TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A lot has been said about Clemson having motivation for the national championship game, but Alabama football has plenty to prove on Monday night as well.
The Crimson Tide and the Tigers are set to meet in the College Football Playoff national championship game in Tampa on Monday. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Clemson amassed 40 points and 550 yards of offense in the title game last season. Alabama won 45-40, but Clemson’s numbers didn’t sit well with Minkah Fitzpatrick.
“I’m real excited to get another chance ’cause I didn’t play real well against them,” Fitzpatrick said Wednesday. “The whole defense really didn’t play that well, and I said earlier they didn’t see the real ‘Bama last year. They just saw a little flash of it. Hopefully, this year, if we go play right, they gonna get a little taste of the real ‘Bama.”
Fitzpatrick pointed a lot of the blame toward himself. He was beaten for 2 touchdowns by Clemson receiver Hunter Renfrow.
Fitzpatrick might not line up against Renfrow on Monday, but he feels better prepared for Clemson’s offense this time around.
“I didn’t play real good. I had two touchdowns scored on me,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve never had that done ever before in my whole life. I was young. I wasn’t really playing my best game technique-wise. He (Deshaun Watson) made a couple of good throws. I still could have played them better, played the routes better. Just little things I wasn’t doing right that I tried to work on this season.”
Watson, Clemson junior quarterback, and the Tigers offense played lights out for much of the night. Watson threw for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns to just 1 interception. He also ran for 73 yards.
“Last year, I think it was kind of obvious what (Watson) brought (to the table),” Fitzpatrick said. “We had a bigger defensive line, so we couldn’t really contain him. He was moving all around, and on the back end, we had to cover for about 10 seconds, which is almost impossible no matter who you are. It’s almost impossible to cover that long. We were getting tired.
“They were having a new receiver in every single play to run us down the field while he was running all over the field. We were getting real tired while he was doing that. He has a great arm and leadership.”
Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson remembers the championship game being a hard-fought, exciting battle.
Robinson credits Clemson for having a “never-say-die mentality and attitude” in what he described as a fun game to be a part of. This week, Robinson has seen Alabama’s defense be a little more fired up during preparation.
“I’m pretty sure the world knows they don’t normally give up 40 points,” Robinson said. “Obviously, that just adds a little bit more fuel. It makes you focus on something in practice. It makes you want to go out there and practice with a purpose. I know they have a chip on their shoulder based on the amount of points they gave up last year.”
Before the championship game, Alabama had given up a total of 40 points in its last five games, including a shutout of Michigan State in the semifinal. Ole Miss scored 43 points in the Crimson Tide’s lone loss of the season, but no other opponent managed more than 25 points against Alabama’s vaunted defense.
It was a bit of a shock when Watson and the Tigers offense easily shredded the Crimson Tide’s defense.
“That’s definitely why I feel like we’re going into it like we almost lost because of how bad we played in that game,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’re working probably even harder than they are because they’re saying, ‘Oh, we just want to beat them.’ We want to dominate them because of how we played last year.”