Clemson defeats Alabama 44-16 to win third College Football Playoff national championship
Clemson dominated Alabama to win the College Football Playoff national championship 44-16.
After taking a 31-16 lead at the half, Clemson did not allow Alabama to score in the second half while piling on the lead. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw two interceptions, and the Crimson Tide failed to convert three fourth-down attempts in the second half.
Trevor Lawrence led the Clemson offense to total 482 yards against Alabama, with 347 passing yards and three passing touchdowns. The Tigers converted 10 of 15 third downs as the defense held Alabama’s offense to 14 yards in the fourth quarter.
With an unrelenting offense and stifling defense, Clemson never gave Alabama a chance to close the lead, propelling the Tigers to a convincing national championship win.
Trevor Lawrence leads Clemson on touchdown drive to give Tigers 44-16 lead
When Trevor Lawrence threw a pass to the back of the end zone, Tee Higgins leapt and caught the pass with his outstretched arms, extending Clemson’s lead to 44-16 with 21 seconds left in the third quarter.
Lawrence completed five of six passes on the 12-play, 89-yard drive, and Travis Etienne contributed an 11-yard rush. The Alabama defense could do little to slow the Tigers’ attack.
Lawrence has completed 19 of 29 passes for 347 yards with three touchdowns.
Justyn Ross makes 74-yard touchdown play to extend Clemson’s lead to
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence found Justyn Ross beyond the first-down marker, and Ross took off down the right side of the field, weaving past Alabama defenders for a 74-yard touchdown play. With the first score of the second half, Clemson extended its lead over Alabama to 37-16 with 8:26 left in the third quarter.
Ross’ reception was the third play of the drive. Alabama cornerback Saivion Smith was injured during the play when he fell at the line of scrimmage; he was carted off the field before Clemson missed the extra-point attempt.
Ross leads the receivers with three catches for 98 yards. With the play, Lawrence has completed 14 of 23 throws for 275 yards with two touchdowns.
Kicker Greg Huegel makes 36-yard field goal to give Clemson 31-16 lead at halftime
With 45 seconds left in the half, kicker Greg Huegel nailed a 36-yard field goal, extending Clemson’s lead over Alabama to 31-16.
Trevor Lawrence started the Tigers’ scoring drive with a 19-yard pass to Trevion Thompson. But Alabama forced four of his passes to fall incomplete, slowing the offensive momentum and leaving Huegel to kick the field goal.
After earning 86 offensive yards to Alabama’s 224 in the first quarter, Clemson totaled 138 in the second while holding the Crimson Tide to 48. Lawrence completed 12 of 21 passes for 197 yards with a touchdown, while Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa completed 13 of 16 for 158 yards and two touchdowns but threw two interceptions.
Alabama faces its largest halftime deficit all season, while allowing Clemson to gain 7.2 yards per play and convert four of seven third-downs.
Clemson extends lead to 28-16 after Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa throws second interception
Trevor Lawrence connected with Travis Etienne for a 5-yard touchdown play, extending Clemson’s lead to 28-16 after Tua Tagovailoa’s interception gave the Tigers possession.
Tagovailoa hurled the ball deep down the field, but cornerback Trayvon Mullen intercepted the pass, giving Clemson possession on Alabama’s 47-yard line after a 46-yard return.
The interception was Tagovailoa’s second of the game — just the second time this season he has thrown multiple interceptions in a game. Mullen had made three interceptions in his career, but this was his first of the season.
When Clemson gained possession, Lawrence completed five of six passes, including a 26-yard throw to Amari Rodgers, for 44 yards, culminating in the pass to Etienne, who has two rushing touchdowns along with the touchdown reception.
With the drive, Lawrence more than doubled his completion total, making nine of his 15 throws for 154 yards and a touchdown.
Travis Etienne’s second rushing touchdown gives Clemson 21-16 lead
Clemson running back Travis Etienne powered into the end zone for a 1-yard rush, giving Clemson a 21-16 lead over Alabama with 11:38 left in the second quarter.
The Clemson offense had earned just three first downs before the scoring drive, where Trevor Lawrence completed two passes for 40 yards to spark the scoring run. Lawrence has completed four of nine throws for 110 yards, and contributed a one-yard rush on the drive.
Etienne made a four-yard run before being brought down short of the end zone, but scored drive on the next play — his second rushing touchdown of the game. Etienne has gained 21 yards in five carries, leading the Tigers on the ground.
Joseph Bulovas drives 25-yard field goal to give Alabama 16-14 lead
Alabama kicker Joseph Bulovas drilled a 25-yard field goal, giving Alabama a 16-14 lead over Clemson with 14:18 left in the second quarter.
The Alabama offense drove down the field aggressively, with Jerry Jeudy making two 12-yard catches and Najee Harris contributing a 13-yard rush. After three rushes by Damien Harris, Alabama found itself with fourth down in the red zone, but Josh Jacobs’ four-yard rush brought the Crimson Tide within a yard of the touchdown.
