The Sugar Bowl may have been a nightmare for Alabama but it was still a "dream come true" for Derrick Henry. The freshman running back emerged as a surprise star for Nick Saban's Crimson Tide in the season-ending defeat. He twice lifted Alabama within a touchdown of Oklahoma and gave SEC rivals a glimpse of what they'll be dealing with next season.
"We recognize that the result we got tonight was not really what we wanted it to be, but there's certainly some lessons to be learned and things that we can build on for the future," a dejected Saban told reporters after Oklahoma upended the two-time defending national champions 45-31.
Presumably, one of those lessons is "GIVE THE BALL TO DERRICK HENRY."
The 6'3" 238-pound running back from Yulee, Fla. proved virtually unstoppable in the second half of the Sugar Bowl. Henry racked up 161 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns on just 9 touches for the game.
After tallying 22 yards on just three carries in the first half, Henry didn't see any work on Alabama's first possession of the second half, a three-and-out appearance that included two runs by sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon. When the Tide got the ball back, still trailing 31-17, Saban got the ball to Henry. On his second carry of the drive, Henry got the ball into the end zone.
WATCH: Henry's 43-Yard Touchdown Run
After Oklahoma extended its lead to 38-24 in the fourth quarter, Henry again pulled the Tide within a touchdown. On a 2nd-and-8 play from the Alabama 39-yard line, Henry turned a screen pass from AJ McCarron into a 61-yard touchdown catch. It was his first reception of the season.
WATCH: Henry's 61-Yard Touchdown Catch
Despite the loss, Henry was understandably pleased with his breakout performance. Until the Sugar Bowl, Henry had appeared in just eight games and only topped five carries on two occasions.
"It was a dream come true," Henry said of his performance, via AL.com. "As a kid you always dream of playing college football when you're playing football as a youngin. Going out there and just being a freshman and putting on for your team, and helping them try to get a victory, I was just very thankful for my teammates for the opportunity that I got."