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Clemson vs. Alabama National Championship 4th Quarter Film Review

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I never thought I would see a Clemson title in my lifetime. I’ve now seen two.

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T - Alabama v Clemson Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Many college football fans will never experience a national championship in their lifetime (looking at you, UofSC fans), but for the folks in Clemson, they’re currently experiencing their second in three years.

The Tigers dominated the Alabama Crimson Tide 44-16 in last Monday’s title game, clinching Clemson’s third national title in program history, moving the Tigers into a tie with Florida, FSU, and LSU on the all-time list. Clemson firmly established its grip as one of the top programs in the sport today, and have now pulled even with Alabama at the top of the mountain.

If you told me five years ago that this sort of thing would happen for the Tigers, I would have laughed in your face. It’s been a truly special run for Clemson since 2011, but with the introduction of the College Football Playoff era, the program has taken a giant step forward into a national powerhouse, winning two of the five championships held during this era.

After the Tigers stopped Alabama on fourth-and-goal early in the fourth quarter, I knew it was party time as me and my friends sat there and soaked it all in. We were bawling after Deshaun Watson hit Hunter Renfrow in ‘16, but on this night, we knew we were the better team and would be celebrating at the end of the night. It just goes to show how far little ol’ Clemson has come over the past decade.

Here’s some fourth quarter film. Enjoy it Tiger fans. Moments like these don’t come around often.

44-16 Clemson, 15:00, Clemson 27

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 Shotgun Trips vs. Nickel PA Slant vs. Cover 1 Man Zone Under, pass incomplete Mark Fields with a great pass breakup on the play. Tua had trips to his right but seemed to feel like his receiver could win the one-on-one against Fields. He was wrong.
2nd & 10 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Post vs. Cover 2 Man, gain of 19 This is a coverage breakdown for Clemson. Simmons and Terrell both initially bite on Smith underneath, and Waddle slips out into the post route with ease. Long throw by Tua but he gets it there. Can't have a mixup in coverage there.
1st & Goal Shotgun vs. Nickel HB Out vs. Cover 1 Man LB Fire, gain of 7 Smith wanted a one-on-one matchup with Terrell, so Tua motions Waddle over to the strong side, but Terrell jams Smith at the LOS and Tua checks down to the back D. Harris, who tiptoes down to the 1. The Smith/Terrell lockup causes XT's late timing on Harris, which may have actually been a disguised pick play.
2nd & Goal I-Formation vs. Goal-line HB Dive vs. All-Go, no gain Kendall Joseph makes the play stopping D. Harris in the gap. I'll give some credit to the Bama offensive lineman that Harris runs into initially, but without Joseph filling the gap, this is a touchdown. Big play by the senior.
3rd & Goal Power vs. Goal-line HB Power vs. All-Go, loss of 1 Haven't had much to say about Christian Wilkins in fourth quarter reviews but here he is absolutely dominating his blocker and tripping up Harris for the stop. Great penetration by the Clemson defensive line. Are they going to stop Bama on the goal line?
4th & Goal Shotgun vs. Goal-line QB Draw vs. Cover 1 Man, loss of 6 Outside of the fake field goal, this may be the dumbest play Alabama has ever called. Running Tua against that Clemson defense? Oof. Nolan Turner comes through the line untouched and forces Tua to widen his angle on the edge, and then a bold strategy to leave Ferrell unblocked on the end. Tua had no chance. Tigers takeover and pretty much seal the deal.

44-16 Clemson, 12:17, Clemson 9

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 Shotgun vs. Nickel Inside zone vs. Cover 1 Man DB blitz, loss of 1 Choice gets stuffed on this run. Anchrum just gets beat by the DE and with the help of the corner blitz, Bama is able to stop Choice. They were solid against the run all night.
2nd & 11 Shotgun vs. 4-3 WR Go vs. Cover 1 Man Zone Under LB fire, pass incomplete Kendrick runs right past his man and is wide open but TLaw just overthrows him. Dabo's reaction says it all: So close, but love the opportunity.
3rd & 11 Shotgun Trips vs. Dime Fade route vs. Cover 2 Man, pass incomplete TLaw tries throwing the back shoulder fade to Ross (because why not?) but the DB in coverage makes a great play breaking the pass up. Tigers punt.

