How Lane Kiffin not Running Derrick Henry Cost Nick Saban his Eighth National Championship

Lane Kiffin only ran Derrick Henry six times for 40 yards in the college football playoff semifinal in 2014. This would come back to haunt the Tide as they would lose the contest 42-35.
Alabama v Arkansas
Alabama v Arkansas / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages

Six national championships. That is how many national titles Nick Saban had as the head coach at the University of Alabama, not including the one he had as head coach of the LSU Tigers in 2003.

Saban is also considered the greatest coach in college football history, so it is crazy to think how close he was to having a few more national championships.

Many think “what could have been” with Saban against the Georgia Bulldogs and mentee Kirby Smart, or this past season in 2023 when the Tide lost the national champion Michigan Wolverines in overtime.

The most frustrating missing national championship actually came in 2014 when the Tide lost to the Ohio State Buckeyes 42-35 in the college football semifinal Sugar Bowl matchup.

In this one, the score really does not tell the story on Alabama’s side as then offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin had a huge blunder in the second half. That blunder would be running future Heisman Trophy winning running back Derrick Henry 13 times in the game.

Kiffin is known for being one of the top offensive minds in the game, but in this contest, it is noticeable that he got pass-happy and failed to utilize what Alabama was most know for, and that’s the running game.

Along with Henry, The Tide boasted an offensive line in 2014 that was anchored by Cam Robinson and Ryan Kelly, who went on to have NFL careers. The Tide also lined the backfield with fullback Jalston Fowler who was known for his bruising attitude. And behind all of this was the mountain of a man in Derrick Henry.

In 2014, Henry was listed at 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds according to . And he was a load in the backfield.

That was no more evident than in the first half when it took Henry no time to rip off a 25 yard touchdown run just over five minutes into the game. And you could tell the Ohio State defense wanted nothing to do with tackling him.

Henry would not score again with Kiffin turning the contest into a back-and-forth passing affair and the Tide would fall.

This left Tide fans wondering “what if” the Tide had stuck to their roots, controlled the clock and ran the ball with the 6-foot-3 running back. The answer very well could have been Sabans seventh national championship with the Tide, and eighth overall. But we will truly never know.