The Clemson Tigers avenged last year’s loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football National Championships with a 35-31 victory in Monday night’s championship game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson provided a storybook ending to his college career, throwing a touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second remaining. Watson finished with 420 yards and three touchdowns on 36-of-56 passing.
Watson’s opposite number, Alabama QB Jalen Hurts, struggled, going 13-of-31 for 131 yards and a touchdown.
Bo Scarbrough started well but left the game injured and finished with 93 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. His absence played a pivotal role in Clemson’s outscoring Alabama 21-7 in the fourth quarter.
With Scarbrough’s absence and Alabama’s defense showing fatigue, Watson and the Tigers began to make progress on offense and the defense made things tough for Alabama’s weakened offense.
Alabama’s true freshman quarterback, Jalen Hurts, ran for a go-ahead, 30-yard touchdown with 2:31 to play, minutes after Clemson had taken its first lead. That set up Clemson’s final drive, which turned out to be the most dramatic moment of the season. Hurts’ touchdown, like Renfrow’s a few minutes later, was a response itself.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson found former walk-on receiver Hunter Renfrow on a sprint-out, two-yard touchdown pass with a second to play, taking Clemson from a 31-28 deficit to the win. It was Renfrow’s 10th catch of the night and the biggest college football catch in a long time.
It was a great sendoff for Watson, Williams and Gallman, all of whom will enter the NFL draft. Artavis Scott will leave after his junior year as well. Replacing that quartet will be difficult for Swinney, but the defense—including standout underclassmen Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins on the line—will again be stingy.
The Tigers have won at least 10 games for six straight years, too, so they’ll likely contend for the ACC crown.
For Alabama, the questions will only continue for head coach Nick Saban about whether parting ways with Kiffin was the right decision. The Crimson Tide’s inability to move the chains proved costly in the second half, putting pressure on the defense.
Alabama fans haven’t exactly been starved for success, but that won’t take the sting away from losing the national championship game with one second remaining.