44-16 Clemson, 11:12, Alabama 48

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 Shotgun vs. Nickel HB Out vs. Cover 3 Zone Under, pass incomplete Jalen Hurts steps in at QB now for Bama and Clemson decides to sit in Cover 3 with a 4-under zone, daring Hurts to throw the ball on his first play in. He does, and the back just drops the pass. Smart play call from Venables.
2nd & 10 Shotgun Trips vs. Dime Dropback vs. Cover 3 Zone Under, Hurts sacked for loss of 4 Clemson dares Hurts to pass it again, this time dropping eight into coverage with three over-the-top and 5-under. Venables just rushes three defensive lineman and Wilkins sheds the double team to get to Hurts. XT and Justin Foster arrive as well. I mean, c'mon, it's not fair.
3rd & 14 Shotgun Trips vs. Dime Post vs. Cover 1 Zone Under, pass incomplete Venables brings Simmons along with the three defensive lineman and it completely confuses Hurts and his offensive line. XT makes the RG completely whiff his block and nearly makes the sack, but Hurts is just mobile enough to get away and get a pass off that falls incomplete. That's the last time that the offense steps onto the field this season. Bama punts.

*turns on mic*

“ANNNNNNND NOW, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE PRESENT TO YOU, THE LONGEST DRIVE IN CLEMSON FOOTBALL HISTORY!”

(hint: it ends with a trophy celebration)

