WATCH: Dabo and Deshaun Get It Done! No. 2 Clemson Defeats No. 1 Alabama to Win First National Championship in 35 Years


Breaking down Clemson’s come-from-behind 35-31 win over Alabama in Monday’s national championship game at Raymond James Stadium:






THE BIG PICTURE: Clemson was the better team — on both sides of the ball. And while they say defense wins championship, having arguably the best quarterback in college football on your side helps, too. Over and over, Deshaun Watson put Clemson on his back and willed his team to stay in this game. Watson was battered, bruised and exhausted by the game’s final whistle, but it was all worth it. A year after falling just short of a national championship, Watson got to be the one covered in confetti with a trophy to raise.



STAR POWER: Watson said he wanted to win the trophy nobody votes on — and he did everything he possibly could to put Clemson in position to win it. And it worked. Watson finished with a heck of a stat line — 36-of-56 for 420 yards and three touchdowns.



STAR POWER II: How about Hunter Renfrow? Three touchdown catches on the day, including the game winner with one second left in the game. The former walk-on teamed with Watson to pick apart arguably one of the best defenses in college football history.



KEY STAT: Nick Saban is now 12-2 in title games, which include five national championships. His only loss before Monday? The 2008 SEC title game.





– The team with the ball last won.

Clemson drove 68 yards in nine plays in the final two minutes to beat Alabama. The drive was capped by Deshaun Watson’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second left.

It was the third touchdown of the fourth quarter for the Tigers, who clearly wore down the heralded Crimson Tide defense. It’s the first national title for Clemson since 1981.

The loss was the first in 15 games this season for Alabama, which had won 26 consecutive games.

A great ending to one of the greatest college football games you will ever see.



– Alabama is back from the dead.

Facing a third-and-16 on its 26 with less than four minutes left, a 15-yard pass set up a fourth-down conversion for the Tide. A trick play with receiver ArDarius Stewart throwing to O.J. Howard moved the ball to the Clemson 30.

Then, Jalen Hurts split the Clemson defense for 30-yard touchdown run to give Alabama a 31-28 lead. It was a remarkable turnaround for the Alabama offense that struggled the entire second half, but found plays at the right time to go ahead with just over two minutes left.

– An upset is brewing in Tampa. Clemson is ahead of Alabama 28-24 with 4:38 left in the game after a touchdown run by Wayne Gallman.

The scoring drive was helped by an amazing catch by Mike Williams. Alabama was whistled for a personal foul on the play that move the ball to the Tide 16. Two plays later, Gallman was in the end zone and the Tigers were ahead.

Now the pressure lies on the Alabama offense that has done nothing for most of the last three quarters.

– Clemson just misses on a third-down throw to Jordan Leggett, and the Tigers are forced to punt midway through the fourth quarter.

Alabama starts on its 29. A drive that consumes the clock would be critical here even if the Tide don’t come up with points. Clemson might only have one more possession with a couple of first downs.

– A swap of punts has given the ball back to Alabama up 24-21 with just more than 10 minutes left. The Crimson Tide have good field position, starting on their own 40. It appears Bo Scarbrough is out for the game with an injured leg, putting the offense on the shoulders of quarterback Jalen Hurts and running backs Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris.

– Clemson keeps coming back. Deshaun Watson connected with Mike Williams on a 4-yard touchdown to pull the Tigers within 24-21 with plenty of time left in the College Football Playoff championship game.

Watson is now up to 294 yards passing as Clemson has found some success throwing and is appearing to wear down the Crimson Tide defense that is not used to being on the field as long as it has tonight. The Tigers have run 74 plays compared to 50 for Alabama so far.


– Trailing by 10, Clemson’s offense continues to move the ball through the air. Deshaun Watson is spreading the ball around on a 67-yard drive that has reached the Alabama 8 at the end of the third quarter.

A touchdown would be huge for the Tigers to pull within three. Even a field goal makes it a one-possession game, and with the way Clemson has found success in the last two quarters, there’s a lot of optimism on their sideline

– After an exchange of punts, Alabama got the ball back with its offense effectively neutralized for the entire second half. Then lightning struck.

A blown coverage on tight end O.J. Howard left the Crimson Tide tight end free in the Clemson secondary. Jalen Hurts found him for a 68-yard touchdown, and Alabama extends its lead to 24-14.

Clemson fans probably experienced some deja vu as Howard victimized the Tigers for 208 yards on five catches in last year’s title game. Prior to the play, Hurts only had 49 yards on 22 attempts.

– Things are now getting interesting. Deshaun Watson hits Hunter Renfrow for a 24-yard touchdown, and Clemson is now within 17-14 midway through the third quarter.

Watson, now up to 228 passing yards, has started to find some holes in the Alabama secondary since the second quarter, and Tigers are in an offensive groove.

Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide has only managed a field goal set up by a turnover since taking a 14-0 lead. Jalen Hurts continues to struggle throwing the ball. Unless, Alabama can get the running game going again, the true freshman will need to deliver against a Clemson defense that is sure to crowd the line of scrimmage.

– Clemson didn’t score, but its drive down 17-7 proved valuable as Deshaun Watson’s pooch kick on fourth down has Alabama pinned back on its 5 to start their drive.

And with a quick three-and-out and a shanked punted, the Tigers will start at the Tide 42.

– The best-laid plans of Clemson’s second half ended quickly when Wayne Gallman was stripped of the football on a second-down run. Ryan Anderson recovered – his second fumble recovery of the game – and advanced the ball to the Tigers 16.

