Clemson Falls in National Title Game

Clemson's run for a second national title and a 15-0 season falls just short.

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On January 11, sports fans across the country turned their attention to Glendale, Arizona for college football’s biggest game of the year, the College Football Playoff National Championship. The game featured the local Clemson Tigers against a true college football dynasty, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Both teams came into the game with serious momentum, each beating their respective opponents in the College Football Playoff Semifinals by at least twenty points. Despite having a perfect 14-0 record coming into the championship game, the Tigers were seven point underdogs to the Tide. However, many analysts and fans believed that the game would be much closer and more competitive, some of them even predicting a Clemson win. The stage was set for an epic matchup in the National Championship.

After much fanfare and anticipation, kickoff finally came at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona. Following a somewhat stagnant start by both offenses, Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry broke away for a 50 yard touchdown to give Alabama a 7-0 lead. However, star Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson responded with two touchdown passes to walk-on freshman wideout Hunter Renfrow. Henry scored one more time in the second quarter to give the game a tied 14-14 score going into halftime.

On Alabama’s first drive of the second half, quarterback Jake Coker let loose a 53-yard touchdown pass to tight end O.J. Howard for Howard’s first touchdown reception of the season. However after a Greg Huegel field goal and a Wayne Gallman touchdown run, the Tigers had a 24-21 lead at the end of the third quarter. Clemson had won over 50 games in a row when leading at the start of the fourth quarter and looked poised to win their first National Championship in 34 years. However, after a field goal, Alabama shocked everyone by attempting a gutsy onside kick which proved to be successful. The Tide then scored on another long touchdown reception from O.J. Howard, gaining tons of momentum. After a Clemson field goal, Alabama answered back when Kenyan Drake scored on a 95-yard kickoff return. This would prove fatal for the Tigers. Despite a fierce comeback attempt, scoring two touchdowns in the last five minutes, Clemson was unable to overcome Alabama’s serious momentum gain in the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide claimed their fourth National Championship under Head Coach Nick Saban and their fourth championship in the past seven years.

Despite the tough loss, many Clemson fans remained optimistic, grateful for a chance to play in the National Championship for the first time in over thirty years. CCES junior and avid Clemson fan Nathan Akerhielm, who was in Arizona for the game, said, “It was truly an amazing experience and I know I will remember it for the rest of my life.” Nathan was also very impressed with the large number of Tiger fans in attendance, saying that “it was really cool to see how much this [Clemson] team meant to all the fans.” Regardless of the result, fans of both teams will remember this game for years to come due to its competitive and exciting play. It truly was an instant classic.