TAMPA, FLA. (ClemsonTigers.com) — Deshaun Watson’s touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second left sealed one of the greatest National Championship battles in history, with Clemson winning its second crown ever after a 35-31 defeat of No. 1 Alabama. It was the first win in program history over the nation’s top-ranked team.
“The difference in the game was the love we had for each other,” said head coach Dabo Swinney. “This was a blessing, and it’s surreal. Eight years ago, Terry Don Phillips gave me a chance to lead this program. We set out to put Clemson back on top. We came up short last year, but tonight the Clemson flag is flying at the top of that mountain.
Watson was responsible for four touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter as Clemson rallied from an early 14-0 deficit. It was Clemson’s first win ever in a bowl when trailing by 14 or more points. Watson, named Most Valuable Player, threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns while adding a score on the ground. Renfrow caught two of the touchdowns, giving him a second straight National Championship game with multiple receiving scores. The former walk-on finished with a game-high 10 catches for 92 yards. Jordan Leggett and Mike Williams added 95 and 94 receiving yards, respectively.
Clemson’s brilliant fourth quarter included 21 points, while the Tigers amassed 511 yards — the second straight year Watson and the Tigers posted at least 500 against the mighty Crimson Tide defense.
The Tigers trailed after the opening quarter for the first time all season. Alabama took a 7-0 lead when Bo Scarbrough raced 25 yards around the left side following an early gamble on fourth-and-1 by the Tigers. The Tide extended its great start to a 14-0 lead when the bruising sophomore back added a second rushing score in the second quarter.
But Clemson answered with a rushing touchdown of its own, courtesy of Watson. The quarterback found Deon Cain for a 43-yard gain to help put Clemson past midfield, then after a key third-down completion to Jordan Leggett, Watson put the Tigers on the board with an eight-yard run.
The Tigers closed to within three at 17-14 after Hunter Renfrow weaved inside after a short reception and collected a 24-yard touchdown pass from Watson. But Alabama answered with its own star from the 2016 National Championship, tight end O.J. Howard. He was wide open after three Tiger defenders covered the flat, leaving him all alone for a 68-yard scoring pass from Jalen Hurts.
The fourth quarter featured a great show by Watson, who was 12-18 for 130 yards in the final 15 minutes. First, he found Williams for an easy score. Then, after running back Wayne Gallman dashed in from a yard out with 4:38 to play, Watson had to be heroic again. Alabama scored with 2:07 on a 30-yard Hurts run, setting the stage for Watson. The key play of the drive was a long pass over the middle to Williams, who made a pair of spectacular catches in the fourth quarter. Then, on second-and-10 inside Alabama territory, Leggett snatched a laser from Watson to put Clemson at first-and-goal. Renfrow scored with a second to play, and Clemson recovered an ensuing onside kick to finish the game.
Clemson won its second national championship this evening in football, its fifth in all sports. It is Clemson’s first football national title since the 1981 season and first in any sport since June 2003 when the Clemson men’s golf program won the NCAA Championship.
Clemson defeated a No. 1 ranked Alabama team this evening, the first win over the No. 1 team in football in Clemson history. On New Year’s Eve, Clemson defeated No. 2 ranked Ohio State, the first time Clemson defeated the #2 ranked team in football. Clemson was a combined 0-9 against the top two ranked teams heading into the playoffs, then beat each within nine days.
Clemson defeated Alabama on January 9, 2017, the program’s first win over No. 1 in football. On January 9, 1980, Clemson defeated Duke for its first win over the nation’s top ranked team in men’s basketball.
Clemson is the first school to win the national championship the year after losing in the national championship game the previous year since Florida State in 1999. The Seminoles lost to Tennessee in the BCS Championship in 1998 before defeating Virginia Tech in the 1999 BCS title game.
With tonight’s victory, Dabo Swinney has now won six bowl games over coaches who already had a national championship on their resume over the last five years. He is the only coach in college football history to do it.
Clemson finishes the season with a 14-1 record and National Championship against the nation’s top schedule according to the NCAA statistical service. The Tigers beat 11 teams that finished with a winning record, including five teams that won at least 10 games.
Clemson’s 14 wins tied the FBS record for wins in a season. Alabama also finishes with 14 wins. It is the second straight year both teams won 14 games. Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama are the only programs to win 14 games in a season more than once.
Clemson is now 28-2 over the last two years and 31-2 over its last 33 games.
Clemson finishes the season with a record eight wins away from home this year. The previous record was seven set last year.
Clemson defeated Auburn, Florida State, Ohio State and Alabama this year, the programs that had won each of the last seven national championships prior to this year.
