TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – As far as Clemson is concerned, the sequel was much better than the original.
The underdog Tigers upset defending national champion Alabama 35-31 as Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson beat the Crimson Tide with his arm, his legs and his heart to win a rematch of last year’s title game. Alabama beat Clemson 45-40 last season in the championship.
Roughed up early by the Tide’s hard-hitting defense, Watson regained his composure to throw for 420 yards and three TDs. His final strike was a 2-yard score to Hunter Renfrow to cap a nerveless final drive with one second left. Watson also ran the ball 21 times for 43 yards and a touchdown. The lead changed hands four times in the fourth quarter of the seesaw affair.
After falling behind 14-0 early, Clemson scored 21 points in the fourth quarter against an Alabama defense that had allowed just 32 points in the fourth quarter all season. That ended Alabama’s 26-game winning streak and its dreams of back-to-back national titles.
Instead, Clemson won its first national title since 1981. The Tigers have their junior quarterback Watson to thank for his gutsy performance in what probably was his final college game before heading to the NFL draft.