Alabama sophomore receiver Jerry Jeudy was among the lone bright spots for the Crimson Tide during Monday night's 44-16 loss to Clemson, catching five passes for 139 yards and a touchdown.

Alabama offseasons under Nick Saban are typically spent with a national championship trophy parading around the state or having to deal with the heartbreak of a last-second defeat.

Never before have Saban and his Crimson Tide faced the winter, spring and summer months coming off a four-touchdown humiliation.

After becoming the first college football program ever to rack up a 12-0 regular season with every win by more than 20 points, Alabama rallied past Georgia in a thrilling Southeastern Conference championship game and used an early onslaught to deck Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl national semifinal. But the Tide's bid to become the first 15-0 team of the Associated Press poll era, which started in 1936, was swiped abruptly by Clemson.

The Tigers rolled to a 44-16 drubbing in the College Football Playoff championship game Monday night in Santa Clara, California.

The 28-point defeat doubled Alabama's previous worst loss of the Saban era that dates back to 2007.

"I just have a feeling that I didn't do a very good job for our team in giving them the best opportunity to be successful," Saban said early Tuesday morning in a news conference. "I always feel that way, even sometimes when we win, and I think there are things we could do better or that I could have done better. Particularly in this case, I never really ever got comfortable with what we needed to do to win this game, especially on defense and with the matchups we had in our secondary versus their receivers.

"That was something that was kind of bothering me going into the game, and as the game unfolded, it worked out that those matchups were a big difference."

Alabama was torched by Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, who became the first true freshman starting quarterback to lead his team to a national championship since Oklahoma's Jamelle Holieway in 1985. Lawrence threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns, with fellow true freshman Justyn Ross catching six passes for 153 yards and a score.

The Tigers averaged 7.7 yards a play and converted 10 of 15 third-down opportunities into firsts.

"We had a great season, but it didn't end the way we wanted," Tide sophomore safety Xavier McKinney said. "A lot of that defensively I blame myself, and I just know personally that I'm going to try my hardest to make sure that this doesn't happen again."

Monday night marked the first time that Alabama's defense failed to collect a takeaway or even a sack against a Power Five opponent in 131 opportunities under Saban. The Tide lost eight defensive starters off last season's national championship team, lost junior outside linebacker Terrell Lewis before the season and junior cornerback Trevon Diggs early in the season due to injuries and didn't have senior outside linebacker Christian Miller because of a hamstring pull in the Orange Bowl.

Whether those three would have made a significant difference — the Tigers certainly thrived Monday without suspended defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence — never will be known, but Alabama is moving forward knowing that Clemson's top skilled talents are returning.

As is Clemson's coach, who sounded Tuesday morning like someone who is eager to start a title defense.

"I'm as motivated as I've ever been to get back to work with next year's team and kind of figure it out," Dabo Swinney said. "It's going to be fun. We've got a lot of unbelievable seniors who are moving on, but we've got some dynamic pieces coming back who are going to lead the way."

Several Alabama players have decisions to make in the next several days regarding their futures. Junior left tackle Jonah Williams, who struggled Monday night, and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Quinnen Williams have been projected as top-10 picks in the 2019 NFL draft and are expected to leave, as could redshirt junior safety Deionte Thompson and junior defensive end Raekwon Davis.

Also facing NFL decisions are junior running back Josh Jacobs and junior tight end Irv Smith, while junior backup quarterback Jalen Hurts will be choosing if he will finish his college career in Tuscaloosa or somewhere else.

"This doesn't feel real," Jacobs told reporters early Tuesday morning.

Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley has moved on to become Maryland's head coach on a full-time basis, so staff changes will be on the way as well.

Things may not feel real for quite some time, as Alabama will enter the weeks and months ahead hearing that Clemson is now the toast of the sport and will be the likely No. 1 preseason team in August. Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa, running back Najee Harris and a slew of talented receivers give the Tide an envious position from which to build, but only time will tell how many "44-16" references they will have to endure both inside and outside their building.

"We had a great season, but five words: Good is not good enough," Tagovailoa said. "We didn't finish the way we wanted to finish, and we didn't do the things we needed to do to execute and be successful in this game. That's all it is."

Said Saban: "I don't think that one game necessarily defines who you are, and that is certainly what I would like for our players to know. I think you learn a lot from experiences like this."

Alabama opens its 2019 season against Duke at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Tide tidbits

Monday night's game on ESPN drew an overnight rating of 14.6, the lowest for a college football championship game since Alabama blanked LSU 21-0 in the BCS title game of the 2011 season (13.8). Saban on the fake field-goal attempt during the third quarter: "We thought we had a really, really good fake, and somebody didn't block the guy they were supposed to block, so it didn't work, so it was a bad call. It's always that way."

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.