Turnovers hurt Washington in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Alabama defender Jonathan Allen (left) recovers a Washington fumble during the first quarter in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

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Alabama defender Jonathan Allen (left) recovers a Washington fumble during the first quarter in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Washington entered the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Alabama with the best turnover margin in FBS (plus 21).

But two turnovers by the fourth-seeded Huskies, champions of the Pac-12, were turned into 10 points and helped the top-seeded Crimson Tide walk away with a 24-7 victory in their College Football Playoff semifinal on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

Alabama, champions of the SEC, will play the winner of Saturday night’s game between Clemson and Ohio State for the national championship in Tampa on Jan. 9.

While Washington had a fumble and two interceptions, one mostly meaningless near the end of the game, Alabama was able to recover its lone fumble to win a game in which neither offense dazzled.

“When you’re playing this type of game, when the margin for error is that small, those things are going to show up,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said.

Washington’s second turnover in the first half came on a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown by strongside linebacker Ryan Anderson with 1:13 left in the second quarter. Under pressure up the middle, Washington quarterback Jake Browning tossed a lazy screen pass to the sideline, right to Anderson, who stiff-armed the receiver and had no one left between him and the end zone.

“You don’t want the momentum going against you at halftime, but that was really big,” Petersen said. “They did a great job. They brought the blitz and we had all guys out, and Jake tried to get rid of it and the end that peeled did a great job, made a great play.”

Browning, who had thrown seven interceptions against 42 touchdowns this season, said he saw the defender and should have just thrown it away, but it was a split-second decision. He was almost intercepted on the previous play when he threw a pass right to an Alabama defender who dropped it.

It was Alabama’s 15th non-offensive touchdown this season, tops in FBS.

The first turnover came on a fumble by Washington wide receiver John Ross near the 49-yard line. The fumble was forced by Anthony Averett, and Jonathan Allen returned it 10 yards to the Huskies’ 40. It was the first turnover of the game.

Five plays later, Alabama faced third-and-1 on the 19-yard line, but a false start pushed the ball back to third-and-6 on the 24. They settled for a field goal to take a 10-7 lead with 14:55 left in the second quarter.

Not that the Huskies were marching up and down the field, but the lost fumble seemed to deflate their offense and fire up Alabama’s defense. On Washington’s next three possessions, it didn’t gain a first down. The fourth possession ended with the interception.

“We turned the ball over twice, and they got 10 points out of it,” Browning said. “That’ll kill you in a 17-point game.”