From there, the Clemson defense clamped down, forcing Bulovas to attempt the field goal. Since quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw a pick-six on the opening drive, Alabama has scored on every offensive possession.
Alabama trails Clemson 14-13 after Tua Tagovailoa’s touchdown pass
When Alabama faked a run play on the goal line, tight end Hale Hentges darted to the left side of the end zone, wide open. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa completed the touchdown pass, bringing Alabama to trail Clemson 14-13 with 6:23 left in the first quarter.
Josh Jacobs started the drive with a 7-yard rush before Tagovailoa completed four straight passes for 47 yards to put the Crimson Tide in field goal range. Harris added two rushes for 12 yards.
On his third rush Harris broke through the Clemson defense and lunged toward the end zone with his right hand outstretched, ruled inches short of the touchdown after a play review.
That left Alabama in position to score with the trick play, though a missed extra-point attempt kept the Crimson Tide from tying the game.
Clemson claims 14-7 lead with rushing touchdown by Travis Etienne
Running back Travis Etienne broke through the Alabama defense and bolted 17 yards to the end zone, giving Clemson a 14-7 lead over Alabama with 10:35 left in the first quarter.
Etienne was finishing an offensive spark that started when quarterback Trevor Lawrence found a hole in Alabama’s coverage and hurled the ball down the field to Tee Higgins. Higgins caught the pass and kept running 62 yards before being brought down in the red zone.
The play was Lawrence’s second completion of the game; his first came the play before, on an eight-yard pass to Trevion Thompson. Lawrence has completed two of five pass attempts for 70 yards.
Tua Tagovailoa connects with Jerry Jeudy for 62-yard touchdown pass to tie game
After throwing a pick-six on the previous drive, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa connected with Jerry Jeudy for a 62-yard touchdown pass, tying the game at 7 with 12:05 left in the first quarter.
Tagovailoa had targeted Jeudy when he threw the interception, and the long touchdown pass was his first throw since the pick-six. Damien Harris gained 13 yards in two carries for Alabama before Tagovailoa’s play.
In fewer than three minutes of play, Tagovailoa completed three of four pass attempts for 82 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
Clemson’s A.J. Terrell makes pick-six in Alabama’s opening possession
On Alabama’s first possession of the game, Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell intercepted quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s pass, returning the pick 44 yards to the end zone to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead over the Crimson Tide with 13:20 left in the first quarter.
Tagovailoa had completed both of his throws before the pick-six, for 20 passing yards, after the Clemson offense started the game with a three-and-out.
The interception was Tagovailoa’s fifth of the season, and Terrell’s fourth time intercepting a quarterback in his career.
How the Crimson Tide and the Tigers match up in CFP national title game
No. 1 Alabama (14-0) vs. No. 2 Clemson (14-0)
Monday, 5 p.m., Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara. TV: ESPN.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence vs. Alabama quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts. It was early in the season when Clemson coach Dabo Swinney switched gears and installed Lawrence, a freshman, as the starter. After a rocky debut against Syracuse, Lawrence soon grew comfortable, ranking 15th nationally in quarterback efficiency with 2,933 yards and 27 touchdowns. In Tuscaloosa, coach Nick Saban made a similar move, picking Tagovailoa over established starter Hurts, who had gone 26-2 the previous seasons. Tagovailoa ranks No. 1 in efficiency with 3,671 passing yards and 41 touchdowns, lifting the Crimson Tide offense to a new level. Hurts has remained with the program and stayed involved, leading Alabama to a comeback victory over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game after Tagovailoa was injured. Look for Saban to rotate quarterbacks occasionally and even play them both at the same time, making use of Hurts’ speed. “It’s really fun,” Tagovailoa said. “No one knows who is going to get the ball.”
This championship game between the Tide and the Tigers will be won at the line of scrimmage
A little rain might not be the worst thing for the College Football Playoff championship game on Monday. A slippery field might just accentuate the sort of game Clelin Ferrell is expecting.
The Clemson defensive end insists that whenever his team faces off against Alabama — usually with a title on the line — the outcome gets decided in the slop and grit and muck.
“It starts up front, the trenches,” he says. “That’s all it really is, man, because both of us are built from the inside-out.”
The top-ranked Crimson Tide and No. 2 Tigers have met in the College Football Playoffs the previous three years, a stretch marked by some of the most ferocious defensive lines in the game.
This season’s fourth installment continues that trend.
Though most fans might know these teams for their marquee quarterbacks and high-scoring offenses, both team’s defenses have been particularly effective at controlling the line of scrimmage and harassing the passer.
Clemson leads the nation with 3.71 sacks a game and Alabama isn’t far behind, ranking eighth at 3.21.