NEW ORLEANS — Rashaan Evans knows the result. He remembers every play vividly. But the Alabama linebacker can’t help himself from rewatching the film of last year’s heartbreaking national championship game loss to Clemson.
“I’ve watched it probably over 100 times,” the senior said Friday as the fourth-seeded Crimson Tide prepared for their rematch with the No. 1 Tigers on New Year’s Day in the Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. “It kind of gets repetitive. I’m seeing the same thing over and over again.”
Evans isn’t a glutton for punishment. There is a purpose to all of this, a reminder of what’s at stake in this year’s College Football Playoff semifinals.
“I try not to do it too much, but it’s something you kind of want to remember,” he said. “You want to be able to kind of feel what it felt like when you lost so that it reminds you in the game, if you ever get tired or get to a point where you feel like all is lost, it gives you a little bit more motivation.”
After all, it was Evans who was the closest to Deshaun Watson on his game-winning. 2-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second remaining. Had Watson not rolled out, Evans said he believes he might have had the sack.
“That’s the worst feeling ever,” he said.
Evans isn’t alone. Sophomore safety Ronnie Harrison has seen the film up to 50 times as well, including 10 times in the week following the heartbreaking defeat. What does he look for?
“How we lost, why we lost, what happened, how it all unfolded,” said Harrison, Alabama’s leading tackler. “All of that comes into play — anger, disappointment, things you could’ve changed — but that stuff you have to think about going into this [year’s game], take that into consideration when you’re getting prepared, make sure you’re righting your wrongs.”
While coach Nick Saban has played down the idea of revenge since the two teams are so different and unanimous All-American do-it-all defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick claimed he hasn’t watched a second of the loss to Clemson — “I don’t know if that’s true,” Harrison said with a smirk — it’s clear redemption will be in play for Alabama. How could it not be, after the Crimson Tide came so close to repeating as national champions?
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” cornerback Levi Wallace said.
The stakes aren’t quite as high. A win only would send Alabama to the title game in Atlanta, not clinch the championship. But seeing Clemson’s orange should be motivation enough.
“We get another shot at the team that ended our season,” Harrison said. “It’s a little redemption game. Capitalize on the plays you didn’t make [last year].
“For us, this is a great opportunity, and we’re going to take full advantage of it.”