Ryan Anderson's big play changes Peach Bowl for Alabama [photos]

Ryan Anderson's big play changes Peach Bowl for Alabama [photos]

January 1st, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson (22) returns an interception 26 yards for a touchdown during the first half of the Peach Bowl national semifinal against Washington on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

Photo by John Bazemore

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ATLANTA — Alabama senior outside linebacker Ryan Anderson prefers quarterback sacks.

He can live with a pick-six.

Anderson gave the Crimson Tide a cushion they never relinquished during Saturday's 24-7 thumping of Washington in the Peach Bowl national semifinal. With 1:13 remaining in the first half, Anderson covered Huskies tailback Lavon Coleman and snagged an errant throw from Jake Browning, powering past Coleman and returning the interception 26 yards for a 17-7 lead.

"We put that call in early last week, and I told the coaches I didn't want to do it and that I wanted to rush," a smiling Anderson said. "I told (senior inside linebacker) Reuben (Foster) that I didn't want to hear that in a game, and he started laughing. He called it today, and their quarterback didn't think I was going to be back there, and I picked the ball off."

During the regular season, Anderson caused a fumble that Da'Ron Payne returned for a touchdown at Ole Miss and forced a fumble that Jonathan Allen returned for a score against Texas A&M. With a score of his own, the outspoken 6-foot-2, 253-pound fifth-year senior is now lobbying for a spot in the Crimson Tide secondary.

"I've been trying to play star (position) all year," he said.

The Huskies netted just 2 passing yards in the second quarter and 13 more in the third, but there is no question which play Browning wanted back most.

"It totally changed the momentum of the game," Browning said. "They've had some games where it's been close, and then they'll get a defensive touchdown and get rolling. I have to throw it away and stop trying to make something out of nothing."

Anderson's touchdown marked the 11th by Alabama's defense this season and the 15th non-offensive touchdown of the year for the Tide.

Taking silver

Former Calhoun High School standout and Alabama fifth-year senior kicker Adam Griffith scored six points Saturday, with three via a 41-yard field goal to open the second quarter and three extra points. Griffith now has 350 career points and is second in Crimson Tide history to Leigh Tiffin, who tallied 385 from 2006 to '09.

"I had no idea, but that is cool," Griffith said. "That was never a goal, but it's awesome. My goal is to win a national championship as a team, but it's cool to be the second-highest leading scorer."

Getting chippy

There was no shortage of tempers flaring in the waning moments of Saturday's game, with Washington right guard Nick Harris and Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen drawing unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the final minute.

Foster said tensions had been building throughout the game.

"They were taking some cheap shots, but we're Bama, and we don't let that affect us," Foster said. "They were holding me and pulling me down to the ground when I'm passing them. They were getting on top of me, and when I would flip one over, there would be another dude hitting me on the side.

"But we're 1-0 now, and it's time to focus on the next one and leave this behind."

Tide tidbits

Alabama coach Nick Saban improved to 10-1 all-time in the Georgia Dome, with his lone loss coming in the 2008 Southeastern Conference title game against Florida, which won that season's national championship. ESPN posted a story about Alabama's captains — Allen, Foster, Cam Robinson and injured safety Eddie Jackson — not shaking hands with Huskies players after the opening coin toss, but photos revealed the players shaking hands before the toss. Alabama's win improved the SEC to 5-5 in bowl games this postseason entering Monday's Outback (Florida vs. Iowa) and Sugar (Auburn vs. Oklahoma) bowls.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.