Let me start off by saying, WHAT A GAME! It doesn’t matter if your team won or if you were just watching for the love of the game, this game was exciting to say the least. It was a classic in every sense of the word. Clemson and Alabama gave us a national championship to remember. These two teams traded punch for punch and did a great job of exposing each other’s weaknesses.
Deshaun Watson took advantage of a large Alabama defense by using his legs wisely and extending plays. Watson did everything he could possibly do to help his team win its first national championship in 34 years. The Clemson quarterback threw for 405 yards, four touchdowns and one pick on 30 of 47 passing. Watson also racked up 73 yards rushing. Clemson got the ball into the second and third levels of the Crimson Tide defense and exploited some weaknesses all night. As everybody predicted, Clemson’s first two touchdowns came from walk-on freshman, Hunter Renfrow’s, first two catches of the game. Renfrow, to say the least, held his own all night against a very talented Alabama DB, Minkah Fitzpatrick. As for the Clemson defense, they did a good job of putting constant pressure on Jake Coker. Kevin Dobb played a tremendous game with three sacks and was around the quarterback all night. The Tigers essentially made Derrick Henry a non-factor in the second half. Henry would get just 30 yards and one touchdown in the entire second half. However, that one touchdown would be the game-sealing touchdown run from one yard out.
Alabama got Heisman winner, Derrick Henry, going early with two early touchdowns. Henry became the first player to run for over 100 first-half yards in a title game since 2008. Henry finished the first half with 128 yards on 20 carries with one of those carries being a 50-yard touchdown run for the first score of the game. Jake Coker had a rough second and third quarter due to the pressure the Clemson defensive line was forcing. Coker looked rattled and seemed to have happy feet in the pocket. However, he calmed down and came through big in the fourth quarter. He had a big time completion to O.J. Howard to move the ball into Clemson’s territory late in the fourth quarter. He then converted a crucial third and short with his own legs, which would eventually help set up the touchdown that would essentially decide the game. Coker would end up with 335 yards and two touchdowns on 16 of 25 passing. The key for Coker, as it is for every Alabama quarterback for the past decade, he didn’t turn the ball over. Not turning the ball over always gives a Nick Saban team a very good chance of winning. Even with all of the good offensive performances from Alabama, they won this game with their special teams.
As many times as Alabama has been on the wrong side of big plays from the special teams, they were finally on the right side tonight. It started with an onside kick, which was executed perfectly by the Alabama’s kickoff team. This was a huge shift in momentum and the only thing to make it even bigger was a 51-yard touchdown pass to O.J. Howard 45 seconds later. Clemson would answer with a field goal to go down four and then would let up a kick return for a touchdown to Kenyan Drake with 7:31 left in the fourth quarter.
The kick return gave Alabama an 11-point lead late in the game and even more momentum. Clemson would not go away though. Clemson scored with 4:40 left in the game on a drive that consisted of a huge catch and run by Wayne Gallman. But as Alabama does best, they would drive the ball, take up time, and finish you. Derrick Henry scored the essential game-winning touchdown with 1:07 left to play. Clemson drove the ball quickly to score with 12 seconds left to go down five and would not recover the onside kick.
Player Of The Game
O.J. Howard, who had not caught a touchdown pass since 2013, was the spark in the passing game that the Crimson Tide needed. Howard caught five balls for 208 yards and two touchdowns.