Clemson Comes Back In Final Seconds To Beat Bama
National Championship games are supposed to be special, but not all of them live up to the hype. The College Football Playoff finale was pure drama.
The first half looked like a similar script for Alabama. Their defense was frustrating Clemson and Deshaun Watson and they jumped out to a 14-0 lead while the Tigers turned the ball over on downs and gave the ball away with a fumbled snap. They were able to cut the lead in half before going into the locker room, then the game took off in the second half.
Clemson's receivers came to life in the second half and helped Watson start to take chunks out the Crimson Tide defense. Hunter Renfrow scored the first touchdown of the second half to make the score 17-14, and after Alabama scored again to get the lead to 24-14, the fourth quarter rolled around.
Down double-digits, the Tigers started to claw their way back. Mike Williams, who put on a show for the NFL scouts, snagged a touchdown to make it a one score game again, and Wayne Gallman followed that up with another score to take the lead at 28-24.
It didn't take Alabama long to respond. Jalen Hurts took it in himself after a two and a half minute drive, and Clemson faced an uphill climb. That's when Watson stood front and center under the spotlight.
He worked the ball down the field, conserving clock and methodically getting his team into position. With six seconds left, the Tigers decided to take one last shot to the endzone before settling for a field goal. Watson found Renfrow for the second time, and the tears started to flow on the Clemson sideline.
With one second left, the Tigers stole the title away from the reigning champs. Watson was emotional after the win, and he tried to put the finish into words.
"I talked to one of my coaches, and they said it's a movie, it's going to end the right way," Watson said. He added, "We fell short last year. This game wasn't just for me, it was for all the alumni, the fans, my city of Gainesville. This is bigger than just me."
Watson's Head Coach, Dabo Swinney shared his message to the players at halftime, when things weren't exactly going their way.
"I told them tonight that the difference tonight was going to be love," Swinney said with eyes brimming with tears. "I told them, 'tonight, we're going to win because we love each other.'"
Swinney delivered Clemson their first national championship in over three decades, and he hoisted up the trophy with a massive grin on his face.
Watson backed up his talk before the game. He played like the best man on the field, racking up 420 passing yards, three touchdowns through the air and one more on the ground. Four different receivers collected over 90 yards, and Watson kept finding them for big plays when the Tigers needed it most.
Clemson's offense ended up being too much for the freshman Hurts to keep up with. The Tigers outgained the Tide, 511 yards to 376, despite the fact Bama rushed for over 220 yards. Hurts only complete 13 of his 31 pass attempts, and Watson finished his artful performance with one final brush stroke to Renfrow at the end.
Even critics of the playoff system had to love the football on the field. It was engaging. It was compelling, and the players put on a performance to remember.