Clemson finishes the year with three wins over SEC teams for the first time. The Tigers downed Auburn, South Carolina and Alabama.
Clemson’s senior class finishes with a record of 49-7, the most wins by a class and the best winning percentage in school history.
Tonight was Clemson’s first win over Alabama since 1905. The Tigers had lost 13 straight games to the Crimson Tide.
In the College Football Playoff era the champion has finished with a 14-1 record and all three of the programs had their only loss at home. Clemson’s only loss this year was by a 43-42 score at home to Pittsburgh.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney joins Bud Wilkinson as the only person to play on and serve as head coach of a team that won the Associated Press National Championship. Wilkinson played on the 1936 Minnesota team that was the first AP National Champion, and was head coach of Oklahoma teams of 1951, 1955 and 1956 that won titles. Swinney played on the 1992 Alabama team that won the AP national title.
Dabo Swinney is the first coach to beat his alma mater in a postseason game to win the National Championship. At 47 he is the youngest coach to win the National championship since Urban Meyer was 44 when he won the title with Florida in 2008.
With the win, Dabo Swinney is now 89-28 as Clemson head coach. That is a .761 winning percentage and it moves Swinney ahead of Danny Ford into third place on the all-time winning percentage list in ACC coaching history. Swinney moved ahead of Ford with a win in the National Championship game over Alabama, the alma mater of both Swinney and Ford. Swinney also joins Ford as the only Clemson coaches to win the National Championship. He also moved ahead of Ford on the day the former Clemson coach was named as a member of the 2017 National Football Foundation Hall of Fame Class.
This was Dabo Swinney’s 20th win over a team ranked in the top 25 (entering the game) of at least one of the polls. He has now tied Danny Ford for the record for ranked wins in a career. Ironically he tied Ford on the day the former Clemson coach was named to the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame class.
Over his last 17 games, Dabo Swinney and the Tigers have beaten #4 Oklahoma, #3 Louisville, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 1 Alabama (rankings by AP).
Clemson had 511 yards of total offense, the 19th time in the last 26 games. The Tigers are 92-2-1 all time when posting 500 yards of total offense.
Clemson was outscored in the first quarter, a first in the 2016 season. The Tigers had outscored the opposition by a cumulative score of 176-27 prior to tonight.
The Tigers trailed at halftime for the first time in 2016, as Alabama took a 14-7 lead into the locker room.
Clemson overcame a 14-point deficit to win, its largest deficit overcome in a bowl game in history.
Deshaun Watson has a record of 32-3 as Clemson’s starting quarterback. He is the school’s all-time leader on a percentage basis and tied Tajh Boyd (32-8, 2010-13) and Rodney Williams (32-10-2, 1985-88) for the most wins by a starting signal caller. Boyd and Williams were both on the sidelines Monday.
Watson was named Most Valuable Player, the third game in four College Football Playoff contests in which he received MVP honors. Watson finished with 420 passing yards and four total touchdowns.
Watson broke the Clemson single-season record that he set last season for touchdown responsibility. His four touchdowns accounted for gave him 50 for the year.
Watson threw three touchdown passes, passing Jameis Winston of Florida State for an ACC record 41 over the course of the season.
In two National Championship games against Alabama, Watson compiled 941 yards of total offense and accounted for eight touchdowns.
Watson had his second career punt, a 38-yarder that was placed inside the five-yard line in the third quarter of play.
Hunter Renfrow caught two touchdown passes, giving him four in the last two National Championship games against Alabama. He has five in his career in the College Football Playoff.
Mike Williams caught his 11th touchdown of the season in the fourth quarter. His 11 scores rank in a tie for fourth-best in a season in Clemson history. It gave him 21 for his career, passing Aaron Kelly for third in Clemson’s record books.
Ben Boulware was named defensive Most Valuable Player, his second such honor in the College Football Playoff (2015 Orange Bowl vs. Oklahoma). Boulware had two tackles for loss.
Christian Wilkins set the Clemson record for pass breakups by a defensive lineman in a season with two deflections, giving him 10 for the season. Gaines Adams previously held the record with nine in 2005.
Tanner Muse blocked the first punt of his career in the opening quarter, Clemson’s second of the season.
Cordrea Tankersley played the 55th game of his career. Only Chad Diehl (57) played more in a Clemson uniform.
Five members of the 2016 Clemson national championship team are sons of members of the 1981 Clemson national championship team. Those current players are twins J.D. Davis and Judah Davis (Jeff Davis), Jarvis Magwood (Frank Magwood), Cannon Smith (Bill Smith) and Kanyan Tuttle (Perry Tuttle).