by Andrew Pasquini – Sports 1140 KHTK
The Clemson Tigers became the first team in modern college football history to finish a season 15-0, defeating Alabama 44-16 and have won the College Football Playoff National Championship for the second time in three years.
The championship is the third in Clemson’s football history and second College Football Playoff National Championship. Head coach Dabo Swinney joins Alabama head coach Nick Saban as the only active head coach with multiple titles.
Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence was named the offensive player of the game, completing 20-of-32 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns and became the second true freshman quarterback to win the national championship since 1985. Treyvon Mullen was named the defensive player of the game. Mullen had an interception, a sack, and six tackles.
The explosive play is what won the game for Clemson as the Tigers got off to an auspicious start when defensive back A.J. Terrell intercepted Tua Tagovailoa on Tagovailoa’s third pass of the game and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead just two minutes into the game. Tagovailoa responded quickly, leading Alabama on a three-play, 75-yard drive that finished with a 62-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy, tying the game at seven. This would be the closest the Crimson Tide would be to having a lead the whole night.
Lawrence took over from that point, starting the drive off with a 62-yard completion of his own to Tee Higgins. Travis Etienne finished the drive off with a 17-yard touchdown run. Tagovailoa would throw his second, and last, touchdown pass of the night to Hale Hentges but Joseph Bulovas missed the point after attempt, and Alabama trailed 14-13 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter is where Clemson started pulling away, outscoring the Crimson Tide 17-3. Clemson had three drives in the second quarter and were able to score on all three. The first drive was a six-play, 65-yard drive where Lawrence completed just two passes for 40 yards and Etienne finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown, his second of the game and 24th rushing touchdown of the season.
Clemson’s second drive of the quarter was helped by Tagovailoa’s second interception of the game, this time intercepted by Mullen and returned 44 yards to set up a eight-play, 47 yard drive finished off by a 5-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence to Etienne. Clemson would add a field goal and head into the half with a 31-16 lead.
If the second quarter is where Clemson started pulling away, the third quarter is where Clemson finished off Alabama, outscoring Alabama 13-0. The final blow was the longest scoring play of the game from the Tigers when Lawrence hit Justyn Ross for a 74-yard touchdown pass to give the Tigers a 37-16 lead. Lawrence found Higgins for a 5-yard touchdown pass to push the score to 44-16.