Alabama vs. Cincinnati score: Bryce Young, Brian Robinson lead Tide to College Football Playoff title game
Final: No. 1 Alabama 27, No. 4 Cincinnati 6
For the sixth time in the eight seasons of the College Football Playoff era, Alabama has advanced to the College Football Playoff National Championship after the top-seeded Crimson Tide downed No. 4 Cincinnati – the first-ever non-Autonomy 5, non-Notre Dame team to qualify for the playoff – 27-6 in the Cotton Bowl.
Alabama scored a touchdown on the game's opening possession after running the ball on its first 10 plays and while Cincinnati scored on its first possession to cut the deficit to 7-3, the Bearcats managed just 76 yards of offense in the first half, 60 of which came on their first possession. Alabama had 302 yards of offense in the first half, by comparison, and the Crimson Tide shut out the Bearcats in the second half, thanks to forcing Cincinnati into two punts and two turnovers on downs in the second half.
Alabama's fourth-quarter touchdown from Bryce Young to Cameron Latu gave the Crimson Tide some extra breathing room, 24-6, and while Young threw for just 181 yards in the game, he did have three touchdown passes. Cincinnati intercepted the Heisman Trophy winner once, which was just his fifth pick of the season.
Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. had a monster performance with 26 carries for 204 yards, while former Alabama transfer Jerome Ford, who's now Cincinnati's lead back, managed just 77 yards on 15 carries.
No. 1 Alabama will now play the winner of No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Field goal, Alabama! | Alabama 27, Cincinnati 6
No. 1 Alabama extended its lead over No. 4 Cincinnati, 27-6, with a 43-yard field goal off the foot of Will Reichard. On the previous possession, Cincinnati had a turnover no downs as Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder was sacked by Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. and Brian Branch on 4th-and-3.
Alabama's latest field goal capped off a nine-play, 49-yard drive that took just more than four minutes of game time.
Touchdown, Alabama! | Alabama 24, Cincinnati 6
For the first time in the 2021 Cotton Bowl, there's been a turnover. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young threw an interception on 3rd-and-6 from Alabama's 30-yard line. Cincinnati's Bryan Cook caught the ball as he was falling.
It was only Young's fifth interception of the season.
Cincinnati took over at its own 49-yard line.
Field goal, Cincinnati! | Alabama 17, Cincinnati 6
Just like the first half, Cincinnati's first possession of the second half ended in a field goal, as Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder's pass to Michael Young Jr. on 3rd-and-5 fell incomplete and the Bearcats elected to kick a 37-yard field goal, cutting the deficit to 11 points.
That capped off an 11-play, 56-yard drive in which Cincinnati only face one third down – the one where Ridder's pass to Young didn't result in a first down. Cincinnati's six points scored against Alabama are now tied for the fifth-most of any team against Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinals. Michigan State was shut out against Alabama in the 2015-16 College Football Playoff and Clemson scored just six points in the 2017-18 edition of the CFP.
The second half is now underway
Halftime: No. 1 Alabama 17, No. 4 Cincinnati 3
A 44-YARD TOUCHDOWN DIME FROM BRYCE YOUNG pic.twitter.com/QQAEnF0898— ESPN (@espn) December 31, 2021
Top-seeded Alabama scored the first time it touched the ball after running the ball on its first 10 offensive snaps and that was representative of the dominance the Crimson Tide showed in the first half of the 2021 Cotton Bowl against No. 4 Cincinnati. The Bearcats also scored on their opening drive – a short field goal, after failing to convert on three goal-to-go plays – but Cincinnati, the first ever non-Autonomy 5 team other than Notre Dame to reach the College Football Playoff, totaled just 76 yards of offense in the first half and 60 of those yards came on the team's first drive, as Alabama took a 17-3 lead into halftime.
Alabama had 302 yards of offense in the first half, including 172 yards on the ground, and after it missed a 44-yard field goal, the Crimson Tide reached the end zone before halftime when Alabama quarterback Bryce Young found Ja'Corey Brooks for a 44-yard touchdown to cap off a 94-yard drive that took just more than two minutes of game time. Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. had 134 yards on just 17 carries in the first half, while Cincinnati running back Jerome Ford, a former Alabama transfer, has just 23 yards on five carries.
