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Milroe, Alabama fall just short in epic Rose Bowl

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Jalen Milroe helped rally Alabama with his legs and put the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide on the verge of its seventh appearance in the College Football Playoff championship game.

The dynamic quarterback was denied at the very end.

With the Crimson Tide needing a touchdown and facing fourth-and-goal from the Michigan 3-yard line in overtime, Milroe tried to go up the middle, but was stopped by Josaiah Stewart for a 1-yard gain, giving the top-ranked Wolverines a 27-20 victory in the 110th Rose Bowl on Monday.

“At the end of the day I just trusted the guys up front for believing in me on the last play to have the ball, and unfortunately we just missed and we just didn’t get in the end zone,” said Milroe, who accounted for 179 yards rushing and passing.

After both teams used their timeouts, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees called a quarterback run, which coach Nick Saban said was one of the two 2-point conversion plays they had installed for the game.

Alabama went with two receivers split left and one right and put running back Raydell Williams in motion. The snap from center Seth McLaughlin was low before Milroe tried to go up the middle.

“They pressured and we thought they would pressure, but we thought we could gap them and block them and make it work, and it didn’t,” Saban said.

With the ball at the 3 and the game on the line, Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter figured the ball was going to be in Milroe’s hands.

“We did not want to let him dictate the terms,” Minter said. “He’s their best player and super versatile. I thought it might be like a run-pass option or something where he could get on the perimeter. We knew the ball was going to be in his hands and we wanted to be aggressive, not sit back and wait.”

Milroe finished with 63 yards on 21 carries, but most of those yards came after halftime. He was sacked six times, including five in the first half.

Offensive guard Tyler Booker said one of the halftime adjustments was going to more six-man protection calls.

“They did a lot to challenge us in the first half and knew our rules in both five- and six-man protection. That’s a great football team,” he said. “They were the No. 1 defense for a reason.”

Even though Milroe was under pressure most of the first half, the sophomore was steady enough to direct a pair of scoring drives as Alabama trailed 13-10 at the break.

Milroe — who finished 16-of-23 passing for 116 yards — came back to direct a pair of scoring drives in the fourth quarter to put the Crimson Tide up 20-13. He had a fumble near midfield midway through the fourth, but Michigan was unable to get any points out of it.

Alabama finishes with a 12-2 record, and Saban has plenty of reasons for optimism going into next season. After being benched earlier in the season against South Florida, Milroe came back to start the last 11 games.

Milroe was fourth nationally with a 177.5 passer efficiency rating and second with 10.41 yards per pass attempt. He also had 14 rushing touchdowns.

Leading up to the Rose Bowl, Milroe said former offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien suggested he should switch positions.

“I think this team probably improved from the South Florida game and the Texas game early in the season as much as any team I’ve ever coached,” Saban said. “That’s why I think for me as a coach, maybe not for everybody else, it’s one of the teams that I’ll always remember the most and always be the most proud of.”

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