Alabama knew Bo Scarbrough was destined for a monster game

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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ATLANTA — About 24 hours before No. 1 Alabama defeated No. 4 Washington, 24-7, in the Peach Bowl Saturday, one of the Crimson Tide coaches offered up something prescient.

“Watch (Bo) Scarbrough tomorrow. He’s gonna have a monster game. He may go for 200 (rushing yards) against these guys,” a ‘Bama staffer told FOX Sports Friday at the Crimson Tide team hotel.

Scarbough didn’t quite reach 200, but he finished with a ‘Bama bowl record 180 yards on 19 carries that included two touchdown runs. Not bad considering the hulking sophomore came into the game as the Tide’s No. 4 rusher on the season with 539 yards in the first 13 games. Against the Huskies, he averaged a gaudy 9.5 yards per carry; Alabama’s other ball-carriers totaled just 89 on 31 carries for a 2.9-yard average.

Listed at 6-2, 228 pounds — although Tide coaches and teammates swear he’s probably 10 or 15 pounds bigger, Scarbough has been plagued by injuries for much of his career. The latest was a knee injury suffered in early November, which came after a torn ACL during spring practice in 2015. He also had a series of injuries in high school, which included a broken ankle (freshman year); a torn ACL (sophomore year) and a high ankle sprain (junior year). However, Tide coaches privately gushed about how he’s looked in the past few weeks of practice.

“He’d practiced like a lunatic all week,” one Tide staffer said a few minutes after the Peach Bowl.

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The other key factor that boded well for Scarbough was how his style meshed with the Washington defensive plan.

“They were over-compensating for all the jet-sweep stuff we’d shown in the past few games,” another Alabama coach said. Alabama expected Washington to ‘play heavy’ on the edges to try and compensate for undersized linebackers. “Bo’s a ‘downhill’ guy and was gonna do damage on all the outside zone (runs).”

Scarbough’s combination of power and straight-ahead speed reminds some of last year’s Heisman winner Derrick Henry, although ‘Bama coaches say the sophomore has better hips and “more wiggle.” Those skills were evident on Scarbrough’s 68-yard early in the fourth quarter that blew the game open, giving the Tide a 24-7 lead. Would-be tacklers bounced off him and others couldn’t catch him. It punctuated a 98-yard drive with ‘Bama riding Scarbough.

“That’s our answer,” offensive tackle Jonah Williams said, adding that Scarbrough’s bruising style often helps make offensive linemen “right” and that it also suits what the Tide prides itself in.

“It was cold and calculated — ‘We’re gonna go right through you. We think our physicality is better than yours.’ I think it was a big momentum swing for us. That took the wind out of their crowd.

“Bo is an animal. He’s a massive human and a really talented runner who is a lot of fun to block for. The past two games he’s been running angry. He’s just got a fire in him.”

The joke among the ‘Bama fanbase is maybe, like many of them, Scarbrough is ticked that he’s not getting enough carries. The fans certainly were upset with offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin for not feeding him more in the first half. Scarbrough’s answer was, “I just wanna be ready when my number is called … you just gotta trust what (Kiffin) calls.”

The Tide’s most physical runner also hammered home Nick Saban’s philosophy when talking about his breakout game after enduring such a rocky road.

“By having so many injuries, it’s really a mind thing,” he said. “You can’t let your mind take over your body. You just got to keep pushing and keep pushing. That’s what I did. I worked at it every day. Then another injury came, so I treated it like the same one. So I didn’t let it get to my head so I just kept working and working, and I overcame the injuries.”

Saban said Scarbrough has always been a hard worker.

“He’s had some obstacles to overcome, mostly little injury type things that have plagued him a little bit,” the coach said. “But never once did he put his head down. Never once did he get frustrated or discouraged. Just kept working. Every time you call on him, he’s ready to roll.”

And man, did Scarbrough roll over the Huskies. Just like some inside Alabama believed he would.