Clemson Kicks a National Title Away to Alabama

On January 11, the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide (No. 2) won over the Clemson Tigers (No. 1) in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship in Glendale, Arizona. Prior to the championship game, Alabama had a record of 13-1, and Clemson was undefeated with a record of 14-0. That undefeated record was broken when Alabama’s Crimson Tide took advantage of Clemson’s failed on-side kick attempt. Clemson kicked their chances of a National Title away to Alabama and led them to win the game with a score of 45-40 and the Championship National Title. The Tigers’ decision to attempt an on-side kick indefinitely set the mood for the rest of the night and was most likely a decision the whole team wishes they could have taken back.

Monday night football’s college championship game was a back-and-forth battle between the two teams. Clemson’s quarterback, DeShaun Watson, had a tremendous game where he threw for a total of 405 yards and also rushed for a total of 73 yards. With this leading to four touchdowns, Watson’s offense was one touchdown short from winning the game.

Alabama’s offense has had better performances, despite winning the game. Quarterback Jake Coker has played better games. He only threw for 335 yards and had two touchdowns. Derrick Henry, their running back and also this year’s Heisman Trophy recipient, rushed for 158 yards and had 36 carries that resulted in three touchdowns. The team overall has played better, but big plays won the game. Alabama scored a total of six touchdowns, but four of them consisted of 50 yards or more. They also had seven plays that were 25 yards or more from the scrimmage line, where the Tigers reciprocated with four big plays.

Between the two teams, though, there was not one other player that had a better night than Alabama’s tight end, O.J. Howard. While having an average regular season, Howard only had a total of 394 receiving yards for the first 14 games of the year. He also did not have any touchdowns at all. For the championship game alone, Howard had 208 receiving yards and from five receptions, had two touchdowns. His biggest play of the game though and one that may be the biggest play of his career was a 61-yard catch in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Even though this did not lead to a touchdown, it did lead Alabama deep into the Tigers’ territory.

The game-changing play of the night though was Clemson’s failed on-side kick and instead of recovering the ball, they kicked it right into the hands of Alabama’s defense. After this point, Clemson kicked their chances of a National Title away to Alabama. This then resulted in a touchdown for Alabama two plays later, which also then set the mood for the rest of the night. Going into the fourth quarter, the two teams were tied with a score of 24-24. With ten minutes left into the game, the Tigers attempted the on-side kick, hoping to keep the ball. However, Alabama recovering the ball was everything that Clemson hoped would not happen.

After this play, the Crimson Tide attacked offensively. Coker threw a 51-yard pass to O.J. Howard, who ran in for a touchdown. Adam Griffith then kicked the football in for Alabama’s extra point to put them in the lead with a score of 31-24. Although Clemson answered with a 31-yard field goal two minutes later, Alabama’s Kenyan Drake scored a 95-yard touchdown off of Clemson’s kick off return to put Alabama up 38-27, with seven minutes left in the game. With 4:40 on the time clock, Clemson’s Artavis Scott caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Watson. Alabama managed to stop the two-point conversion, and Clemson still trailed by a hopeful five points. The Tigers’ offense could not make a play, and their defense was no match against Alabama’s offense in the final minutes. With one minute left in the game, Derrick Henry scored a one-yard run that was followed by Griffith’s extra point to put the Tigers down 45-33. While Clemson’s Jordan Leggett managed to catch a 24-yard touchdown pass from Watson with 12 seconds left in the championship game, this final touchdown was too late for the Tigers.

Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban gave a small and quick smile at the moment that Clemson unintentionally kicked away a National Title to Alabama. This decision quickly gave Alabama the momentum to win another national title. Saban took over as head coach in 2007, and the Crimson Tide has had record-breaking and successful seasons. This year’s championship was Saban’s 5th national title, where four of them was with Alabama. After last night’s win, Alabama has won four national championships in seven years (2009, 2011, 2012 and 2015).

Commentary by Tricia Manalansan
Edited by Leigh Haugh

CBS Sports: Alabama reclaims college football’s crown, beating Clemson 45-40
USA Today: Alabama holds off Deshaun Watson, Clemson to win national championship
NCAA: Alabama football: Crimson Tide on verge of unprecedented run
Image Courtesy of Jason A G’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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