“Leave no doubt.” Time and again we’ve heard these words coming from Dabo Swinney. Long known for his colorful catchphrases and catchy slogans, many fans likely assumed this was just another one of those instances. After Monday night however, it turns out this particular one might have had a little more meaning behind it. That is exactly what this Clemson football team did on the biggest stage of all, and they did it against the premier program in all of college football, led by arguably the greatest coach in college football history.
Very few of the “experts” gave Clemson a shot in this game, with some even predicting an Alabama blowout. They got their blowout, but it was Bama who got blown out. Clemson did in fact, "leave no doubt," handing Nick Saban his worst loss during his Alabama tenure, 44-16.
Since the end of Bama’s comeback win over Georgia in last years national title game, there’s been one common theme. With Tua Tagovailoa taking the snaps, this Bama offense was now just as dominant as that Bama defense. That the mighty Saban now had the one thing he had not had, a dynamic QB that can sling the ball all over the field. This team was unbeatable, and possibly the greatest team yet in the Saban era. Maybe even the greatest of all time.
Look, I get it. I fell victim to it myself. Day after day, week after week, it was the same narrative. For some, when you hear something so much, you start to believe it, instead of taking the time to watch for yourself and form your own opinion. Admittedly, this also happened to me. Having spent a ton of time travelling to and from games, I did not get to see a whole lot of Bama. I let what others said affect how I viewed this Bama team. I saw a lot of the Miss St and Georgia games. I saw the Orange Bowl. Yet, I still picked Bama to win. and it led to me eating some of the best crow I have ever had.
So with that, now on to our weekly Paws up and Paws down:
My biggest concern was pass protection and keeping Quenin Williams from being a one man wrecking crew. I knew rushing yards would be hard to come by and they were. To win, we needed Trevor Lawrence to hit several chunk plays. My mind kept going back to the BC game and the struggles the OL had that night. There would not be many struggles in this one however. This OL saved its best performance for last. Falcinelli might have had his best game ever. Pollard came in a played great. Hyatt was Hyatt. Bama didn’t sack Trevor a single time. He had time and a clean pocket most of the night. This group played its rear ends off, kudos to them..... Paws Way Up
Going into this game it was all about Tua. Now that it is over, it is all about Trevor. He became only the second true freshman to lead his team to a national title, and he carved up that Bama D in doing so. He is the first QB in the past 40 years, of ANY AGE, to beat two top 5 opponents by more than 25 points in the same season. Lawrence threw for almost 350 yards and 3 TDs and had a QBR of 92.8, and now finds himself as the frontrunner for next year’s Heisman. He is also going to get even better, and that might be the scariest thing of all..... Paws Way Up
What a group of wideouts Clemson has. There is not another school in the country that can match the combination of talent and depth the Tigers have, and that talent was on full display in the two playoff games. Justyn Ross introduced himself to the nation with strong showings in both games. He looked like a man among boys. Tee Higgins made plays. We saw all the impressive catches, but just as impressive in my eyes is the effort this group of guys put into their blocking. Just watch Ross and Amari Rogers help spring Etienne for his first TD.
Losing Hunter Renfrow breaks my heart. I have followed him since he was an option QB at Socastee High. There isn’t a receiver in the country more clutch than him. Thank you Hunter, we will all miss you. It was such a treat to see Trevion Thompson make a clutch catch late, in his final game as a Tiger. Then you have guys like Diondre Overton and TJ Chase. Just so much depth. These guys left no doubt about who is #WRU..... Paws Way Up
What an effort. Sure, they gave up some yards between the 20’s, but they were stout when it counted most. They held the Tide to 4-13 on 3rd down and forced two INTs, one being returned for a TD. AJ Terrell and Trayvon Mullen were money. Mark Fields, who we were told wasn’t even available for this game, came in for a cramping Mullen and made two big plays. Nolan Turner played very well in coverage. The D-Line harassed Tua and never let him stay comfortable or find a rhythm. They executed a “bend but don’t break” gameplan almost to perfection. To every guy on that side of the ball, we salute you..... Paws Way Up
Brent Venables put together a masterpiece of a gameplan. The looks he gave Tua had him confused most of the night and Nick Saban and Co had no answer. Down 15, Bama got the ball back with 45 seconds left before the half and knowing it would get the ball after half. With timeouts to burn, Saban shockingly chose to just burn the clock instead of trying to get points. The fake FG early in the 3rd was a Kirby Smart level of craziness. There was over 9 minutes left in the 3rd, and Saban was in full blown panic mode. It was glorious.
Clemson’s offensive play calling was brilliant. Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott have grown into remarkable coaches. Robbie Caldwell needs to be mentioned as well. He had his guys well prepared and ready to go. He takes flak at times from fans for various reasons, but on this night he deserves some praise.
Then there is Dabo. The CEO that makes it all work. He always knows which buttons to push to get his guys motivated, and the national media provided plenty of material to work with. Him telling Scott Van Pelt after the game that they (the media) made his job easy was priceless. The stability he has maintained on his staff is nothing short of remarkable and a huge part of this run, and it is a run that doesn’t look to be slowing anytime soon..... Paws Way Up
Will Spiers had a good night. 44 yards a punt, and had one booming 51 yard punt. I loved the plan to fair catch the kickoffs. I have been hard on them when they weren’t so good, so I wanted to make sure I gave them some props when they were good..... Paws Up
I’m going to miss him most of all. The sight of him breaking down during the alma mater is one we won’t ever forget. Any ending that didn’t include a national title just wouldn’t have felt right. He is the epitome of what a student athlete should be. When the first touchdown of the 2019 season is scored and he isn’t seen sprinting to the end zone to celebrate, it won’t look right. Thank you #42. I look forward to seeing you in the Ring of Honor..... Paws Up, then Paws Down, as we take a bow in gratitude.