A touchdown-saving tackle by Hunter Renfrow on Anderson proved critical as Clemson’s defense held and forced a field goal by Adam Griffith.

Still, Alabama increases its lead to 17-7 early in the third quarter and gives the Tigers a larger hole to dig out of in the second half.


– No scores in the last minute of the half results in Alabama taking a 14-7 lead into intermission.

Alabama dominated early with its running game with Bo Scarbrough doing much of the damage with two touchdowns. Clemson appeared to settled down at that point with Deshaun Watson finding his rhythm in the second quarter. His touchdown run got momentum on the Tigers’ side with them getting the ball at the start of the third quarter.

Clemson actually has the 203-183 edge in total offense with 153 of those yards on the right arm of Watson. Alabama has 143 yards rushing which is a major concern for the Tigers in second half. If they can slow down Scarbrough and put the onus on Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has thrown for just 40 yards on 16 attempts, then they have a chance to win this in the second half.

– An exchange of punts gives the ball back to Clemson, but an ill-advised decision to fair catch the ball by Artavis Scott at its 5 has the Tigers pinned deep with 1:04 left in the half. Alabama has three timeouts so an opportunity for the Tide to get a quick stop and good field position before halftime

– The Clemson offense has arrived. The Tigers hit the end zone on an 8-yard touchdown run by quarterback Deshaun Watson to cut Alabama’s lead to 14-7 with just more than six minutes left in the half.

The 87-yard march got moving when Deon Cain took a short pass from Watson and got loose for 44 yards. Then, Watson, appearing more comfortable after a slow start, hit Jordan Leggett for 26 yards on third-and-10 to set up his scoring run.

The Tigers only had 72 yards of offense before the possession.

– Clemson has stemmed the Tide for the time being. The Tigers get a defensive stop after Alabama reached midfield. The problem now is figuring out how their offense is going to find any success against the Crimson Tide. Deshaun Watson is completely off his game and unable to connect with his receivers. The running game isn’t much better with an average of 2.2 yards per carry.

This possession will again start deep in Clemson territory after Alabama punter J.K. Scott again pinned the Tigers deep in their territory.

– Bo Scarbrough again is dominating another playoff game. The sophomore running back burst down the left sideline for a 37-yard touchdown to cap a quick, five-play drive for 74 drive for Alabama. Tide are up 14-0 early in the second quarter and have started to take control of the line of scrimmage. Scarbrough is now up to 71 yards on carries and two touchdowns. Overall, Alabama has 136 yards on 13 carries.

Clemson now faces its biggest deficit of the season. Its inability to find any success running or throwing is troubling as the defense is starting to show signs of breaking.


– Besides one drive by Alabama, the defense have had their way after the first quarter after the College Football Playoff championship game. Clemson managed just 46 yards of offense, and Deshaun Watson, the Heisman runner-up, was just 5-for-7 for 23 yards.

The passing game for Alabama wasn’t much better. Jalen Hurts looked shaky when throwing with just two completions in eight attempts for 10 yards. However, Hurts has had success running the ball. His 20-yard run early in the quarter set up Bo Scarbrough’s scoring run.

The play has been a bit chippy. Alabama could have been called for targeting on two occasions on hits to both Watson and wide receiver Mike Williams. The hit to Williams caused him to leave the game briefly. He has returned. Clemson also has been hit with two personal fouls. Early emotions clearly are a factor. The teams appear to have settled down.

– Clemson had some brief momentum after a partially blocked punt gave the Tigers good field position at their 37. But that quickly changed when an errant snap to quarterback Deshaun Watson was recovered by Ryan Anderson.

The Clemson defense, however, hit Bo Scarbrough for a 2-yard loss on a running play after a procedure penalty and Alabama was forced to punt.

– Another questionable hit by the Alabama defense. Tony Brown delivered a shot to the head of Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams. It went unflagged. Williams left the game. His loss would be huge for the Tigers. He led the team with 90 receptions for 1,267 yards and 10 touchdowns.

– Alabama is on the board first with a Bo Scarbrough touchdown run of 25 yards. The Tide needed three plays and less than a minute to drive 59 yards after a fourth-down stop of Clemson.

It’s a big concern for the Tigers is seeing both Scarbrough and Jalen Hurts have long runs in the drive. If Alabama gets its ground game going, it will be a long night for the Clemson defense.

Lot of pressure on Deshaun Watson to respond on the next drive.

– On the first offensive possession for Clemson, there is the first controversy of the game. Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson was hit in the head by Alabama linebacker Rueben Foster after throwing a shuffle pass. Foster was penalized 15 yards, but he could have been ejected for targeting.

The drive eventually stalled when Wayne Gallman was stopped on fourth-and-1 at the Alabama 41.

– Clemson had a great first series on defense with a quick three-and-out, including tackle for loss on Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough.

– Clemson won the coin toss and deferred their option to the second half. That gives Alabama the ball first.

The first College Football Playoff championship game played outdoors will have perfect weather for the players. The forecast calls for clear skies and temperatures in the 50s. Wind should not be a factor.

Alabama is wearing its traditional home crimson jerseys with white pants by virtue of being the higher seed. Clemson is wearing white jerseys and orange pants.


Alabama and Clemson met 52 weeks ago in Glendale, Ariz., with the Crimson Tide winning their fourth national title in the Nick Saban era. Now they meet again in Tampa with the Tigers hoping to change history and win their first championship since 1981.

Source: USA Today