NCAA National Championship Recap – Clemson vs Alabama

2017 NCAA National Championship

Clemson Tigers vs Alabama Crimson Tide Recap

In a back and forth battle of college football’s best teams, Deshaun Watson and his No. 2 Clemson Tigers threw the final knockout punch. Watson found Hunter Renfrow for the game-winning, 2-yard touchdown with one second to play on Monday night as Clemson beat the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31 to win the 2017 NCAA National Championship in Tampa, Florida.

Watson threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another score. Clemson (14-1) took its first lead of the game at 28-24 on Wayne Gallman’s 1-yard run with 4:38 to play in the game. But no sooner had Watson and Gallman rallied Clemson back from a two-touchdown first-half deficit than Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts answered. Hurts weaved through Clemson defenders to score on a 30-yard keeper that gave the Crimson Tide (14-1) a 31-28 lead with 2:07 to play. Then, it was Watson’s turn again. Watson told ESPN after the game that he told his teammates before the final drive not to panic, and “let’s go finish it.”

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says there should have been a foul called on the Tigers’ game-winning touchdown against Alabama, and it should have been called on the Crimson Tide. A year after Watson and his Tigers came up short in a 45-40 championship loss to Alabama, they did finish it. Watson made clutch throws to Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett during the Tigers’ final drive, and then with six seconds left, he threw to the right side of the end zone and found Renfrow. Clemson entered the fourth quarter trailing 24-14 but scored three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes for the victory. The Tigers’ only other national title came in 1981.

Alabama, which was denied its fifth national title in eight years, controlled the game early with Bo Scarbrough scoring touchdowns on runs of 25 and 37 yards. But he left the game with an apparent leg injury late in the third quarter, and the Crimson Tide could have used his powerful running in the fourth. Watson scored on a keeper midway through the second quarter to cut Alabama’s 14-0 lead in half. A Clemson fumble on the Tigers’ opening possession of the second half, however, led to a Crimson Tide field goal to make it 17-7.

Midway through the third quarter, Watson found Renfrow over the middle for a 24-yard scoring pass to pull the Tigers to within 17-14. O.J. Howard, one of the Alabama heroes in last year’s championship game, burned the Tigers again late in the third quarter on a 68-yard TD catch that put Alabama back up by 10 at 24-14. Clemson answered with a scoring pass from Watson to Williams early in the fourth quarter that cut the Tide’s lead to 24-21. Then Gallman’s run gave Clemson its first lead of the game and set the stage for a wild final few minutes.

Final: Clemson 35, Alabama 31

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