Syndication: Detroit Free Press

A miracle fourth-down conversion in the Iron Bowl against Auburn kept No. 4 Alabama in the College Football Playoff mix, but a failed fourth-down play in the 27-20 overtime loss to No. 1 Michigan in the Rose Bowl semifinal ended the Crimson Tide's season. 

It was a simple call, with quarterback Jalen Milroe being stopped short of the goal line on a designed run up the middle by Wolverines defensive lineman Derrick Moore. The play, which came after timeouts by each team, was the Tide's biggest of the season and ultimately sparked debate about its quality. 

In Nick Saban's eyes, however, it was the execution -- not the call itself -- that came up short. 

"[Offensive coordinator] Tommy [Rees] just felt like the best thing that we could do was have a quarterback run, which was kind of our 2-point play, one of our 2-point plays for this game," said Saban in the postgame press conference. "The ball was on the 3-yard line, which is just like a 2-point play, but we didn't get it blocked so it didn't work. We didn't execute it very well and it didn't work. They pressured and we thought they would pressure, but we thought we could gap them and block them and make it work, and it didn't."

The poor snap -- a recurring problem for Alabama this season, including the Rose Bowl -- also undoubtedly played a factor as it forced a split-second hesitation from Milroe. 

"All it came down to was fall back to your level of training, and we just failed on that play," said Milroe. "That's all it was. At the end of the day I just trusted the guys up front for believing in me on the last play to have the ball, and unfortunately we just missed and we just didn't get in the end zone.

"With anything it takes preparation, whether it's pass protection, whether it's the running game, the passing game," Milroe continued. "The quarterback and the center have to have a great relationship and that's something that we tried to build throughout the whole season." 

With the loss, Alabama's national championship drought extends to three seasons -- the longest such stretch under Saban. It also denied the Tide a chance to beat two AP No. 1 teams in the same season for the first time ever.