By this point, you’ve already seen the biggest plays from Monday night’s national championship game several times: The surprise “pop” kick. O.J. Howard’s wide-open touchdown catch-and-runs. Derrick Henry’s dagger.
So much happened in Alabama and Clemson’s 45-40 classic that certain big plays were doomed to obscurity.
We’re here to uncover some of those moments. Our short list of four “overlooked” plays will likely have you saying, “Oh, that’s right!”
- Jackson stops the bleeding (down 14-7, 11:58 remaining in second quarter)
After falling behind early, Clemson began to look unstoppable, as quarterback Deshaun Watson racked up 108 passing yards and two touchdowns on his first 11 throws.
Looking for his third straight touchdown drive, Watson was thwarted by Alabama safety Eddie Jackson, who baited him with shallow coverage before backpedaling and leaping to make a pivotal interception.
The effects: Alabama used a short field to tie the game, and Clemson’s offense disappeared into a 17-minute black hole.
- Refs blow it, ‘Bama blocks it (14-14, 0:09 remaining in second quarter)
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was beside himself at the end of the first half, and for good reason: The referees and clock operator robbed the Tigers of roughly five seconds and a timeout on their final second-quarter drive.
Forced to settle for a 44-yard field goal, the Tigers completely lost momentum when Alabama lineman D.J. Pettway got a few fingers on the football to leave it short.
- Harrison saves a touchdown (up 21-14, 10:15 remaining in third quarter)
Clemson’s offense began to heat up at the beginning of the second half, and the Tigers appeared to have a tying touchdown when Watson found Artavis Scott on a beautifully lofted pass to the corner of the end zone.
But Crimson Tide freshman Ronnie Harrison — not looking back for the ball — stuck his arm out to disrupt the catch, and then ripped the ball away from Scott as they crashed to the ground. Clemson settled for a field goal, and the four points left on the table proved to be costly.
- Coker heaves it up (down 24-21, 11:35 remaining in fourth quarter)
When Alabama quarterback Jake Coker feels pressure, he often releases the ball without using momentum from his legs. He did so on his first touchdown to a wide-open Howard, and then — facing 3rd-and-11 late in the game — found ArDarius Stewart on a miraculous heave.
After locating the ball, Stewart nimbly twisted away from the coverage, snagged the pigskin and made sure to get his foot down for a crucial 38-yard reception.