CFP National Championship


Charlotte Observor

Deshaun Watson, left, pictured with his coach Dabo Swinney, right, after winning the National Championship against Alabama.

By Jack Woodard, Staff Writer

Since August 26, fans have been watching the 2016-2017 college football season and it all ended on Monday with what was one of the most exciting National Championship games ever.  Undefeated Alabama looked to cap their perfect season with a win against the one loss Clemson Tigers.  This game was a rematch of last year’s National Championship, where Alabama beat Clemson 45-40.  Alabama came into this game the favorite, but Clemson is used to these big games, which made for a very entertaining game.

The game started off with Alabama going three-and out and then Clemson had a tough decision to make.  With the ball at the Alabama 41, Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney decided to go for it on 4th and 1.  The Crimson Tide held tough and got a stop.  On Alabama’s next drive, running back Bo Scarbrough took a 25 yard run to the house and put Alabama up 7-0.  The score would remain the same for the rest of the 1st quarter.

With 10:44 to go in the second, Bo Scarbrough took a handoff to the sideline and picked up two great blocks and he was running free.  Scarbrough evaded a defender and tiptoed the sideline to cap his 37 yard run and he put Alabama up 14-0.

With 7:26 left in the second Clemson needed a score to keep them in the game.  They had the ball at their own 17 when quarterback Deshaun Watson threw a screen pass to Deon Cain and he did the rest himself.  Cain ran up the field, cutting back and juking out defenders and was finally forced out of bounds at the Alabama 37.  Five plays later Clemson faked a sweep, and Deshaun Watson kept it himself.  He ran through a huge hole and went down to the 5 yard line before an Alabama defender dove at his heels.  Watson would not be stopped, though.  After the defender dove, Watson stumbled down the sideline and completed his 8 yard run into the endzone.  Both defenses held tough after that and Alabama took a 14-7 lead into the half.

On the opening drive of the 3rd quarter, Clemson running back Wayne Gallman took the handoff and Ryan Anderson hit him, forcing a fumble.  Anderson scooped it up and was finally taken down at Clemson’s 16 yard line.  With great starting field position Alabama could not punch it into the endzone and instead settled for a field goal, taking a 17-7 lead.

Clemson needed an answer and they got one.  With 7:18 to go in the 3rd, Clemson faced a 3rd and 6 on the Alabama 24.  Deshaun Watson dropped back to pass and fired over the middle finding the little guy, Hunter Renfrow.  Renfrow squeezed through 2 defenders and ran into the endzone.  Clemson cut the lead to 17-14.  This would not be Renfrow’s only big touchdown of the day.  

Alabama answered, however.  On 2nd and 10 from their own 32, Jalen Hurts threw the ball to a wide open O.J. Howard at Clemson’s 40 and Howard ran the rest of the way for the touchdown, no defenders even coming near him.  Clemson was facing deja vu of last year’s National Championship game, when O.J. Howard torched their secondary.  Alabama took a 24-14 lead into the 4th quarter. However, Clemson was driving back.

In the first minute of the 4th quarter, Deshaun Watson threw a 4 yard fade to Mike Williams cutting the lead to 24-21.  This would be the start of a very exciting 4th quarter.  

Both defenses held tough after that until Clemson put together a good drive bringing them all the way down to the Alabama 1.  Mike Williams and Deshaun Watson both contributed to this big drive.  Williams had a great catch putting Clemson in Alabama territory and Watson had a good run bringing Clemson down to the 1.  Then, Wayne Gallman leaped into the endzone to give Clemson its first lead of the game, 28-24 with 4:38 left in the game.

Alabama needed a response and they got one.  Jalen Hurts made a great play on 3rd and 16 on his own 26.  Hurts got pressured and he scrambled to his right out of the pocket with defenders chasing him.  Hurts heaved one up and ArDarius Stewart made an outstanding catch, but it was one yard short of the 1st down marker.   It would be 4th and 1 and Nick Saban knew he had to go for it.  If Alabama did not convert here, Clemson would be one step closer to winning.  Hurts lined up in a singleback formation with Scarbrough behind him.  He took the shotgun snap and gave it to Scarbrough.  He found a hole in the left side of the line and picked up about 5.  Then, on the next play Jalen Hurts threw a backwards screen pass to ArDarius Stewart who threw it down the field to O.J. Howard, the man who the Clemson defense just could not find an answer to, who was tackled at the Clemson 30.  The play after that, Jalen Hurts did a play action fake and could not find anyone open.  He avoided a sack and stepped up in the pocket to run.  He picked up the 1st down and then turned on his speed and took it to the endzone with 2:07 left.  Alabama led 31-28.

“Right after that touchdown, I really thought we had the game won.  We have won of the best defenses in college football and I thought they would come up big, but Deshaun Watson was just outstanding and we couldn’t get a stop at the 2 yardline,” said freshman Alabama fan, Brian Reicher.

The next drive would most likely decide the football game and it would all come down to who could step up in the big moment, Clemson’s experienced offense or Alabama’s outstanding defense.  On 2nd and 5 from the Clemson 37, Deshaun Watson threw a beautiful pass to Mike Williams who jumped up and reached over the defender to grab it at the Alabama 37.  Time was ticking down as Clemson looked like they were just going to kick the field goal and send it to overtime.  19 seconds remained when Deshaun Watson threw it to Jordan Leggett who made a diving catch at the Alabama 8.  Clemson took a timeout and then an Alabama penalty put them at the 2 yardline.  6 seconds to go.  This would be the last play for the Clemson offense and Alabama would need a stop to bring out Clemson’s field goal team.  If Clemson scored a touchdown the game would be over, if Alabama made a stop time might expire or Clemson would need to take a timeout, hit the field goal, and the game would go to overtime.  Deshaun Watson took the snap and rolled to his right and Hunter Renfrow was running towards the pylon.  Watson read this and threw the pass right to Renfrow’s stomach, he grabbed it and took a huge hit from Tony Brown and Renfrow flew backwards, but held onto the ball.  The man criticized for being too small had made one of the biggest catches in Clemson football history and his teammates swarmed him.  The PAT gave Clemson a 35-31 lead with 1 second remaining.  

Alabama would need one of the biggest miracles in college football history to win now.  Clemson lined up for the kickoff and kicked a short, 10 yard kick on the ground, not wanting a big return.  The Tigers dove on top of it sealing the win.  Deshaun watson came onto the field with 1 second left and took a knee and the Clemson Tigers became the National Champions!  The team ran onto the field celebrating what was one of the best finishes in college football history, 35-31.  The coaches shook hands and Clemson partied on the field as they got their trophy.  The Defensive MVP award went to linebacker, Ben Boulware, who finished with 6 tackles, one of them being an absolute annihilation of Damien Harris for a loss of 6 yards.  Deshaun Watson was named the offensive MVP of the game, finishing with running stats of 21 rushes, 43 yards, and one touchdown.  For passing he was 36-56 with 420 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.  It was no doubt a great end to Deshaun Watson’s and every Clemson senior’s career as well as a great ending for Clemson players, coaches, and fans, knocking off the team that beat them last year with an outstanding finish.