Clemson climbs to title with last-second TD

The Tigers beat the Crimson Tide with a win in Mondays national championship game.

Kim Klement—X02835
Jan 9

TAMPA, Fla. — In a game that featured three lead changes in the final five minutes, Clemson got the ball on the final play, and the result was a national title.Deshaun Watson’s third touchdown pass of the game, a 2-yard toss to Hunter Renfrow with one second remaining, lifted the Tigers to a 35-31 win over Alabama to give the Tigers and gave Clemson its first title since 1981..”Thirty-five years,” Dabo Swinney said. “Hopefully we can win a few more before they put me out to pasture. I’m so thankful. I’m proud of these seniors. They’ve been unbelievable, the way they worked and fought all year.”Watson completed 36-of-56 passes for 420 yards, as the junior quarterback bested his 405-yard mark against Alabama from last year’s 45-40 title game loss.The Tigers (14-1) scored twice in the final four minutes, and they rallied back after Alabama (14-1) took the lead with 2:01 to play.”Don’t call it an upset,” Swinney said after ending top-ranked Alabama’s 26-game winning streak. “We expected to win this game.”Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts gave the Tide a three-point lead late with a 30-yard touchdown run. A double pass from ArDarius Stewart to tight end O.J. Howard for 24 yards set up Hurts’ wild scramble through the Clemson defense for the go-ahead score.Watson then guided the Tigers on a nine-play, 68-yard drive for the win. A pass-interference call in the end zone gave the Tigers time for one more play with six seconds left, jeopardizing a potential field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.”It was calm,” said Watson. “No one over there panicked. I said, ‘Let’s be legendary, let’s be great.'”Down 24-14 to start the fourth quarter, Clemson got back within three on a short score from Watson to Williams with 14:00 left.Twice before, the Tigers had the ball down three in the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t get beyond their own 35-yard line each time.Howard, who scored two long touchdowns in last year’s championship win against Clemson, came through again Monday, catching a 68-yard touchdown in the third quarter.Clemson had pulled within three points after trailing 14-0 early, but the Tigers left Howard wide open, and Hurts found him for the long touchdown with 1:53 left in the third quarter.Watson was the key to Clemson climbing within 17-14. He set up a touchdown drive with a quick kick on fourth down from the Alabama 43, which was downed at the 5-yard line. After a three-and-out, Clemson got the ball at the Tide 42, and Watson threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Renfrow to pull the Tigers within a field goal.Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson forced and recovered a fumble from Gallman on the opening drive of the second half, returning it to the Tigers 16-yard line. The Crimson Tide had to settle for a 27-yard Adam Griffith field goal.Scarbrough, was back at it Monday night after a sensational semifinal game against Washington. His scoring runs of 25 and 37 yards against the Tigers produced a 14-0 halftime lead.Clemson was held in check early, producing 72 yards on its first five drives, before coming alive in the second quarter. The Tigers moved the ball in the second quarter well enough to be outgaining Alabama 203-183 at the half, though they trailed on the scoreboard.The game’s first break came when Clemson decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Alabama 41-yard line in the first quarter. The Tigers pitched wide to Gallman, who was dropped by defensive back Tony Brown for no gain, turning the ball over on downs.A few plays later, Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell was flagged for roughing the passer, and Scarbrough followed with a 25-yard scoring run for a 7-0 lead with 9:23 left in the opening quarter.Watson fumbled a third-down snap late in the first quarter, and Alabama’s Ryan Anderson recovered to set the Tide up at the Clemson 40. The Tigers’ defense stepped up, however, and after a penalty, a 2-yard loss and two incompletions, Alabama had to punt.”We couldn’t get the ball going a lot on offense, but we had to stay patient and keep working hard, trust our offense, and they went down and scored, we came back and scored with two minutes left,” Howard said. “Clemson is a great team, and we knew it was going to be a tough game. Basically that’s just football, you’ve got to go out and play for 60 minutes.”