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College Football Playoff: Alabama overwhelms Cincinnati in Cotton Bowl

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College Football Playoff: Alabama overwhelms Cincinnati in Cotton Bowl
Alabama wide receiver Ja'Corey Brooks celebrates a 44-yard touchdown against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the 2021 Cotton Bowl on Friday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Photo by Ian Halperin/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Bryce Young threw three touchdown passes and the Alabama defense held Cincinnati to 218 total yards to gain a 27-6 College Football Playoff semifinal victory Friday in Arlington, Texas.

Senior running back Brian Robinson Jr. ran for 204 yards on 26 carries in the Cotton Bowl win at AT&T Stadium.

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"I literally put all my heart into this game, this university and the team in the locker room," Robinson, the Cotton Bowl Offensive MVP, told reporters.

"I don't want to let my brothers down."

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The Crimson Tide advanced to the College Football National Championship Game, in which they will meet Michigan or Southeastern Conference rival Georgia on Jan. 10 in Indianapolis.

"Obviously, this is gut-wrenching and really, really difficult for everybody, but most importantly for the 30 or so seniors who brought this program and this team so far," Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell told reporters.

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"They've sacrificed. They've committed. We didn't get it done and we didn't play complementary football."

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The top-ranked Tide opened the game with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Young's first pass attempt went for an 8-yard to Slade Bolden.

Bearcats kicker Cole Smith made a 33-yard field goal on the next possession. Will Reichard made a 26-yard field goal on the next drive, pushing the Tide's lead to 10-3 at the start of the second quarter.

JoJo Earle fumbled a punt return for the No. 4 Bearcats at 3:39 before halftime. Wide receiver Jameson Williams recovered the loose ball for Alabama. Young threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Ja'Corey Brooks about two minutes later to give the Tide a 17-3 halftime advantage.

The Bearcats cut the deficit to 11 with a 37-yard Smith field goal to open the third quarter, but the Tide struck again 1:08 into the fourth.

Young connected with Cameron Latu for that 9-yard score, ending a four-minute, 70-yard drive. Reichard added another field goal on Alabama's next drive to increase the advantage to 21 points with 6:20 remaining.

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The Tide defense smothered the Bearcats down the stretch to secure a spot in the title game.

"We knew it would be a tough game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "Guys showed a lot of resiliency all year to have to opportunity to get to this game.

"They showed a lot of resiliency in the game tonight to overcome a lot of adversity. ... everybody kind of had each other's back."

Ridder completed 17 of 32 passes for 144 yards in the loss. Bearcats running back Jerome Ford totaled 88 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches.

"I feel like it was a great season," Ridder said. "It obviously didn't end the way we wanted it to. That's going back and playing the [reigning] champs.

"I'm sure if we played them again next year, with the same team, it would be a different score."

The College Football Playoff National Championship Game kicks off at 8 p.m. EST Jan. 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and airs on ESPN.

No. 3 Georgia defeated No. 2 Michigan 34-11 in the other College Football Playoff semifinal Friday.

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