Written by Adrian Beecher
Glendale, AZ - Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide are once again Championship of the College Football world, now for the 4th time in the last 7 years, as the defeat the No. 1 ranked Clemson Tigers 45-40 at University of Phoenix Stadium to claim the 2016 College football Playoff National Championship. O.J Howard led the Tide in receiving with 208 yards receiving along with 2 TD’s and was named the Offensive MVP of the game.
Both teams were unable to get anything going on their opening drives, combining for just 52 total yards. Alabama broke open the scoring on their second drive, as running back Derrick Henry found a seam, turned on the boosters, and went 50 yards untouched into the end zone to make it 7-0 Crimson Tide with 7:55 left in the 1st.
Clemson responded with a scoring drive of their own to keep the game in contention. Tigers’ Deshaun Watson threw a beautiful pass to the back right of the end zone and it landed safely in the arms of his wide out, Hunter Renfrow, for the 31 yard score to tie up the game.
Alabama missed a 44-yard field goal wide right on their next possession, and the Tigers made them pay. Again Watson found Renfrow, this time on a11 yard TD pass to give Clemson their first lead of the game as time expired in the 1st quarter.
The Tide drew even again quickly in the 2nd quarter after a Deshaun Watson interception on the Tigers’ own 42-yard line. It was again Henry finding his way to the end zone, this time on a 1 yard dive into the inside lane to make it 14 all with 9:35 left to play in the half.
After the quick scores, both defenses stifled and the scoring runs wouldn’t continue as the 1st half concluded. The only shot at points came from Clemson with 9 seconds left in the half as the Tiger lined up for a 44 yard field goal. But the kick missed short, sending us to the half with a tied National Title game for just the 2nd time in the last 16 years.
Bama’s Henry had 128 yards rushing at the half to go along with his two rushing touchdowns to lead the Tide.
All the Tigers first half offense came from the arm and legs of quarterback Deshaun Watson. He tallied 45 rushing yards and 162 passing yards.
Clemson started the 2nd half with a 3 & out on offense, the Tide got to work. On the third play of Alabama’s first possession of the new half, Coker connected with tight end O.J. Howard for a 53-yard touchdown pass to give the Tide a 21-14 lead at 2:17 into the 3rd quarter.
Clemson took their next possession down the field, but they were unable to punch it into the end zone and had to settle for a field goal. Their defense forced Alabama into a 3 & out on their next possession and then Clemson got back to work.
Watson led the Tigers on a 9-play, 60-yard drive to bring Clemson ahead. Wayne Gallman capped off the drive with a 1-yard rushing touchdown. The lead change made it 24-21 Tigers with 4:42 left to play in the 3rd quarter.
Alabama soon tied the game up at 24 in the 4th quarter as Adam Griffith connected on a 33-yard field goal with 10:34 left in regulation. Then ‘Bama head coach Nick Saban made the decision that turned the momentum in their favor.
On the ensuing kickoff the Tide attempted an onside kick and recovered the ball. Then two plays later, Coker once again found O.J. Howard, this time for a 51 yard TD pass to put Alabama up 31-24 with 9:45 left to play as Howard dashed along the sideline.
“I have all the confidence in the world in Marlon,” Saban said in the post-game press conference. “I think these guys see what happens in practice. But the way we line up on kickoffs with squeeze formation and try to corner kick the ball, when a team squeezes the formation like that, we call it pop kick. I thought we had it in the game any time we wanted to do it. I made the decision to do it because the score was 21-21 and we were tired on defense and weren't doing a great 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 that we wouldn't have a chance to win.
“Getting that onside kick, I think, did change the momentum of the game. We scored on the big play two plays later, and then we had a kickoff return for a touchdown, too, which was huge. So special teams was really big for us in this game.”
Clemson fought to get inside the Alabama red zone on the following possession, but they would once again have to settle for a field goal as Huegel connected from 31 yards out. Then the Tigers special teams had a complete melt down.
