AFTER THE DUST HAS CLEARED : CFP : JANUARY 14
By Leo Haggerty
Time for me to give my five opinions on why Clemson was able to win the CFP National Championship game Monday night in Tampa by a score of 35-31. Also, I give you my five reasons why Alabama lost. By, the way, they are in no particular order. You make that decision.
WHY CLEMSON WON
Here’s my 5 reasons why Clemson won.
1-99. That’s the number of plays the Tigers ran on offense against the best defense in college football. When HC Dabo Swinney said, “We’re built for this” he was probably referring to being able to score late in games. Alabama’s defense just ran out of gas in the fourth quarter because they couldn’t get off the field especially the D-line. The pass rush for UA was non-existent in the fourth quarter allowing Clemson to erase a 10-point deficit. Thank goodness the game temperature wasn’t where it was the week before or the Crimson Tide D would have wilted earlier.
2-Stars shined. Simply put, Clemson needed their 5-star players on O to play like 5-star players and did they ever. Watson was 36-of-56 for 420 and 3 touchdowns as well as 21 rushes for 46 yards plus another TD. Oh, by the way, no interceptions. WRs Mike Williams, who had 8 grabs for 94 yards and a score, and Deon Cain, with 5 catches for 94 yards, jump-started the Tiger offense after a scoreless first quarter. TE Jordan Leggett, who contributed 7 receptions for a team-high 95 yards, made the catch of the game to keep the final drive alive and gave the Tigers a first-and-goal with less than a minute to go in regulation. RB Wayne Gallman toted the rock 18 times for 46 yards and that was just enough, along with Watson’s 21 rushes, to keep the Alabama defense honest.
3-Revenge. This may be the most important one. Clemson had to, for a full year, live with the fact that they came up 6 points short of a victory in the 2016 CFP National Championship game in Glendale. They had to live with the feeling of standing on the gridiron as the red and white confetti came down. They had to live with the sight of the Crimson Tide wearing the National Champions shirts and hats alon with hoisting the National Championship trophy. Now, CU had a chance to make up for that against the same Alabama team that beat them a year ago. The Tigers couldn’t have been more motivated and Hollywood couldn’t come up with a better script.
4-Who dat. In every win, there’s always a player that rises to the occasion and that was Clemson WR Hunter Renfro. A home-grown walk-on in 2014 from Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, lucky #13 had 10 snares for 92 yards and two touchdown with the last being the National Championship clincher with one tick left in the game. Maybe just as big was when he made a touchdown-saving tackle on Alabama LB Ryan Anderson that forced ‘Bama to settle for 3 instead of 7 points. Oh, by the way, the margin of victory was 4 points. Enough said on that.
5-Dabo factor. This cannot be overlooked and was a huge factor. The perpetually-positive HC of the Tigers is the perfect fit for Clemson. For a place that isn’t even big enough for a high school, the former “crawl-on” at Alabama, as he so aptly put it himself, is the epitome of the CU mystique. The Clemson Experience is truly a place where everybody knows your name especially if you’re running down the hill on Saturday. He has transformed Death Valley into a place where winning is not just hoped for but expected. He has the respect and admiration of his players yet he can still “act the fool” for laughs and giggles with his locker room dancing. When down 10 points going to the last 15 minutes, he showed no panic and his players fed off of that. They guys in Orange would run through a wall for Coach Swinney. In fact, they ran through a Crimson Wall Monday night to win the first National Championship for the Tigers in 35 years.
WHY ALABAMA LOST
1-No mas. Couldn’t get Clemson offense to give up. If you watched the contest, it was blatantly obvious that the game plan for the ‘Bama D was to make the Tigers key offensive personnel, QB Deshaun Watson and WR Mike Williams, want to tap out. Please, I am not insinuating that any dirty tactics were employed. I’ve played the game and coached the game long enough to know when defenses are told to hit a player, maybe a little late, until the referee throws the flag. These, in the profession, are called intimidation licks. I’ve given them and have directed players to dish them out. Alabama, try as they may to get #4, who took some thunderous hits from LB Reuben Foster in particular, and #7 to quit, they couldn’t.
2-No NOTs. The Crimson Tide has thrived on NOTs. That stands for Not Offensive Touchdowns and ‘Bama has taken that to a new level. In fact, Coach Swinney stated, point blank, “that we can’t let them score on defense or special teams” and, to their credit, the Tigers didn’t. Alabama, with a freshman QB and the Clemson D-Line starting to dominate in the trenches after halftime, needed to find other ways to get to the end zone. That they didn’t was a huge factor in the Tide coming out on the left side of the dash Monday night.
3-He’s a rookie. Please don’t even think that freshman QB Jalen Hurts choked. For crying out loud, the Crimson Tide put up 31 points on offense and #2 had the 30-yard run to put ‘Bama up 31-28 with 2:07 to go. Remember, folks, how I preached to you all year that Clemson scores 31 by mistake. Let’s be honest, Hurts played like a senior when he ran the football which was 10 carries for 63 yards and a score. When he threw it, though, he looked like a freshman in his first big-time football game. Hurts was a pedestrian 13-of-31 for 131 yards and a TD. The problem was 68 of those yards came on a Clemson busted coverage toss to TE O.J Howard. That means that the other 12 completions went for 63 yards. Don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure that’s just over 5 yards a catch. I said the kid would eventually play like a freshman. I was half-right. He threw like a freshman and, trust me, he won’t do that next year.
4-Bo’s bones. Bo Scarborough. Did the loss of the Crimson Tide’s battering-ram running back to a broken leg lead to the loss? That we will never know but, what we do know, is that it surely didn’t help. Up until the injury, Alabama had a sure-fire third-and-short option that Clemson couldn’t stop on a regular basis. Yes, ‘Bama has a stable of running back to step in but none are the type of bruining runaway freight train that the Tigers were not happy about having to tackle in Scarborough. Now, newly-appointed OC Steve Sarkisian has one less card to play in his Tampa hold-’em game with Clemson DC Brent Venebles and it was an ace.
5-Kif-less. Lane Kiffin. Let’s put this out there right now. Sarkisian called a great game. The pass to Howard was perfectly timed. Also, he was able to manage Hurts and give #2 plays that he was comfortable running. More importantly, he didn’t allow the freshman QB to make a big game-changing mistake. By the way, Alabama put up 31 points and turned a lead over to the best defense in college football with just over two minutes to play. Here’s where it could have been a problem. For 14 games, Hurts’ security blanket when he came off the field was no longer there on the sidelines for him to confide. Did that lead to loss? Again, maybe not but it didn’t help the ‘Bama cause.
Well, there you have it. Do you agree or disagree or do you have your own idea as to why the Tigers are the National Champions? Hit the comment section and tell me what you think.