Robinson, defense push No. 1 Bama past No. 12 Ole Miss 42-21

Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The defense kept giving Alabama back the ball, and the offense repeatedly delivered it into Brian Robinson Jr.’s hands.

It was a simple but oh so effective formula.

Robinson rushed for career highs of 171 yards and four touchdowns, and No. 1 Alabama mostly throttled the nation’s top offense in a 42-21 victory Saturday over No. 12 Mississippi.

Bryce Young passed for a couple of touchdowns for the Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) but the ‘Bama defense and ground game stole some of the thunder from a matchup of the two leading Heisman Trophy contenders coming into the game.

“It was a great opportunity for us today to show how physical we can play for 60 minutes,” said Robinson, a fifth-year senior who carried 36 times in his first 100-yard game.

Alabama turned to Robinson to play keep away from Matt Corral and the offense of the Rebels (3-1, 0-1), who had breezed through three nonconference games before an open date but had some gambles that backfired.

Nick Saban improved to 24-0 against his former assistants, but ex-offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin didn’t help his own cause with three failed fourth-down calls in the first half. Saban turned the tables with two touchdowns on fourth-down plays.

“I’m sure I got killed by going for it on fourth down, but that’s analytics,” Kiffin said. “We believe in our players, and it doesn’t work all the time. When it doesn’t work and you follow the book, it doesn’t look good.”

Young completed 21 of 27 passes for 241 yards and was intercepted once for Alabama, which led 28-0 at halftime. Oddsmakers had him as the second-leading Heisman candidate coming into the game, behind only Corral.

The Rebels star ran for a touchdown but was mostly held in check by a team he torched last season. Corral also passed for a touchdown, completing 22 of 32 passes for 213 yards while losing a fumble. Corral extended his streak of games with a TD pass to 16 games with 2:23 left, matching Eli Manning for the second-longest such streak at Ole Miss.

“We got dominated up front,” Kiffin said. “That ain’t hard to see. Matt didn’t have much time. We had negative runs.”

Alabama’s defense, burned by Ole Miss for 48 points and 647 yards a year ago, made the big fourth-down stops and plenty of others.

The Tide limited Ole Miss to 291 total yards, despite giving up a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. The Rebels came in leading the nation with 635 yards and 53 points per game but couldn’t get that tempo going consistently this time.

“We prepared all week for it,” Alabama defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis said. “We knew it was coming and we worked our tails off. I think that really got us ready for the fastball all week long.”

Ole Miss was without second-leading receiver Jonathan Mingo, who was wearing a boot on his left foot and didn’t dress out.

“We played the whole game in the same personnel group, so we didn’t get into all this substitution stuff that was a problem for us last year,” Saban said.

Alabama backup tailback Jase McClelland left with a knee injury and Saban said the early indication is “he’s probably going to be out for a while.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Ole Miss: Kiffin finally had that fourth-down magic fade away, trying to find an edge against an uber-talented opponent. The Rebels had converted 12 of 14 coming into the game, but had questionable decisions backfire this time.

Alabama: Flexed its muscles in the first of four games against SEC West teams currently ranked, especially on defense. But Young faced a significant amount of pressure and forced one ball toward the end zone for an interception while scrambling and the defense had some lapses late.

FOURTH DOWNS Ole Miss wasn’t the only team going for it on fourth down. The Rebels converted 2 of 5 and Alabama 3 of 4.

Saban prepared his defensive players for Kiffin’s fourth-down attempts, saying, “You’ve got to have the mind-set that you’re going to play two third downs.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Alabama did nothing to diminish its status as the No. 1 team, but could lose some ground to second-ranked Georgia. The Bulldogs demolished No. 8 Arkansas, 37-0.

UP NEXT Ole Miss hosts Arkansas, with both teams coming off losses.

Alabama visits No. 15 Texas A&M in its third game against a ranked team away from home.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.