What we learned from Alabama's national title game win


GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If running back Derrick Henry decides to return to Alabama to play his senior season, it won't be to break the Crimson Tide's career rushing record.

He's gotten that in just three years.

The junior broke Shaun Alexander's school record in the Crimson Tide's 45-40 win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff championship game Monday night, eclipsing the former NFL MVP with 3,591 career yards. Alexander, who was in attendance at University of Phoenix Stadium for the game, established the previous record of 3,565 from 1996-1999. Henry also holds Alabama's single-season rushing record (2,219 yards), and scored a touchdown in his 20th consecutive game, also a school record.

Henry, who rushed for 158 yards for the game, will announce in the coming week whether he will apply for early entry into the 2016 NFL Draft. History suggests he will: all of Alabama's starting running backs under Saban -- Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon -- skipped their final year of NCAA eligibility to turn pro.

Here are eight other things we learned from the CFP title game:

2. Saban gambles with title on line: Saban made one of the biggest gambles of his career in the fourth quarter, calling for an onside kick after a field goal by Adam Griffith tied up the score at 24-24.

The gamble paid off big time. Two plays after Marlon Humphrey recovered the onside kick, quarterback Jake Coker hit O.J. Howard for a 51-yard touchdown.

"We weren't playing very well on defense," Saban said. "It was a tie game. I thought we needed to do something that was going to change the momentum of the game. That certainly did."

3. Leggett to stay: Clemson TE Jordan Leggett told the Post & Courier's Aaron Brenner he will return to Clemson in 2016, giving Watson another veteran receiving target while giving Leggett a chance to improve his blocking and, in turn, his stock for the 2017 NFL Draft.

4. Clemson's injured stars came to play: The pregame stir that Clemson defensive standouts Shaq Lawson and Mackensie Alexander might be unavailable with injuries turned out to be a false alarm. Both started, and Lawson got his number called early, for the wrong reason, when he was flagged for offsides on the opening possession. Alexander, however, exited the game in the second quarter with help from trainers. He did not return.

5. Dodd makes presence felt: Clemson picked up four sacks in the first half, two by Lawson and two more by DE Kevin Dodd, who was consistently a problem for Alabama right tackle Dominick Jackson. Dodd finished the night with three sacks, five tackles for loss, and drew two second-half holding penalties on Jackson that were both declined.

6. Howard power: If Alabama TE O.J. Howard opts to apply for early entry into the draft, he picked the right game to finish his college career. Entering the game with just 394 yards an zero touchdowns on the season, Howard had 208 receiving yards and a pair of TDs Monday night.

7. Speed to burn: At times during the season, Alabama RB Kenyan Drake appeared to be a step slow coming off a serious injury from 2014. But he found his fifth gear again in the national title game in breaking a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that helped put the game out of reach midway through the fourth quarter. It was the kind of play NFL scouts will take note of in assessing Drake's post-injury explosiveness. Drake's next chance to show scouts his speed will be at the Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., later this month.

8. Goal-line girth: If the NFL teams that end up with Alabama defensive linemen Jarran Reed and A'Shawn Robinson need some extra power on goal-line blocks, both will come with college experience in that capacity. The duo led Henry on his second touchdown, a 1-yard plunge, and have been frequent substitutes near the goal line for the Crimson Tide throughout the season.

9. Is this real life? Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin -- who once got fired by USC in the middle of the night at LAX -- got left behind at University of Phoenix Stadium.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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