Stuart McNair

Clemson scores TD in final second to beat Alabama in CFP title game

Deshaun Watson was too much for Alabama’s defense

Talk about your two-minute drill in a clutch situation. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson proved that he is deserving of discussion as the best college football player in America as he took the Tigers on a dramatic 68-yard drive that ended with a game-winning touchdown with just one second remaining in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

Clemson upset Alabama, the 2015 champion and the No. 1 team all year up until Monday night in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, 35-31.

In a bit of retribution for Alabama’s win over the Tigers last year when a Crimson Tide onsides kick played a big role in the Bama championship, Clemson recovered an onside kick after its winning TD, thus retaining the ball for a victory formation kneeldown and preventing Alabama from any kind of desperation play.

There was never a feeling that Alabama could win the game after Watson got warmed up. The Tide defense had been on the field much of the night and had little or nothing in the tank. The offense could not sustain plays and the defense could not get off the field.

Clemson ran 99 plays to Alabama’s 66 and had the ball for nearly 10 minutes longer than the Tide (34:44-25:16).

It didn’t help that Alabama lost Bo Scarbrough to injury in the second half.  Scarbrough had scored two first half touchdowns.

The Tide had the lead from its second offensive possession of the game until the final five minutes of the game – and there were three lead changes in those final five minutes.

The fourth quarter started with Alabama holding a 24-14 lead. But early in the fourth quarter the Tigers pulled to within three points when Watson passed to Mike Williams for a four-yard touchdown.

Starting with just over six-and-a-half minutes in the final quarter the game turned into a microcosm of last year’s back-and-forth game won by Alabama by 45-40.

Clemson took the lead for the first time with 4:38 to play when Wayne Gallman went over the middle of the Tide defense from a yard out. Greg Huegel kicked the extra point.

Alabama had not made a first down since the first play of the fourth quarter then the Tide got the ball back with 4:38 to play at the Bama 32. It did not start well. Bama quarterback Jalen Hurts had to throw the ball away on first down. On second down he completed a pass to tailback Damien Harris, but it was a six-yard loss. On third down Hurts scrambled around and finally got the ball to Ardarius Stewart for 15 of the needed 16 yards. Harris kept hopes alive for a fourth down run for five yards and a first down.

Hurts then hit O.J. Howard for a24-yard gain to the Clemson 30.

Back to pass again, Hurts spotted an opening up the middle and dashed to the end zone, regaining the lead for the Tide. Adam Griffith’s point after touchdown kick made it Alabama 31, Clemson 28.

The Tigers started their winning drive with 2:01 to play and 68 yards to travel. Alabama needed one defensive stop to win the national championship, but Clemson faced only one third down in the drive. Watson passed 24 yards to Mike Williams for the big play in the drive. With 20 seconds to play the Tigers were at the Alabama 26 and Watson spiked the ball. On the next play he passed to tight end Jordan Leggett for 17 yards to the Tide 9. Watson was then incomplete on his next two passes, but Bama was called for pass interference on the second, giving Clemson a first-and-goal at the 2 with 6 seconds to play.

Watson made the pass to Hunter Renfrow and with one second to play, Clemson had wrapped up the national championship.

Here’s how the scoring went up until the final quarter:

Alabama’s second possession of the game started at its 41 at Tony Brown stopped Clemson’s Wayne Gallman on a fourth down and one run, On the first Tide play, Hurts had to keep at right end on a pass play. With Clemson playing man-to-man on the receivers, Hurts kept for 20 yards to the Clemson 39. Two plays later a roughing the passer penalty put the Tide at the 20. A false start moved it back five yards, but on first-and-15 from the 25, Scarbrough went left, got a nice block from tight end O.J. Howard, and scooted into the end zone.

Adam Griffiths extra point kick made it 7-0 with 9:23 to play in the first quarter. Bama’s drive was 59 yards in 3 plays and took just 58 seconds.

Bama went up 14-0 on a long, quick drive early in the second quarter. Ardarius Stewart started it with a 25-yard run on a jet sweep to the right. Four plays later, on a second-and-9 from the 37, Scarbrough got a nice block from Cam Robinson on the left side and swept into the end zone with his second touchdown. The 5-play, 74-yard drive took 1:24.

With 6:09 berfore halftime, Clemson got on the scoreboard on a long, quick drive. JK Scott punted the Tigers down at the 13, but an inside screen to Deon Cain for 43 yards got Clemson out of the hole. On third-and-10 Watson connected with Jordan Leggett gained 26 to the Bama 13. Two plays later Watson went around left end for the touchdown. The 87-yard drive took only 7 plays and 1:33. Greg Huegel kicked the extra point.

Alabama had a great opportunity early in the third quarter when Tide linebacker Ryan Anderson stripped the ball from Clemson’s tailback, Gallman, and gave the ball to the offense at the Clemson 16. The Bama offense promptly got a penalty for a false start and ended up settling for a 27-yard Griffith field goal and a 17-7 advantage.

The Tigers pulled to 17-14 following a rare JK Scott shanked punt. Clemson had to drive only 42 yards and took only 4 plays to do it. Watson passed to Renfrow for 24 yards for the score.

There was another reminder of last year’s game as Alabama responded late in the quarter with Hurts completing a 68-yard pass to a wide open O.J. Howard down the left sideline. That sent the Tide to the fourth quarter with a 24-14 lead.

The statistics were weighted heavily in favor of Clemson.

The Tigers had 31 first downs to Bama’s 16.

Alabama did win the rushing battle, 34 carries for 221 yards, while Clemson had 42 runs for 91 yards.

Watson completed 36-56 passes for 420 yards and 3 touchdowns and was sacked 4 times. Hurts completed 13-31 for 131 yards and 1 TD and wasn’t sacked. The Tide also got a pass completion from ArDarius Stewart for 24 yards.

Clemson had total offense of 99 plays for 511 yards, Bama 66 plays for 376 yards.

The Tigers were penalized 3 times for 35 yards, Alabama 9 times for 82 yards.

Clemson was able to convert 7-18 third down plays, the Tide only 2-15.

Scarbrough led Alabama in rushing with 16 carries for 93 yards. Hurts had 10 rushes for 63 yards, Stewart 1-25, and Harris 5-24.

96 Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE Howard had 4 receptions for 106 yards, Ridley 5-36.   

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