By Paul Gable
South Carolinians are savoring their beloved Clemson University football team today as the Tigers won their second national championship in school history last night.
And what irony. On the same day that Clemson’s first national championship football coach, Danny Ford, was announced as a Class of 2017 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, the Tigers won again.
The 35-31 victory over Alabama will be talked about for many years to come. In a much overused sports metaphor, we will call it the ‘Game of the Century’.
It wasn’t easy. Most sports pundits thought Alabama was unbeatable. For three quarters, Alabama lived up to its advance billings. The Crimson Tide took an early 14-0 lead and was ahead 24-14 going into the final quarter.
But, football games have four quarters and Clemson owned the final quarter. The Tigers outscored the Crimson Tide 21-7 in the final stanza.
Deshaun Watson, the best player in Clemson history, was held in check for most of the first half, but finished with passing stats of 36 of 56 for 420 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also scored Clemson’s first touchdown on an eight yard run.
The Tigers made it exciting in the fourth quarter as they first mounted a comeback on Watson’s right arm to take a 28-24 lead, then, lost that lead to an improbable touchdown run by Alabama freshman quarterback.
With just over two minutes remaining, Watson had plenty of time to make one final drive and with six seconds left in the game, Watson threw a two yard touchdown pass to a wide open Hunter Renfrow in the flat for the game winning score.
Horry County’s own HunterRenfrow, a former Socastee High School wishbone quarterback and a walk-on last year, finished the game with 10 receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught two touchdown passes last year in the title game against Alabama.
Two other receivers, Mike Williams with eight catches for 94 yards and one touchdown and Jordan Leggett with seven catches for 95 yards played big roles in the Clemson offense.
The win snapped a 26 game Alabama winning streak and a 97 game streak, under head coach Nick Saban, in which the Crimson Tide won when leading by 10 or more points going into the fourth quarter.
Head coach Dabo Swinney, who now matches Ford’s feat, had the Tigers ready to play a full game. Clemson got stronger in the fourth quarter while Alabama ran out of gas.
You will see questions and opinions about whether Alabama lost this game or Clemson won it. Have no doubt, Clemson raised its level of play in the fourth quarter, Watson and his receivers got in the zone and the Tigers scored a well deserved, win in this game.
Congratulations to the Clemson Tigers for a well deserved victory.