading to a 45 yard FG that sent the Tide into the half up 15-10.
Alabama took control of the game in the third quarter with two long touchdown drives, with a Cyclones FG sandwiched in between, outgaining ISU 212-45 to roll into the fourth quarter with a commanding 29-13 lead.
After Being held in check in the third, Breece Hall began the final quarter with a dominant Marshawn Lynch-like 54 yard run to set Iowa State up at the 6, where Purdy finished the drive with a QB draw. The 2 pt pass fell incomplete, and the Cyclones were within 10. A 61 yard return started Alabama at the Cyclones 21, but 2 short gains by Najee Harris and a throwaway by Jones left them to kick a 37 yard field goal. Purdy then took charge, completing 7 straight, including 12 on a brilliantly designed TE screen to Chase Allen to cut the lead to 6 with 5 minutes remaining.
Alabama manged a first down on a quick out 12 yard gain to Waddle on third down, but the Cyclone D tightened up and forced a punt, needing only one timeout, setting up Purdy with 2 remaining and the ball at the ISU 19 with 1:45 remaining.
Hall broke the first play, a draw, for 14. A scramble to the 40 and out bounds stopped the clock at 1:18. Another scramble when the pocket collapsed netted 15, and a sideline out to Xavier Hutchinson and ISU was to the ‘Bama 31 with 52 ticks remaining.
Purdy went for broke on first down, going end zone for Hutchinson. The ball was tipped away, and in spite of what appeared to be PI, there was no flag. A surprise draw to Hall surprised no one, and he was taken down for a loss of two. Another Purdy scramble under pressure picked up 7, setting up a 4th and 5 at the 26. Purdy went end zone again, this time for Charlie Kolar, but missed badly as the Tide held on for a thrilling 32-26 win.
Clemson came out smoking against the Aggies; Trevor Lawrence led the Tigers on a lightning quick 4 play, 71 yard drive that ended with Cornell Powell pulling in a 30 yard over the shoulder circus catch to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead less than 2 minutes in. Kellen Mond responded with a deep ball of his own to kick things off for the Aggies, a 44 yarder to Chase Lane. A&M broke down there, and a FG made it 7-3. Lawrence went deep yet again on first down after the Kickoff, but Leon O’Neal took the ball from Amari Rodgers, Just the fourth INT of the year for Lawrence. The Aggies did nothing with the turnover, however, picking up just one first down and booting the ball back to the Tigers.
The Tigers had no such problem; It took them just over 3 minutes this time, with the bulk of the damage done on a 30 yard ramble by Travis Etienne. Lawrence took it in himself as the Tigers ended the 2nd quarter up 14-3.
The second quarter, however, belonged to the Aggies. Mond led another long, balanced drive that ended with a 4 yard play action strike to TE Jalen Wydermyer. The Aggies then completely caught Alabama off guard with a surprise onside kick, and after another 10+ play drive, A&M took the lead for the first time when Mond threaded a laser to Lane once again for 32 yards. Lawrence then threw his second pick of the half, this one on a deflection. Myles Jones took it to the house from 29 out untouched, and the Aggies were suddenly up 10.
Jones led the Tide on a drive ending with a field goal, which Mond and the Aggies matched as the half expired to give Texas A&M a 27-17 halftime lead.
It started to look as if this was the Aggies day after halftime; Mond dropped a shovel pass in to Spiller on a 3rd and 8 that Spiller took 45 yards to the Clemson 4. A WR screen to Caleb Chapman topped it off, and it looked like A&M might run away with this one. At least for a moment; a Travis Etienne 71 yard touchdown run on 2nd and 10 brought the Tigers back to within ten, and after 5 plays and a punt, the Tigers launched a 52 yard drive that ended with a FG to cut the lead to 34-27. An Aggies FG stretched the lead to ten heading into the fourth.
