O.J. Howard, Eddie Jackson Named National Championship Game MVPs
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Alabama tight end O.J. Howard and safety Eddie Jackson were named the College Football Playoff National Championship Players of the Game for their performances in Monday night’s win over Clemson.
Howard received the Offensive MVP honors, while Jackson was the game’s Defensive MVP in the Crimson Tide’s 45-40 shootout win.
Howard caught five passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns in the win, both of which were go-ahead scores.
His first touchdown, a 53-yard reception, gave Alabama a 21-14 lead with 12:53 left in the third quarter.
His second, a 51-yarder, put Alabama up 31-24 with 9:45 remaining in the game.
He also had a 63-yard catch-and-run to the Clemson 14-yard line with 3:49 left, setting up Derrick Henry’s third and final touchdown that sealed an Alabama win.
Prior to the game, Howard, a junior, had just 394 yards and zero touchdowns on 33 receptions this season. Howard had 269 and 260 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons with the Crimson Tide.
Before Monday, Howard had not scored a touchdown since a 52-yard catch-and-run against LSU in 2013.
“Initially it felt like a dream and I tried to tell everybody to wake me up because I thought it wasn't real,” Howard said on scoring in the game after a long drought. “It was just a great feeling to get in the end zone again.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked about the talented Howard’s unexpected offensive outburst in the biggest game of the season.
“Well, O.J., quite honestly, should have been more involved all year long,” Saban said. “Sometimes he was open and we didn't get him the ball, but I think the last two games have been breakout games for him in terms of what he's capable of and what he can do. I would say it's bad coaching on my part that he didn't have the opportunity to do that all year long, because he is really a good athlete, and he's improved tremendously as a player this year. He's improved his blocking.
“There were times when as Jake was developing we were protecting sort of what we did, and I think that that affected O.J. maybe a little bit in terms of what his production was, but I can tell you that there was not one time that he ever complained about it and not one time did he ever not go out there and do exactly what the coach asked him to do, even when he wasn't catching a lot of passes or scoring a lot of touchdowns.”
Jackson had a key second-quarter interception off Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who otherwise had a career performance for the Tigers. After throwing touchdown passes on each of his team’s two previous drives, Watson threw it straight into the waiting arms of Jackson to end Clemson’s momentum at the time.
“I mean, it was huge,” Jackson said. “Our front seven, they gave a great push, and man Geno, they did a little pick route, so I seen that happen, so I just tried to run to the man when he did the wheel, and I was able to make a play.”
On the ensuing possession, Alabama capitalized off the turnover with a 1-yard Henry scoring run to tie it at 14-14.