TAMPA, Fla. — Clemson got the best of Alabama this time in an instant 35-31 classic Monday night at Raymond James Stadium.
Deshaun Watson hit Hunter Renfrow from the 2-yard line with 1 second left in the game to give Dabo Swinney his first national title — against his alma mater and 5-time national title winner Nick Saban.
Watson completed 36-of-56 passes for 420 yards and 3 TDs in the upset win. For the second consecutive season, Watson threw for 400-plus yards against Alabama in the championship game.
Clemson takes the lead with one second left pic.twitter.com/xYvIBxT5Em
— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) January 10, 2017
For the second straight game, Alabama rode Bo Scarbrough on the ground. Scarbrough carried Alabama’s offense to the championship game with 180 yards and 2 touchdowns against Washington.
On Monday, Scarbrough rushed for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns on 16 carries. But he left the game in the third quarter with an apparent leg injury. With Scarbrough sidelined, Alabama’s offense struggled to sustain drives in the fourth quarter.
Barring any transfers, all of Alabama’s running backs should be back next season. Add in 5-star recruit Najee Harris and the Crimson Tide may have the most loaded backfield in the country next season.
Ryan Anderson comes up big
What a way for Ryan Anderson to end his Alabama career. Anderson forced a fumble, and recovered two fumbles for the Crimson Tide’s defense.
He finished the day with 7 tackles in his final game in a crimson uniform. Anderson has been one of Alabama’s most underrated players this year, but he played the best football of his career in the playoffs.
Anderson returned an interception for a touchdown against Washington to help Alabama advance to the championship game.
Anderson’s two fumble recoveries pushed his career total to six, tying him for second on the Alabama career list.
Deshaun Watson hit Mike Williams time and again in the second half, but few were bigger than his 24-yard grab to the Alabama 39 with 1:56 left after the Crimson Tide had regained the lead.
Mike Williams Draft Stock ↗️ pic.twitter.com/8CnR4wWkwC
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) January 10, 2017
The completion put the Tigers into Alabama territory and almost in field goal range. Another completion to Jordan Leggett put Clemson on the Crimson Tide’s 9-yard line.
On the next play, Williams was drew a pass interference call in the end zone on first-and-goal at the 9. On the next play — first-and-goal from the 2 — Watson found Hunter Renfrow for the game-winning score with 1 second left.
Williams finished the game with 8 receptions for 94 yards and a TD and Renfrow caught 10 passes for 92 yards and 2 touchdowns.
What’s next for Alabama football?
Alabama was denied winning the College Football Playoff title for a second consecutive season.
The Crimson Tide were looking for their fifth championship in the past eight seasons under Saban.
Nick Saban still is recruiting at an elite level. Alabama will bring back a ton on offense, including quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Alabama loses a good bit defensively, but there are plenty of 4- and 5-stars waiting for their opportunity.
It wouldn’t be a shock at all if Alabama was back in the playoff next season.