Touchdown, Alabama! | Alabama 17, Cincinnati 3
After going back-to-back possessions without scoring, No. 1 Alabama got back on the board with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Alabama quarterback Bryce Young to Ja'Corey Brooks, who reached the left corner of the end zone to put the Crimson Tide up by two scores just before halftime.
Alabama misses a 44-yard field goal
No. 1 Alabama had the chance to take a two-possession lead over No. 4 Cincinnati but Alabama's Will Reichard missed a 44-yard field goal, leaving the Crimson Tide's lead at 10-3. The laces were facing in on the hold for the kick.
Cincinnati will take over on offense with 4:47 left in the first half.
LACES OUT pic.twitter.com/ZV8KHTSCaM— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) December 31, 2021
Cincinnati's defense gets first stop of game
After Alabama's defense forced Cincinnati into its first punt of the game, following a three-and-out, Cincinnati did the same to Alabama. An illegal formation penalty on first down backed Alabama up five yards to face 1st-and-15 and the Crimson Tide was penalized for offensive holding on 3rd-and-14. Alabama punted after three plays.
Cincinnati then did the same, so after three consecutive scoring drives to start the game, there have been three consecutive three-and-outs.
Alabama forces Cincinnati into a 3-and-out
Field goal, Alabama! | Alabama 10, Cincinnati 3
After an illegal forward pass penalty backed up Alabama by five yards to face 3rd-and-14, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young found Jameson Williams for a 12-yard gain, setting up Brian Robinson Jr.'s 4-yard gain on 4th-and-2. Five plays later, on the first play of the second quarter, No. 1 Alabama capped off a 13-play, 67-yard scoring drive to take a 10-3 lead over No. 4 Cincinnati.
After Cincinnati's Darrian Beavers sacked Young for a six-yard loss to set up 3rd-and-Goal from Cincinnati's 15-yard line, Young scrambled for 12 yards to set up a chip-shot field goal for Alabama.
Field goal, Cincinnati! | Alabama 7, Cincinnati 3
After No. 1 Alabama marched downfield on its opening possession to take a 7-0 lead in the Cotton Bowl, No. 4 Cincinnati responded with a scoring drive of its own that ended with a 33-yard field goal to cut Alabama's lead to 7-3. The Bearcats picked up two first downs on 3rd-and-1 on a 13-play, 60-yard scoring drive that saw Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder connect with Michael Young Jr. for a 19-yard gain and Tyler Scott for a 22-yard pickup.
On three consecutive goal-to-go plays, Cincinnati failed to reach the end zone – the first two of which were throws intended for Alec Pierce, and the third was a pass to Leonard Taylor, who was tackled for a six-yard loss on third down.
Touchdown, Alabama! | Alabama 7, Cincinnati 0
SLADE FOR 6!!!! @_slade_10— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) December 31, 2021
Bryce Young pass to Slade Bolden for an 8 yard TD.
Q1 Bama: 7 | Bearcats: 0 pic.twitter.com/BEA3KGKC4m
After Cincinnati won the coin toss and elected to defer, Alabama received the opening kickoff, then marched down the field with an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive in which the Crimson Tide's first 10 plays were runs, setting up an eight-yard touchdown pass from Alabama quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young to Slade Bolden, who's filling a larger role after the season-ending injury suffered by John Metchie III.
On Alabama's 10 rushing plays on its opening drive, the Crimson Tide gained positive yardage on every play, facing third down just twice – 3rd-and-1 and 3rd-and-2 – and the latter resulted in an 18-yard gain by wide receiver Jameson Williams, who picked up a first down on a jet sweep.
ALABAMA STRIKES FIRST— ESPN (@espn) December 31, 2021
Bryce Young ➡️ Slade Bolden#CFBPlayoff pic.twitter.com/3mp9FSb4YE
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Cincinnati is now underway
Tune in to ESPN because the 2021 Cotton Bowl between No. 1 Alabama (12-1) and No. 4 Cincinnati (13-0) is now underway. Cincinnati won the toss and elected to defer, giving Alabama the ball to start the first half.