SANTA CLARA, CA (WBRC) - Alabama matched Clemson after every score early, but then the Crimson Tide ran out of answers Monday night.
A back-and-forth affair turned lopsided in the second half as Clemson scored 30 unanswered points to win the CFP National Championship Game 44-16. The 28-point loss is the worst of Nick Saban’s 12-year tenure at Alabama.
Clemson was led by a pair of freshmen, quarterback Trevor Lawrence and wide receiver Justyn Ross. Lawrence threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns on 20 of 32 passing. Ross was unstoppable in the second half and finished with 153 yards on six receptions. Travis Etienne added two rushing touchdowns.
Alabama had little trouble moving the ball Monday, but finishing drives became an issue.
The Crimson Tide had 443 total yards, including 295 through the air from Tua Tagovailoa, but it was three turnovers on downs on consecutive second-half drives that made a comeback insurmountable.
Down 31-16 at the break, Alabama tried some trickery just outside the Clemson red zone when its second-half-opening drive failed. With the ball on the Clemson 22, Mac Jones needed 6 yards and rushed for -2 yards on a fake field goal attempt. Clemson responded with a 3-play, 70-yard touchdown drive.
The Crimson Tide’s ensuing drive included marching straight down the field again, traveling 59 yards in eight plays. On fourth and 4 on the Clemson 11, Tagovailoa rushed for 3 yards, coming just short of the marker. Clemson responded with a 12-play, 89-yard touchdown drive for the game’s final score.
With the game just entering the fourth quarter, it appeared Alabama still had a chance to possibly make a comeback.
The Crimson Tide’s ensuing drive took the ball inside the Clemson 5 on a 9-play, 66-yard drive. However, Alabama was stuffed at the goal line three times to turn it over on downs again.
Tagovailoa threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns on 22 of 34 passing. The quarterback also had two early interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. Jerry Jeudy was Tagovailoa’s favorite target, and the two connected five times for 139 yards and a score. Najee Harris and Damien Harris led all rushers with 59 and 57 yards, respectively.
The Clemson win is the Tigers second in three years against the Crimson Tide. Both Clemson wins came in the CFP title game, while Alabama’s two wins were in a championship game and last year’s semifinal.
Clemson finishing the season 15-0, while Alabama is 14-1.
Clemson 7, Alabama 0 - Interception by A.J. Terrell, returned 42 yards (13:20 left)
Clemson 7, Alabama 7 - Tagovailoa pass to Jeudy, 62 yards (12:05 left)
Clemson 14, Alabama 7 - Etienne run, 17 yards (10:35 left)
Clemson 14, Alabama 13 - Tagovailoa pass to Hentges, 1 yard (PAT no good) (6:23 left)
Alabama 16, Clemson 14 - Bulovas 25-yard field goal (14:18 left)
Clemson 21, Alabama 16 - Etienne run, 1 yard (11:38 left)
Clemson 28, Alabama 16 - Etienne run, 5 yards (4:38 left)
Clemson 31, Alabama 16 - Huegel 36-yard field goal (0:45 left)
Clemson 37, Alabama 16 - Lawrence pass to Ross, 74 yards (8:26 left)
Clemson 44, Alabama 16 - Lawrence pass to Higgins, 5 yards (0:21 left)