Championship Game = Instant Classic

January 11, 2016
Glendale, Arizona
FBS/CFP National Championship
#2 Alabama  45 ,   #1 Clemson  40
**  Clemson amassed 550 yards of offense; Alabama had 473.  Clemson had 31 first downs; Alabama managed only 18.
**  Alabama won.
**  Clemson’s dynamic dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns.  He ran for another 73 yards.  Two of Watson’s TD passes went to Hunter Renfrow in the first quarter; a 31-yarder tied the score and an 11-yarder put the underdog Tigers up 14-7.  Early momentum, Clemson.
**  Alabama won.
**  Since losing to Ole Miss in September, Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide had allowed only 10.6 points per game over its last 11 contests; Clemson scored nearly four times that many.  Tiger coach Dabo Swinney:  “We stand toe-to-toe with everybody in the country.  This program doesn’t take a back seat to anybody.”
**  Alabama won.
**  How did the Tide do it?  There were three keys:
.     1)  Three explosive plays from scrimmage, all of which were touchdowns.  Heisman winner Derrick Henry ran 50 yards for the game’s first score midway through the opening quarter.  Quarterback Jake Coker hit tight end O.J. Howard for a 53-yarder on ‘Bama’s first third-quarter possession, putting the Tide up 21-14.   With the game tied at 24-24 Coker went to Howard again, this time for 51 yards, as Alabama took the lead for good with 9:45 remaining.
.     2)  After Alabama had tied the score at 24  on Adam Griffith’s 33-yard field goal, Saban called for an onside kick.  Griffith executed the “pop kick” to perfection; Marlon Humphrey plucked it out of the air along the right sideline and stepped out of bounds.  The second Coker-to-Howard score followed two plays later.  Late momentum, Alabama.
.     3)  A Clemson field goal had cut the ‘Bama lead to 31-27 when Kenyan Drake fielded the ensuing kickoff at his 5 yard line.  He went 95 yards for a touchdown and the game’s first two-score lead,
38 – 27, with 7:31 left.
**  Henry carried 36 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns.  Coker went 16 for 25 for 335 yards and the two touchdowns to Howard, who wound up with 208 receiving yards.
**  Saban, explaining why he called for the onside kick:  “We were tired on defense and weren’t doing a good job of getting them stopped.  And I felt like if we didn’t do something or take a chance to change the momentum of the game, we wouldn’t have a chance to win.”
**  Alabama secured its fourth national championship in the past seven years, but this was the first time it was really challenged in a title game during the run.  Saban:  “It was tough.  It really was.”
**  The national title was the fifth for Saban; he won one at L.S.U.   Former Alabama coach Bear Bryant had the most with six.
**  With Watson returning in 2016, Clemson is a likely choice for the pre-season #1 ranking.  The eccentric Swinney and his orange-clad Tigers will be back after coming agonizingly close in this one.



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