The Aggies looked to be taking charge as the fourth quarter with another methodical drive; 14 plays brought them to the red zone, but 3 straight runs left the Aggies with a 4th and goal from the 1. Rather than kick a FG to stretch the lead to 13, A&M went for it, and Mond was stuffed at the line trying to sneak the ball into the end zone.
Lawrence then led the Tigers on an epic 13 play, 99 yard drive in which Clemson converted 5 third downs, ending with a four yard pass to Chez Mellusi to pull to within just a FG with just over 4 minutes left.
The Aggies picked up a quick first down on an 11 yard scramble by mond, and the Tigers were forced to start burning time outs. The game appeared to be all but over when Spiller went off tackle to convert a 3rd and 1, but a holding call brought it back, and on 3rd and 11 Mond threw incomplete, stopping the clock at 2:11 and bringing up fourth down.
On first down after the punt Lawrence ran for 9 yards, but couldn’t get to the sideline to stop the clock. Just 1:21 remained when the ball was snapped, but it stopped mattering when Lawrence hit Amari Rodgers deep over the middle to the Aggie 17. One more running play to center the ball and a spike left 12 seconds, and B.T. Potter was sent out to send the game into overtime. Or rather would have; the snap was bad and he hooked the kick badly to the right, sealing Texas A&M’s 37-34 upset of the Tigers.
An all SEC title game begins with the Aggies taking the opening kick, looking to get off to a quick start; last time the two played things got out of hand early and the Aggies never recovered. Two quick first downs, one a 12 yard run by Isaiah Spiller and one a 24 yard pass from Kellen Mond to Caleb Chapman amounted to naught as three straight incompletions led to a punt. The Tide didn’t fare much better on their opening drive, failing to pick up a first down and punting right back.
Alabama drew first blood; after the punt was returned to thier own 41, an 8 play drive led to a 44 yard FG by Will Reichard. A&M kicker Seth Small answered in kind, booting a career long 51 yarder after a 7 play drive to tie the game at 3.
Both teams moved the ball in small increments throughout the first quarter, but a battle of field position was developing and the quarter ended in a 3-3 tie.
Mac Jones made the game’s first critical error, throwing behind John Metchie III on a slant and hitting LB Buddy Johnson on the numbers for an INT at the ‘Bama 24. The Aggie O went no where, and Small doubled the lead with his second FG.
Neither team managed to crack the scoreboard again in the first half; the epic shootout everyone anticipated was looking more like an old school SEC D slugfest.
That all changed and changed quickly in quarter #3. Alabama struck early, with Jones hitting Jaylen Waddle in stride on a 75 yard TD to start the game. Not to be outdone, Mond led the Aggies on a 3 play, 72 yard drive of their own, capped with a 21 yard carch and ramble by Jalen Wydermyer. 3 minutes in, 2 TDs. And the flurry didn’t stop there; both teams traded drives ending in short TD passes, the last of which A&M used to reclaim the lead at 20-17.
Mond led another long, balanced drive that ended with a FG, and the Aggies headed into the 4th clinging to that 23-17 lead.
The lead was short lived; just a minute into the final quarter, Najee Harris broke free for a 48 yard score and the Tide were back up by a point. Mond and the Aggies embarked on a backbreaking drive at that point; 17 plays, 84 yards, 9 minutes. The drive stalled yet again inside the 5, and Small added his fourth FG of the game to put A&M back on top. ‘Bama couldn’t manage a first down, and was forced to punt the ball back, setting the Aggies up at their own 30 with 3 minutes left and Alabama holding only 2 timeouts.
First down netted only a yard by Spiller; timeout Alabama. Second down he bulled for 3 more and Alabama took its final timeout. On third down Fisher went for broke; on a brilliant play action, Mond hit Wydermeyer, who had slipped off of a block untouched into the secondary, which had sold out to stop the run. He could have scored easily, but went down intentionally at the Alabama 20. Mond took a couple of knees, and the Aggies had shocked the mighty Crimson Tide, 26-24.
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