After a Tiger kickoff, ‘Bama’s Kenyan Drake received the ball at the 5-yard line and found a seam to take it 95 yards to the house, giving Alabama a 38-27 lead with 7:31 left in regulation. It looked as if the game possible had gotten away from Clemson, but there was no quit in the Tigers.
Watson led his Tigers on a methodical 8-play 75-yard drive in 2 minutes and 51 seconds to draw the Tigers back within 5 as he connected with Artavis Scott on a 15 yard TD pass to make it 38-33 with 4:40 left in the game. An unsuccessful two-point conversion left six additional points on the board and a 5-point deficit that remained through the end of regular play.
“Going into this game, I was expecting to win,” said Watson. “I thought we should have won. But like Coach Swinney said, there was a few plays that we didn't really capitalize on, and I missed some throws, we dropped some balls, and just had some missed miscues. Just some little things like that is going to really force yourself in a hole, and it's hard to beat a team like Alabama if you make those mistakes.”
All Clemson needed to do was come up with a defensive stop, get Watson the ball back, and they would have a chance to win the game. Even if they could hold ‘Bama to a field goal and leave a minute on the clock they would have had a chance to tie.
But the Clemson defense was unable to keep Derrick Henry out of the end zone after 3 goal line rushes. Henry got the ball across the plain and gave Alabama a 45-33 lead with 1:02 left in regulation.
Again Watson answered, this time with a 6-play, 68-yard drive that only took 50 seconds off the clock, as he connected with Leggett for a 24-yard TD pass. This offensive blitz made it 45-40 with 12 seconds left on the clock.
If Clemson could get the onside, then maybe, just maybe they could pull off the improbable. But Alabama was able to easily field the onside kick attempt and seal their 4th National Title win in the last 7 years.
[final Clemson close]
What a year. I'm incredibly proud of our team. Obviously we wanted to win the game and we came up a little short, but I think that at least the nation saw tonight why we've been so successful. They saw the heart of our team. This is a team that just has incredible will to win and heart, and I think they gave us everything that they had. They competed. We out- gained them. I thought we physically matched up great with these guys. Really proud of that.
[final Alabama close]
“This team, I really wanted to do the best that I could do for this team, probably as much as any team that I've ever coached, because I really did want them to have the opportunity to win this game. You've got to give Clemson's team a lot of credit. They've got a great football team. Their quarterback is a fabulous player. Their team played hard,” Saban said on his fifth national championship.
“I would like to congratulate them on the great season that they had.”
Written by Joe Klawe
Paradise Valley, AZ- The 2016 National Championship concluded game week press conferences with Alabama’s Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and their remarks before Monday’s matchup.
Coach and player interviews from media day leaned toward a well-fought game with season experience on their side, that same essence continued into Sundays presser.
“I think we’re in as good as a shape as you can be,” Swinney told reporters at the presser. “I think the schedule has set up well for us. We finished the season playing ten in a row, and the last stretch of that was a challenge because this is obviously a physical game, and it’s mentally taxing, and the balance of school and all those things, you know, mount up.”
Defensive end Shaq Lawson will make an appearance in Monday’s game, according to Swinney. Lawson sustained a knee injury in the Orange Bowl semi-final in Miami against Oklahoma. Doubts were cast on whether Lawson would be in a condition to play but both the defensive end and the head coach suggested a successful recovery.
“Yeah. Yeah, we expect [Lawson] to play,” Swinney said at a head coaches conference. “Hopefully he’ll be able to perform and play to the level that we all know he can, but you know, if not, I don’t think Coach Saban is going to cancel the game over there. We’re going to have to keep playing, so we’ll put the next guy in there […] but we expect him to play, and he looked good yesterday.”
Alabama head coach Nick Saban noted the result in having new recruits and seasoned players focused on their position and their performance in the future. High graduation rates became an academic standpoint for Alabama, who holds one of the nation’s highest graduation rates, with 29 players who have degrees playing on the field. Attributions to the team’s success point to those rates and commitment both on and off the field for players.
