Clemson win was one for the ages

By Steve Sell
January 10, 2017

The final second of the college football season decided the best team in all the land.

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, who probably should have been the Heisman Trophy winner instead of Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow in the game’s 59th minute and 59th second on Monday to give the Tigers a 35-31 victory over Alabama, avenging last year’s 45-40 championship-game loss to the Crimson Tide.

That TD capped a tremendous comeback by Clemson, which looked overwhelmed early as Alabama came out fast and physical, looking very much like the team that going into the game many said could be considered among the Top 5 of all time. The Tigers scored 21 points in the final period as they torched the Tide for 511 yards on the night.

Maybe college football should just go ahead and book the teams for next year since they make for such compelling games. Just when you thought there was no way they could top last year’s epic, they produced a virtuoso that will be filed under “instant classic.”

I really thought when Alabama scored with 2:07 left in the game to take a 31-28 lead, it was over. Even though the Tigers needed only a field goal to tie, they steamed up the field and Watson orchestrated the offense like a maestro. He didn’t want to leave the onus on his kicker for a tie, instead going for the win. Had the pass to Renfrow not been completed, Clemson would more than likely have tied the game with a chip-shot field goal and nobody knows what would have happened in overtime.

Alabama normally plays the role of the big bully, but Clemson took its best shot and stared the Tide down. Amazingly, the Tigers ran 100 plays for its 511 yards, while Alabama snapped it 65 times for 376. If you look strictly at the numbers, Clemson should have won by a wide margin.

It had to be a shock to Alabama coach Nick Saban to see his historic defense so manhandled. Time and again it delivered wicked blows to Watson, but he kept getting up and dusting himself off as he displayed his courage.

Alabama actually had to rely on the big play to score, including a 68-yard TD pass and three 24-yard-plus scoring runs. Clemson had a decisive edge in time of possession (34:44 to 25:16) and that led to the Tide defense becoming fatigued.

The only negative of such a tremendous game is that it might have lost about a third of its audience before it was over. Even though it started approximately 7:15 CST and there weren’t the usual exhaustive commercial breaks, the game still lasted more than 4 hours and I imagine a lot of sets on the East Coast were being clicked off as the game ended nearly at 12:30 this morning there.

College football needs to eliminate the stoppage of the clock when a first down is made. The game produced 165 plays, which leads to more injuries. It seems like the camera constantly was panning to the concussion protocol tent as it was a savage game.

In the end, college football got what it wanted — the two best teams playing a game for the ages. Sure made up for those wasted bowl games of teams with .500 records or worse.