Monday, January 09, 2017

Clemson: 2016-17 NCAA Division I FBS National Champions

TAMPA, Fla. -- So many thought it would be different.

Alabama's defense was so much better and more suited to face Deshaun Watson, and Jalen Hurts didn't have enough to win a footrace with Clemson.

And for most of the game, all of that was coming to fruition.

Until the fourth quarter.

That, folks, is where championships are won and lost. And Monday night, that's where Clemson upended mighty Alabama with a 2-yard pass to Tide slayer himself Hunter Renfrow in the Tigers' 35-31 win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T.

With how badly Clemson wanted this and with how much Alabama just had to win it because of how historically good it looked before Monday night, it had to end this way. And a wild fourth quarter was the only way to do it.

You had Clemson outscoring mighty Alabama -- the fourth-quarter king -- 21-7 in the final frame thanks to back-to-back go-ahead drives of 88 and 68 yards. Renfrow, who gutted Alabama's defense last year, was the hero with his 10 catches for 92 yards and two scores, but Deshaun Watson, who cemented his Clemson legacy, was the engineer.

Rocked time after time, he stood up each time and delivered when it mattered most. Watson's fourth quarter was one for the ages, as he only needed six plays for what we all thought was his game-winning drive to put the Tigers up 28-24 with 4:38 left.

Of course, a Tide offense that had failed to convert 11 straight third downs going into the ensuing drive, charged down the field for a 68-yard touchdown drive that should have won the game. It should have won the game because when the Tide needed a pass, wide receiver ArDarius Stewart hit tight end O.J. Howard for a 24-yard strike. And when Alabama needed another throw, Jalen Hurts broke through the pocket and slipped by Clemson defenders for a beautiful 30-yard touchdown run.

But when the game needed to be won, it was Deshaun Watson who promoted the orange-and-purple confetti celebration that left a couple of Clemson players somersaulting and back flipping their way onto the field.

This one needed nine excruciating and heart-pounding plays, like that 24-yard dart to Mike Williams early or the 17-yard beaut to tight end Jordan Leggett that put the ball at the Alabama 9-yard line with the time just rushing off the clock.

Then, like so many times before, it was Watson to Renfrow, who slipped past a pick to come free and wide open in the front corner of the end zone. He then calmly flipped his historic catch to the ref as teammates mauled him.

A fantastic end to a fantastic game has given the college football world a new true king. Mighty Alabama was dethroned by having its superb defense vanquished against the very team it sought to "dominate" as cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick proudly stated earlier this week.

But on Monday night -- really, early Sunday morning -- it was Clemson who did the late dominating. It was Clemson that came out on top.

It was Clemson that Clemsoned its way to its first national title since 1981, and sent Alabama's 2016 team in the depths of the what-could-have-beens.