For the first time since 1981, the Clemson Tigers are the kings of the College Football world. The Tigers topped the then #1 ranked Crimson Tide of Alabama 35-31 in last Monday’s College Football Playoff National Title game in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. A stadium record crowd of 74,512 fans witnessed what is being considered one of the best championship games in College Football history.
A pair of long touchdown runs by running back Bo Scarbrough gave Alabama a 14-0 lead in the first half. Clemson was eventually able to respond with an 8 yard touchdown scamper by quarterback Deshaun Watson. Trailing by 7 going into the 3rd quarter, Clemson received the second half kickoff and began it’s offensive drive. A few plays later, running back Wayne Gallman fumbled the ball and it was quickly recovered by Bama linebacker Ryan Anderson. Anderson looked bound to score Alabama’s 12th defensive touchdown of the season, but Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow was able to tackle him in the red zone. Clemson’s defense held tight and only allowed the Tide a field goal. Renfrow would bring the Tigers within 3 with 7:10 left in the 3rd quarter as he pulled in a Deshaun Watson pass and slipped past would be tacklers for a 23 yard touchdown. Late in the third quarter, Alabama struck again with a long touchdown pass from quarterback Jalen Hurts to tight end OJ Howard. Howard burned Clemson for two long touchdowns in last season’s National Title game.
Watson would hit Mike Williams early in the 4th quarter for a short touchdown to bring Clemson back within 3. The Tigers would later take the lead with 4:48 left in the game on a 1 yard Wayne Gallman touchdown run. Alabama wouldn’t give up though as the Tide converted a 4th and one before OJ Howard reeled in another long pass to set up the Tide deep in Clemson territory. Hurts scrambled for 30 yard touchdown run to give Alabama a 31-28 lead on Clemson with 2:07 seconds left in the game. Deshaun Watson and the Tigers proceeded to drive down the field quickly. . With 9 seconds remaining the Tigers stood at he Alabama 9 yard line. Watson attempted to hit Mike Williams for another touchdown and the ball was knocked incomplete. However, pass interference was called on Alabama DB Anthony Averett, giving Clemson a first down on the Alabama 2 yard line with 6 seconds remaining. The Tigers elected to try for a quick strike, and Deshaun Watson rolled to his right and hit a wide open Hunter Renfrow in the end zone for a touchdown with 1 second remaining. Greg Huegel would add the PAT and Clemson would lead 35-31 with one second remaining. Huegel then kicked an onside kick and was able to fall on it. After a lengthy review by the officials to determine if the ball traveled 10 yards, it was determined that it in fact go 10 yards and the ball was awarded to Clemson. Watson took a knee and the Tigers became National Champions.
On Tuesday, the Tigers were greeted by 1000’s of joyous fans as they arrived back to Death Valley. The following Saturday, roughly 65,000 Tiger fans descended on Clemson for the Championship parade and a ceremony in Death Valley. Various members of past Clemson teams were in attendance, including members of the 1981 team, Clemson’s only other National Championship team. The Tigers were presented with the Coaches’ Trophy and once again with the Playoff Trophy. Deshaun Watson, linebacker Ben Boulware, tight end Jordan Leggett, and safety Jadar Johnson all gave short speeches, and then head coach Dabo Swinney closed it out. As is the post game tradition, Clemson fans sang the university’s alma mater before heading out. The Tigers will return to Death Valley for the annual Orange and White spring game in April, and then will begin the 2017 season on September 2nd, hosting the Kent State Golden Flashes.