Photo credit: @ClemsonFB
By: Eric He
The first drive ended in a pick-six, the first half ended with a stalled offense and the game ended in devastation.
For Alabama, it was a result that not even their harshest critics could’ve imagined. For Clemson, it was pure ecstasy: a 44-16 rout over the Crimson Tide at Levi’s Stadium on Monday to claim the national championship.
Clemson led 31-16 at halftime and never looked back, outscoring Alabama 13-0 in the second half to clinch the title. The Tigers end the season a perfect 15-0, the first team in the AP poll era to do so. It is the program’s second championship.
“We’re gonna enjoy this one. We’ve got a nice spot to put it in our facility, right next to that other one,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “We’ve got twins!”
In the process, they became the first team to defeat Alabama by more than 14 points since Nick Saban took over as coach in 2007. And in many ways, it was stunning. Trevor Lawrence carved up a premier Alabama defense to the tune of 347 yards for three touchdowns on 20-of-32 passing. His favorite target was Justyn Ross, who caught six passes for 153 passes and a touchdown.
From the start, the Tiger put their imprint on the game. Alabama quarterback Tua Taovailoa, who threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns but also had two interceptions, tossed his first pick on his third pass attempt. It went all the way back for a touchdown, with A.J. Terell returning it 44 yards for Clemson.
The Tigers scored touchdowns on three of their final five drives of the first half, and then shut down the Crimson Tide in the second half. Three times, Alabama went for it on fourth down — including a fake field goal attempt on its first drive of the second half. Three times, it was denied.
“We’re 15-0, we beat the best team ever, nobody’s taking that away from us,” defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said.
With another title win over Saban’s team, Clemson is no longer the little brother to Alabama. The two teams have faced off for four straight years in the College Football Playoff, and it is apparent: Clemson is every bit as equal, every bit as dominant and revered a program as Alabama.