Clemson and Alabama traveled to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA to decide this year’s college football national champion. Marking the 4th straight year that the two met in the college football playoff, this game had the makings of being the best game yet, with both teams coming in with balanced offenses capable of making big plays through the air or pounding a defense into submission with the running game, and two defenses among the best in the country.
Alabama won the toss and deferred to the 2nd half. Derion Kendrick took a fair catch and the Tigers started at the 25. Trevor Lawrence wanted to hit Travis Etienne with a flare pass, but Bama knocked it down at the line. On 2nd down, Etienne picked up 3 yards running wide. On 3rd and 7 Lawrence looked toward Hunter Renfrow but couldn’t connect. Will Spiers must have eaten his Wheaties because his punt went for an uncharacteristic 51 yards. Bama started their drive with an 8-yard pass to the TE in the flat and picked up a 1st down with another throw, Tua Tagovailoa then tried to hit WR Jerry Jeudy to the left but A.J. Terrell jumped in front and took it the house. Clemson was up 7-0 quick, just what they needed.
B.T. Potter kicked it through the end zone and the Tide started at the 25. Bama went to the run game with Damien Harris on their first two plays. Then Tua found Jerry Jeudy for a 62-yard throw where Tiger safety Tanner Muse got caught out of position. The game was tied 7-7, and 3 minutes had yet to tick off the clock. Kendrick took the fair catch again and the Tiger offense started at the 25. Lawence mis-fired on 1st down and Big John Simpson was called for tripping on 2nd down. It was 2nd & 22. Lawrence hit Trevion Thompson for 8 and on 3rd & 14, Lawrence then hit Tee Higgins streaking down the seam for 62 yards to the Tide 17. Etienne then took it in, displaying speed and power. Clemson was back up 14-7.
Bama started at the 25 after a touchback. Bama ran on 1st down and then on 2nd down hit the TE in the flat, but K’Von Wallace made a nice play to get the tackle behind the line of scrimmage. They then hit a couple of passes to move into Tiger territory. A pass to the TE moved them close to the red zone. On the next play, Clelin Ferrell got pressure on Tua and forced an incomplete pass. A couple of good runs got them to 1st & goal from the 9. Bama appeared to get a TD on a good effort by Tide RB Najee Harris, but he was half a yard short. On the next play the Tigers failed to cover the TE (sound familiar) as he snuck out into the flat to score. The extra point kick hit the right upright and fell short. Clemson led 14-13 with just over 6 minutes left in the 1st quarter. The Tigers started at the 25 after a touchback. Lawrence rolled right and tried to hit Renfrow on an out, but the Bama defender knocked it down. Etienne then got stuffed up the middle to bring up 3rd & 14. Renfrow got pushed out of bounds before Lawrence could hit him. Spiers’ more characteristic 38-yard punt put the Tide at their 48. Bama moved down the field running and passing. On 3rd & 3 from the Tiger 8. The Tigers made the stop and Bama went for it on 4th, and converted. It was 1st & goal from the 1. I couldn’t help but think that the absence of Big Dex was hurting the Tigers. Bama was called for a false start on 2nd down. As the 1st quarter ended, it was 3rd & goal from the 3. Bama tried to pull a shovel pass on the Tiger defense, but Austin Bryant saw it coming all the way and shut it down. Bama settled for a FG and led 16-13.
After the kickoff went out of bounds, Clemson started at the 35. Lawrence threw down the sideline to Higgins but the Bama defender committed pass interference. Tavien Feaster took a pass in the flat and picked up 26 yards. On 3rd & 5, Lawrence hit Higgins across the middle to take it down to the 5. Etienne powered his way down to the half yard line. On the next play he went right up the gut again and walked in to complete a great drive. Greg Heugel hit the PAT to give the Tigers a 21-16 lead. Potter put the kickoff in the end zone. The Tiger defense held on 3rd & 1 and Bama went for it again on 4th from their own 35. They converted it again. Bama was driving again by running the ball when Tua threw deep looking for Jeudy and Trayvon Mullen, disguising his coverage beautifully, picked it off. The return was great and the Tigers took over at the Bama 47. An Etienne run and a Renfrow catch set up 3rd & 2. Lawrence hit Renfrow in the flat for the 1st down. On 2nd down, Bama tipped a pass to Feaster in the flat but Feaster caught it and picked up 3. On 3rd & 7, Lawrence showed great patience moving up in the pocket to hit Amari Rodgers for 25 yards down to the 5. On 2nd & goal, the Tigers showed Bama how to run a shovel pass as Etienne took it and scored. Clemson was up 28-16 with a bit under 5 minutes left in the half.
