By: Kyle Tooley ~Sports Editor~
After falling just short of a National Championship a season ago, the Clemson Tigers captured the 2017 College Playoff National Championship with a 35-31 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The game seemed to be Alabama’s to lose in the early going, with Nick Saban’s squad jumping out to an early 14-0 lead behind the running of sophomore tailback Bo Scarbrough.
Scarbrough left the game late in the third quarter, shifting the momentum to Clemson’s side.
The Tigers found themselves down by three with about six and a half minutes to play, but the Deshaun Watson-led Clemson offense had enough fight to take the lead not once, but twice, late in the contest.
Watson, the junior quarterback who is believed to be a high pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, led the Tigers down the field to grab a four-point advantage with just 4:38 remaining in the game.
Assisted by a few spectacular catches by junior wideout Mike Williams, the Tigers put Alabama in a position that it had not faced all season: a lategame deficit.
Jalen Hurts, Alabama’s quarterback who was looking to become the first true freshman quarterback to win a National Championship since 1985, marched the Crimson Tide into enemy territory before exploding for a 30-yard touchdown run that left Dabo Swinney’s Tigers down three with 2:07 to play.
The drive took all of two minutes and 31 seconds.
Needing just a field goal to push the game into overtime, Watson found Williams on a few more breathtaking connections, forcing an Alabama defense that boasts arguably the best front-seven in the history of college football to the brink of despair.
A costly defensive pass interference call with just six seconds on the clock set up a Clemson first and goal from the two-yard line that had all of America wondering what Coach Swinney would call.
Trusting his quarterback, a Heisman finalist two years in a row, Swinney called for a pass to the narrow side of the field, as Watson was able to connect with former walk-on Hunter Renfrow, whose two touchdown receptions in the National Championship outweighed his Division-I offers (zero) he received coming out of high school.
Alabama was searching for its fifth National Championship in the past eight seasons, as many were calling the 2016-17 Crimson Tide the best team in the history of college football.
This loss to Clemson was its only of the season.
Watson was named MVP after going 36/56 for 420 yards and three scores through the air in addition to 43 yards and a score on the ground.
The win gave the Tigers their first National Championship since 1981.