This College Football Playoff semifinal game between Washington and Alabama was already ugly. Both teams played stellar defense. The Huskies couldn’t move the ball. That’s why Alabama cruised to a 24-7 victory.
But it became particularly contentious in the final minutes, when officials called four unsportsmanlike penalties — three against Alabama — with two being called during an interception return on Washington’s final offensive snap.
On a meaningless play from Alabama’s 34-yard line with 42 seconds remaining, UW quarterback Jake Browning threw a jump ball into the end zone. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted it. During his return, two Alabama players were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. (One was defensive back Tony Brown. The other penalty was assigned to No. 98, as the referee announced, though he was mistaken: No. 98 is Brannon Satterfield, a backup punter who does not play.)
UW receiver John Ross and offensive lineman Jake Eldrenkamp — on the receiving end of the acts that drew the flags — each lay on the turf for a while before walking off.
Ross said afterward that it was a “cheap shot,” and sophomore right tackle Kaleb McGary agreed.
“It looked like they were starting to take cheap shots on our guys,” McGary said. “What are you going to do when you see your little brother getting picked on? Are you going to let him lay on the floor and bleed or are you going to tell them to stop? You’re going to take care of the problem.”
Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster told reporters afterward that UW players were taking cheap shots on Crimson Tide players, too. Foster said four UW players went after him at once. A TV replay showed that Foster appeared to throw a left-handed jab to the face of UW left tackle Trey Adams late in the fourth quarter, after which UW offensive lineman Nick Harris and Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen were each penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Adams shrugged it off, saying the skirmishes were due to “just emotions. Football.”
Foster, who walked off the field before the game ended in order to control his emotions, had more to say.
“They was grumpy. They wanted payback, I guess,” the Butkus Award-winning linebacker told reporters.
“They were saying a lot. I can’t say what they were saying, but just know they were saying a lot of disrespectful stuff.”
UW coach Chris Petersen said he didn’t like the way his players reacted to the chippy play.
“I don’t really know what happened,” Petersen said. “I just didn’t appreciate how our guys reacted. What are you going to do? It’s not the game. They’re not going to fight. What are we talking about? I just didn’t appreciate that.”
Alabama committed 11 total penalties for 66 yards. Washington was penalized three times for 10 yards.