Najee Harris became the fourth Alabama running back to be named the MVP of the SEC Championship Game. He rushed for 178 yards and 2 touchdowns while he added 67 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns, setting a smorgasbord of records.
2nd and 3: Harris (#22) sets the tone early. The offensive line blocks well here, and Najee gets past the line of scrimmage without being touched. He makes a little cut to his right and carries a linebacker with him about 7 yards for an easy first down.
1st and goal: It’s a few plays later. Alabama is in the pistol with tight ends Jahleel Billingsley (#19) and Miller Forristall (#87). Again, there’s great blocking. Harris runs to the right while the play develops. He sees a hole opening, makes his cut, and squirts through it. The possibility of playaction froze one of the safeties just long enough to keep him from having any shot at coming over and making a play as well.
3rd and 6: Alabama has a tight formation with only Slade Bolden (#18) out wide. He motions left to right, which brings the cornerback with him. The corner is now walking to the right with his back to the sideline when the ball is snapped. Harris, who was to Mac Jones’s left, flares out into the flat while DeVonta Smith (#6) and Forristall run routes to occupy the defenders’ attention. And it works. The corner reacts quickly, but he’s nigh on five yards away when Harris catches the pass. That’s enough for Harris. He hits the brakes and the spin button, twirling around and leaving the defender on the ground. A linebacker manages to get a hit on Harris just before the goal line, but there was no way it would have stopped him.
1st and 10: Alabama has an empty backfield with trips left and two right. Harris is way out wide on the right, near the sideline. Harris runs a little 5 yard hitch, and the linebacker is hustling over when Harris then takes off on a slant. The defender has no chance, and Harris is wide open when he catches it
1st and 10: With 13 seconds left, Alabama has time for one or two more plays before having to settle for a field goal (although I’m almost positive the camera caught Nick Saban saying “one more play” during the timeout). Florida brings the heat with a zero blitz, and it looks like it’s going to work well. The linebacker showed pressure on the right side of the offensive line but drops back into coverage while the linebacker on the other side blitzes and ends up unblocked. Another defender twists inside and ends up unblocked. To make matters worse, Chris Owens (#79) is in at right tackle; and he gets beat. So Jones has three Gators bearing down on him. Fortunately, Harris is just running an angle route, which the linebacker has no real chance at beating since he’s moving in the wrong directions. Florida was also playing back to prevent a shot at the endzone, but this just gives Harris more room to run. Two defensive backs and the trailing linebacker eventually converge on Harris short of the goal line. But Harris busts out a little spin again as he takes the contact and dives into the endzone for the touchdown.
2nd and 7: Alabama is holding on to a 7 point lead; and Harris has three straight runs of 14, 29, and 3. He has 179 rushing yards on the night at this point. Alabama has a pretty tight formation with 12 personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends) with DeVonta Smith the only receiver out wide. Alabama’s set for a run, and just at Florida’s formation. They are, too. Then Alabama run blocks with a pulling guard and everything, and Jones turns his back to the defense to hand off to Harris. So Florida’s defenders flow towards the line to shut down Harris. Except it’s playaction, and Smith had a clean release inside. Jones hits him for the easy touchdown. Harris is just a decoy, but the attention he commanded opened that touchdown up.