Bama started at the 25 and stayed with the running game. On 3rd & 6, Mullen came on a corner blitz and blasted Tua and the ball came out but Bama recovered it. Rodgers fair caught the punt at the Tiger 21 with 2 minutes left. On 1st down Lawrence hit Thompson out to the 40. After a timeout, Lawrence hit Justyn Ross at the sideline and the Tide defender committed a late hit out of bounds. From the 33, Bama jumped offside and Lawrence almost hit Renfrow on the free play. Lawrence then threw a laser across the middle to Ross down to the 16. Bama’s defense then made a couple of plays and got the Tigers to 3rd & 12. The Tide blitzed and Lawrence couldn’t get it to Adam Choice in the flat. Heugel hit the 36-yard FG to go up 31-16 with 45 seconds left in the half. Bama tried a couple of plays, but the Tiger defense was playing tough and the Tide decided to just head to the locker room. Most of the pregame analysis I saw said that the Tigers needed to keep the Tide from jumping out to a big lead early like they did against Oklahoma. If that analysis was right, the Tigers were in a good place for the 2nd half.
The Tide started the 2nd half from the 25 and started by running the ball and hitting their TE. The Tigers got them to 3rd & 1 and forced another 4th down. The Tide went for it on 4th and about 3 inches and converted at the Tiger 38. The Tide continued to move down the field but the Tigers got them to 3rd & 6 at the Tiger 22. Mark Fields made a nice play against the Tide TE on a crossing route to force the Tide to attempt a FG. They ran a fake, though, and the Tigers saw it coming. No points for the Tide. The Tigers took over at their 24. An ineffective run by Lawrence and a short pass to Rodgers brought 3rd & 8. Bama brought pressure and Lawrence burned them with a back foot throw to Ross for 76 yards and a score. Clemson led 37-16 after Heugel hit the left upright and missed the kick.
The Tide brought the kickoff out to the 30 after Potter hit it short. Bama had a good run and a pass to move into Tiger territory. Tua made a nice play throwing on a scramble to move the Tide into the red zone. The Tigers forced 3rd & 4 at the 9 and Clemson held. On 4th down Tua evaded pressure and scrambled but couldn’t get to the 1st down marker. The Tigers took over and an Etienne run and a Diondre Overton catch moved the ball out to the 28. Etienne was stuffed on 1st down and Lawrence missed Ross on an out on 2nd down. On 3rd & 13, Ross made a beautiful catch down the sideline on a nicely thrown ball by Lawrence to move to the Tide 38. Ross caught a WR screen and appeared to fumble after a short gain, but review showed that he was down. Clemson had 3rd & 9, Ross made another huge one-handed catch on the sideline at the Tide 20. Etienne took a handoff and got wide to get down to the 10 for 1st and goal. Feaster took it down to the 5 on 1st down. Lawrence kept it up tried to go up the middle after faking a pitch to Feaster but didn’t get much. Lawrence hit Higgins on a crossing route in the end zone. It was getting ugly for Tide fans. Bama also committed a late hit penalty on the play. Heugel hit the PAT and the Tigers had a 44-16 lead with 21 seconds left in the 3rd quarter.
Bama started at the 25 after Potter kicked it to a Clemson fan 15 yards past the end zone. On 3rd down Tua scrambled and bought time to complete a deep pass to the Tiger 27. The Tide got to 2nd & goal but got stuffed twice to set up another 4th down but this time the Tigers led by Clelin Ferrell smothered Tua as he tried to run to the outside. Blood was in the water. Clemson took over and after two ineffective plays it was 3rd & 11. Lawrence hit Ross on the sideline but the defender knocked it loose. Clemson needed a good punt from Spiers and got it, putting the Tide at their 48.
Jalen Hurts came in at QB for Alabama. It didn’t make much difference as the Tiger defense feasted. Bama got a good punt off and it rolled down inside the 1. On 1st down, Etienne moved it out to 3. Lawrence took off on 2nd down and Etienne moved the chains on 3rd down. Etienne got loose on the outside and got down to the Tide 43. Feaster got 4 yards on 1st down and T.J. Chase picked up 1 on a screen. On 3rd & 6, Lawrence ran up the middle to get the 1st down. Another Lawrence run got the ball deep into the red zone. That was pretty much the end of it.
I honestly thought it was going to be a one-score game, but the Tigers crushed the Tide tonight. Enjoy it Clemson fans. This is truly a golden age for our Tigers. Check back with us over the next few days for reviews of this dominant performance by the Tigers and celebrate this championship in the comments section below. Thank you for letting us give you the best coverage of Tiger football to be had.