A distraction that Swinney introduced and Saban echoed at the close of the conference were the NFL draft deadlines and commitment status given to players. The head coaches made a point that NFL prospects and teams that continue in the post-season face deadlines and receive updates on their draft status, causing the attention of those involved to split between college post-season and NFL Draft status.
“Yeah, I pretty much know what everybody is going to do already. It’s one of the things that I don’t like the timing of all of the stuff, but it is what it is, so no sense in acting like it’s not there. They’re focused on the game. All these guys understand that they have a tremendous opportunity, and they’ve done a nice job of focusing on getting themselves ready.”
Saban added to Dabo’s response.
“Could I comment about that? Because I’m going to call Dabo after the game, and last year after our game against Ohio State, I tried to develop a little energy from college coaches who had players that are in this situation that you just asked him about, and the NFL moved the draft back. I wish they’d make a rule that says you can’t even give a player what his draft status is from the NFL playoff committee until they’ve finished their competition as a college player, so that you don’t put them and their family in this situation where there’s a big timing issue relative to competition.”
Monday will see the Tigers and Crimson Tide go head
Written by Adrian Beecher
Paradise Valley, AZ - The game of football is about passion, heart, the will to exceed expectations and the ability to work together as a team. For the Clemson Tigers and head coach Dabo Swinney, it goes deeper than that. For them God is the way to success and without that faith, football wouldn’t even matter.
“Everyday in team meetings he (Coach Dabo) gives us a bible verse or something just to keep us going. Whenever we’re down, he brings us up with faith, all the time.” Said Tigers outside linebacker Jalen Williams of his head coach.
Williams says Swinney’s faith in God is one of the things that got him to go to Clemson. And this is a common theme with many of the players on the Clemson roster.
Freshman safety Tanner Muse acknowledges that Coach Swinney’s faith is what brought him to the university.
“I think it brings a lot of guys in, I know it brought me in and a lot closer to him. Just being able to know that I will have that relationship with the Lord, and him being able to connect. I think that it’s wonderful that he expresses that and just being able to connect with him on that level is really nice.”
Being able to connect with players from a football perspective is one thing, but connecting on a personal level became important, as one’s faith is shared with another. It’s the ability to influence his players in these ways off the field that coach Dabo hold’s near to his heart.
“That's just what I tell my staff all the time. If they leave our program and all they know is how to sack a quarterback, cover a wideout or run a ball or throw a ball or catch a ball, then we lose, and we've failed at our job.” Said Dabo during the final press conference ahead of the National Championship game.
Discipline and integrity instilled in players are true testaments to Dabo’s coaching ability. It has been a key asset that has helped him lead his Clemson Tigers to their first National Championship appearance since 1981. But its about more than a title game – it’s about ensuring that the people that come through the Clemson program leave with more than just wins and losses.
“I always tell these guys, you know, I don’t always like them, but I always love them, kind of like my kids. I care more about – I’m going to meet them all when they’re 35, Lord willing, and I care more about that meeting when they are 35 than I do how they feel right now, because that to me is the true test of a coach, is when you meet that guy at 30and 35, does he turn and go the other way, or does he come and hug your neck.”
“When he really knows what life is about and he's got the family and he's had a lot of adversity and he's been out there in the real world and really understands, does he have an appreciation for the things that you tried to teach him in that small span, but such a critical time in all these young peoples' lives. Four or five years is such a moment, it really is a moment, but it's so critical, and I just take a lot of pride in that.”
Any person can coach a football team, but to lead young men on the path of integrity, passion and faith, is a true skill. The words of his player’s are a true testament to the connection that and care that Dabo has for his team.
Monday night will be just a moment in these young men’s lives. But when they look back on this moment in 10 to 15 years, they will know that they made the right choice going to Clemson to be a part of the Tiger Family. The hug’s for Dabo will come in bunches, not for the National Title run, but for the care, passion and true love that he has for his players.
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