Alabama jumped out in front early with a 50-yard touchdown run by Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, but Clemson responded with two touchdown drives to build a seven-point lead of its own in Monday night’s national championship game.
The Crimson Tide also mounted a response, relying on — who else? — Henry to dive over the goal line, and the teams entered halftime in a 14-14 deadlock.
“We can’t take negative plays,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said to ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi. “Jake’s got to get rid of the ball. He’s got to throw to the check down (receiver). He’s got to get rid of the ball. Every time we have a negative play, it stops the drive. We got to do a better job on their quarterback, because he’s really hurt us with the scramble plays, extending plays and running the football. That’s probably the difference in the game right now.”
Here’s what you might have missed:
Watson shows up: Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson totaled 206 yards (45 on the ground) and two touchdown throws. Despite one big mistake (see below), he gave the ‘Bama defense fits with his mobility and arm.
Jackson changes momentum: With Clemson ready to build on a 14-7 lead, Alabama safety Eddie Jackson baited Watson into an interception. Henry’s second touchdown run capped off the ensuing drive.
Key injury: Clemson lost All-American cornerback Mackensie Alexander (left hamstring) in the second quarter. He entered the contest with a nagging hamstring injury.
Shaq attack: Tigers defensive lineman Shaq Lawson (sprained left MCL) was a game-time decision, but he started and collected two big sacks in the first half.
Henry nearing history: What other records could he possibly break? Well, he’s just six yards from passing Shaun Alexander as Alabama’s all-time leading rusher. Henry has 128 yards and a pair of scores on 20 carries.
44-yard troubles: ‘Bama kicker Adam Griffith had a chance to give the Tide a 10-7 lead, but he pushed a 44-yarder in the first quarter. Clemson kicker Greg Huegel also missed from 44 yards to end the half, although Tide senior D.J. Pettway got a few fingers on the ball.