Tigers take title
Last-second touchdown gives Clemson 35-31 win over Alabama
The Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. — Deshaun Watson and Clemson dethroned the champs, becoming the first team to beat Alabama in a national title game during Nick Saban’s dynasty.
Watson found Hunter Renfrow for a 2-yard touchdown pass with a second remaining to give the Tigers a 35-31 win Monday in the College Football Playoff final, and their first national championship since 1981.
In winning a rematch of last year’s title game, Clemson denied the Crimson Tide an unprecedented fifth championship in eight seasons.
“We came up a little short last year, but today on top of the mountain, the Clem-son flag is flying,” said Tigers coach Dabo Swinney, a native Alabaman and former Crimson Tide walk-on receiver.
Watson, a junior likely playing in his final college game, threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns — two to Renfrow — and also ran for 43 yards and a score.
Clemson rallied after trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, and the lead changed hands three times in the final period.
Watson found Mike Williams for a 4-yard touchdown a minute into the fourth to get the Tigers within three points, and they then took their first lead at 28-24 with 4:38 left when Wayne Gallman surged in from a yard out.
A 30-yard touchdown run by Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts made the score 31-28 with 2:07 left. Watson then led the winning 68-yard drive.
“I was calm,” Watson said.
Alabama had won 26 straight games, and was 4-0 in national championship games under Saban.
“We could have done a lot of things a lot better,” Saban said. “But I have to say that I was proud of the way our guys competed in the game, and just sorry for all of them that we didn’t finish it better.”
Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough scored the game’s first two touchdowns, on runs of 25 and 37 yards.
The Tide, with new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, had 376 total yards. The Tigers, however, gained 511 against the most ferocious defense in college football.
“Don’t call it an upset,” Swinney said. “We expected to win this game.”