44-16 Clemson, 10:02, Clemson 1

Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
Down & Distance Formation Play Analysis
1st & 10 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Inside zone vs. Cover 1 Man LB fire, Etienne gains 2 Etienne does a good enough job to gain any yards after Bama brought the SAM linebacker along with the strong safety. Bama still going to bring pressure even though this game is a wrap.
2nd & 8 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Read option vs. Cover 1 Man LB fire, Lawrence keeps and gains 7 Great decision by TLaw to keep the option and get near the first down. His slides need some improvement; he still can't slide cleanly because he's 6'6, but as long as he gets down, I don't care too much.
3rd & 1 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Inside zone vs. Cover 1 Man, Etienne gains 7 The offensive line opened up a great hole for Etienne and he burst through for the first down. Keep the clock running and keep possession of the ball.
1st & 10 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Inside zone vs. Cover 2 Man LB fire, Etienne gains 1 Bama brings seven in the box and stuffs Etienne at the LOS. He tries to bounce outside but does so a tad bit too late. Point for the Bama defense (moral victory!)
2nd & 9 Shotgun vs. Nickel Zone read vs. Cover 2 Man Zone Under, Etienne gains 38 Excellent job by the offensive line sealing off the edge for Etienne to bounce outside and hit the open field. The LBs are still communicating when the ball is snapped and therefore all Etienne needs is Mitch Hyatt to seal the edge and he's free to run. He must be gassed at this point because this is normally a touchdown for him.
1st & 10 Shotgun vs. Nickel Inside zone vs. Cover 1 Man Zone Under DB blitz, Feaster gains 4 The most interesting thing about this play is the video segment on Dabo's playing days at Bama. Boy did he love high fives. Oh yeah, about the play: Tough run for Feaster. He didn't get a breakthrough in the game, but he still had some productive runs. I hope he's back again next year.
2nd & 6 Shotgun vs. Nickel Bubble screen vs. Cover 1 Man WILL blitz, pass complete for no gain Quick ball from TLaw to TJ Chase but he doesn't get much help on the perimeter from Kendrick. Nothing doing here.
3rd & 6 Shotgun Trips vs. Nickel QB draw vs. Cover 2 Man, TLaw gains 9 What a dang run from Trevor to pick up the first down. He carries a few defenders for 5 yards. The first DB to touch him really has no shot at taking him down by himself. Powerful runner.
1st & 10 Shotgun vs. Nickel HB blast vs. Cover 1 Man Zone Under, Choice gains 2 Simple blast play with Feaster as the lead blocker. Keep the clock running.
2nd & 8 Shotgun vs. Nickel Jet sweep QB draw vs. Cover 2 Man, TLaw gains 12 Another powerful run by TLaw where he shows some speed before running over poor Mitch Hyatt, who had a great downfield block. The offensive line gets a MUCH deserved curtain call afterwards. By far their best performance of the season. So impressive.
1st & 10 Shotgun vs. Nickel HB blast vs. Cover 1 Man, Choice gains 4 Dabo called TO before the play to get the offense its ovation and put the backups in. This was when it finally hit for me. Even choked up a bit watching it again. Historic performance from a bunch of freshmen and sophomores.
2nd & 6 Shotgun vs. Nickel HB blast vs. Cover 1 Man DB blitz, Choice gains 2 BRICE TIME. He gives to Choice who rumbles forward for a couple yards. At this point my heart is full as Christian Wilkins ugly cries on the sideline. Life is good.
3rd & 4 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Read option vs. Man Zone under, Brice keeps for loss of 1 Love that Brice is a runner, but he probably should've given to Feaster. He doesn't fumble and keeps the clock moving so it's a win in my books. Almost party time.
4th & 5 Shotgun vs. 4-3 Inside zone vs. Man Zone Under, Choice gains 7 No better way to end the night than letting the senior Adam Choice get one more carry to pickup the first down. Want to talk about a guy sticking it out? Choice splits time with Wayne Gallman as a freshman in '14 before tearing his ACL. Redshirts in '15 and comes back to split time with Gallman in '16. In '17 he splits time with Etienne, Feaster, and the late CJ Fuller, and then comes back this year as the third string and had quality PT. He deserves a lot more recognition than his gets. Helluva guy and player.
1st & Goal Victory Formation vs. Losing Formation Celebrating with teammates vs. Walking off the field, Clemson wins by 28 One final play (hehe) and Clemson reigns supreme again. Tigers win their second national title in three years. Yes, I did get emotional again while watching the film. No, I will not apologize for anything bad I said about Bama. Roll Tigers.

A week later and it still feels unreal. This was a beatdown — yes, Bama gained yards but they were going to do that regardless. What was more impressive and signaling of a beatdown was the two picks Tua threw and the fact the Tide didn’t score for the final 44 minutes of the game (coincidence? I think not). Dabo and his staff had a good game plan but executed it way better. I’m confident the only people in the world who thought the game would turn out like this were the men in the Clemson locker room.

The power is shifting in the sport. Who is going to challenge Clemson now? Can Alabama get back to this stage and pull back ahead of the Tigers? Is there anyone with a pulse in the ACC besides Clemson? Syracuse appears to be the up-and-coming program in the conference but even with their mighty upset and close loss on the road, they don’t seem in a prime position to dethrone the ACC’s king. Jimbo Fisher has something brewing in College Station but will the Aggies compete in Death Valley come September?

There are a lot of questions right now for sure, but there is one thing that is certain now: Clemson is here to stay regardless of who likes it or not. As long as Dabo is in charge, this place will continue to pump out championships and create stars out of seemingly thin air (i.e. Hunter Renfrow, Kendall Joseph, Trayvon Mullen, etc.). The Tigers are the top dawgs now, and even though Alabama will still be there, you have to feel we have a new Death Star in college football.

Enjoy this run, Tiger Nation. It’s special. Just a couple raggedy ol’ Tigers hanging around with the big boys.

Signing off now. We’ll do this again next year.