Clemson needed a big performance to unseat defending champion Alabama. The Tigers got lots of them from start to finish.
From freshman Justyn Ross and Trevor Lawrence on crime to an experienced defensive front and turnover -hungry secondary, Clemson piled up big play after big play to overwhelm typically unflappable Alabama 44-16 on Monday night for its second national title in three seasons.
It had been more than everything I expected it to be, said Ross, the 6 foot-4 receivers that had six catches for 153 yards.
Ross dazzled the audience with different acrobatic receptions. His 74 yard grab and run put Clemson ahead 28-16 in the second quarter, while his one is armed catch in the 3rd quarter kept Alabama from getting the ball back and regaining momentum.
It had been unbelievable, he explained. I am still shocked about everything
So is defending champion Alabama, which figured to have more than enough playmakers to up with the Tigers. Instead, it was Clemson that captured every chance.
Cornerback A.J. Terrell made it rolling with 44 yards select six on Tua Tagovailoa’s third pass of the game and Clemson’s defence closed down hopes of a Crimson Tide rally with three improbable stops on downs in the second half.
That set the tone, Clemson All American defensive end Clelin Ferrell said of Terrell’s TD. There is no Plan B. There was no sitting back waiting as a shield. We’re simply going to attempt to attack. That is all.
It had been an unexpected Bama beat down by the Tigers, who showed poetry, power on the offensive line and pace in defence, to manhandle Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide.
We came in with the state of mind that we were going to play on the balls of our legs and we’re going to strike. And we did. We assaulted all night, coach dabo swinney said.
The two teams exchanged big plays early, something of a surprise with the two stout guards on the field. Lawrence hit Tee Higgins with a 62 yard pass on 3rd and-14 deep in Tiger territory and Travis Etienne followed with a 17 yard TD run.
Tagovailoa’s second interception in the very first half, this one by Trayvon Mullen, directed to another Clemson score along with a 28-16 lead.
From the second half, Ross and the defence took over.
Ross, an Alabama native who spurned his home country college for Clemson, made several outstanding and timely grabs. He broke loose for 74 yards TD catch and run, which puts the Tigers ahead 37-16. On a 3rd and-12, Ross grabbed the ball with only his right hand for 37 yards a Tide deflating down.
Lawrence said he knew that the Tigers were in control when Justyn made that crazy grab down there, I said obtained this. It is over.
Alabama was going nowhere against Clemson when it mattered most. Reserve protective tackle Nyles Pinckney stuffed Alabama holder Mac Jones on a fake field goal try that ended far short of its objective.
Linebacker Tre Lamar and safety Tanner Muse stopped Tagovailoa a yard short on fourth-and-3 on Clemson’s 14. And with Alabama hoping for any sort of momentum swing, Ferrell stopped Tagovailoa for a 7-yard loss on fourth down near the goal line.
By then, the Crimson Tide had little left to give.
“Anytime you’ve got a team like (Alabama), you’ve got to knock them out,” Ferrell said. “That was our mindset.”
Lawrence, a freshman, was supposed to be rattled by Alabama’s fearsome defensive front. Instead, he threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns, looking as calm and cool has he has since winning the job in late September. He was named the hostile player of the game.