Clemson extracts revenge on Alabama
With only one second showing on the clock, Clemson Tiger quarterback Deshaun Watson hit slot receiver Hunter Renfrow on a two-yard touchdown pass to seal a 35-31 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide and the 2017 NCAA FBS National Championship title in Tampa Bay on Monday.
The win gave Clemson the revenge sought after falling to Alabama 45-40 in last season’s title game.
Down 31-28 with only 2:07 left to go in the contest, the Clemson offense drove 68 yards in nine plays against one of the best defenses in college football history to earn the Tiger’s first national championship since 1981 and only their second title ever.
On the ensuing kickoff, Clemson recovered an on-side kick at their 46-yard line and proceeded to kneel down on the very last offensive play of the game, emphatically securing the win.
Watson, the offensive MVP for the game, was six of eight passing for 50 yards on the game winning drive and was 36 for 56 for 420 yards and three touchdowns for the game.
Watson also carried the ball 21 times for 43 yards and scored one rushing touchdown. In the last two championship games, Watson has torched the Alabama defense for 825 yards and seven touchdowns.
For all of the talk of the Crimson Tide defense this season as being one of the best ever, it was the Tiger defense that came up with the plays when necessary.
One example of that came early in the third quarter. With Alabama up 14-7, Clemson’s Wayne Gallman fumbled the football which was recovered by the Tide at the Tiger 28-yard line.
The Clemson defense, facing the possibility of going down by two touchdowns, held Alabama to a field goal and avoided a 14-point deficit.
For the game, Clemson held the Alabama offense to 376 yards of total offense. But, most importantly, the Tigers were able to stymie the Crimson Tide on third down plays, keeping the Alabama defense on the field for 35 minutes of the game, as Alabama was a lowly two for 15 in those conversion attempts.
The game started inconspicuously, with Alabama being forced to punt on their first possession and Clemson turning the ball over on downs at the Crimson Tide 41-yard line on their opening possession.
Alabama was able to take advantage of that fourth down defensive stop, driving the ball 59 yards on three plays to score the opening points of the game. The drive was bookended by two huge running plays.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts rushed for 20 yards on the very first play and running back Bo Scarbrough capped off the possession with a 25-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good and with 9:23 left in the first quarter, Alabama led 7-0.
Neither team could get much going offensively in their next three times touching the football. And, with 12:06 left in the half, it seemed as if a defensive struggle would ensue the rest of the game.
However, the combatants in the biggest college game of the year would each score touchdowns in the next six minutes, giving each of the offenses some life.
The Crimson Tide would put together their scoring drive first. Taking over on their 26-yard line, Alabama moved the ball 74 yards in five plays, capping off the possession with a 37-yard run by Scarbrough.
With the extra point, the Crimson Tide now held a 14-0 lead with 10:42 left in the second quarter.
Clemson put their first points of the night up on the board two possessions later. The Tigers began the scoring drive at their 13- yard line. Watson began to heat up and completed three of five passes for 74 yards during the possession.
Facing a second and five at the Alabama eight-yard line, Watson took the ball himself and strolled into the end zone for the score. The extra point was good and the Crimson Tide lead was cut to 14-7 with 6:09 left before halftime.
That would be the last points of the first half.
If the initial half of the game was more of a defensive struggle, the latter half would be an offensive explosion, as the two teams would combine for 45 points, almost mirroring last year’s game.
After the aforementioned third quarter field goal from Alabama, Clemson would tack on another touchdown mid-way through the third quarter. Taking over at the Crimson Tide 42-yard line with 8:13 left in the period, the Tigers needed only four plays to add seven points to their total.
The touchdown play was a 24-yard pass from Watson to Renfrow, only taking 1:03 off of the clock. With the extra point, Alabama only held a three-point lead, 17-14.
Alabama would extend their lead to 24-14 at the 1:53 mark of the quarter, as they drove 79 yards in four plays.
The homerun play of the drive was a 68-yard touchdown pass from Hurts to O.J. Howard on a blown coverage from the Clemson defense.
That 10-point lead would not last long. On the Tiger’s next possession that would extend into the fourth quarter, Clemson took the ball 72 yards in nine plays, capped off by a nine-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Artavis Scott.
The extra point was good and the Crimson Tide lead was cut to 24-21.
That score would remain until the 4:38 mark of the final period when Clemson scored on a Gallman one-yard run. With the extra point, the Tigers led for the first time in the game, 28-24.
Alabama did not go away easily, scoring on the ensuing possession. For a team that punted on five of their previous seven times having the ball, the Crimson Tide drove the ball 68 yards in six plays to go up 31-28 with only 2:07 left in the game. On that drive, Alabama had to convert on a fourth and one from their 41-yard line.
From that point on, it was the Deshaun Watson show, as he took the Tigers on the game winning drive.
Hurts, a true freshman, was 13 for 31 passing for 131 yards and one touchdown. He also carried the ball 10 times for 63 yards and a touchdown. Scarbrough led all Crimson Tide rushers with 93 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns, but left the game in the third quarter with a leg injury.