Photo by © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Clemson Football

Sweet Home California: Clemson hammers Crimson Tide 44-16 in 2019 National Championship

January 7, 2019
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SANTA CLARA, California – Throughout the year, Clemson’s secondary had been considered a liability, but during Monday night’s National Championship game, the group showed up and helped lead Clemson to their third national title and second in three seasons, defeating Alabama 44-16.

With the win, Clemson becomes the first team to go 15-0 in the modern history of major college football.

In fact, it was the Alabama secondary that was severely mismatched as Clemson ripped the back end of Nick Saban’s defense to shreds. Trevor Lawrence threw for 347 yards on 20-32 passing with three touchdowns.

Following a quick three-and-out by the Tigers to open the game, the defending champion Crimson Tide took over at the 21-yard line. On the third play of the game, A.J. Terrell read Tua Tagovailoa like a book, and returned an interception 44-yards to the house giving Clemson an early 7-0 lead sending shockwaves across Northern California and America.

Saban’s club answered as Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide found Jerry Jeudy after putting a double-move on safety Tanner Muse for a quick 62-yard touchdown evening the score at seven. 

© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Lawrence looks downfield during Clemson’s 

After a tripping penalty on John Simpson backed Clemson up on their second possession, the Tigers found themselves behind the sticks, facing a third-and-14. Lawrence found Tee Higgins over the top for a 62-yard gain. Higgins finished with three receptions for 81 yards and a score. On the next play, Travis Etienne sprinted to paydirt from 17 yards out, making it 14-7 with 10:35 left in the first quarter.

Once again the Tide were able to answer, putting together a  beautiful 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive, but a missed extra-point by Joseph Bulovas, left the Tigers with a 14-13 lead.

Clemson’s next possession was their second quick three-and-out of the contest and Alabama took advantage. Utilizing a mix of the ground game and air attack, the Tide powered to the Clemson one-yard line, but a false start backed Alabama to the six-yard line. Clemson stuffed a shovel-pass on third down, forcing a Bulovas field goal to give Alabama a 16-14 lead. 

Co-offensive coordinators, Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott put together a great drive giving Alabama multiple looks on the next drive. After taking over at the 35-yard line after a kick out of bounds, a pass interference penalty put Clemson at midfield. Lawrence found Tavien Feaster for 26-yards, after a busted coverage, Higgins found himself wide open, moving the ball to the five-yard line. Etienne picked up his second touchdown of the game after back-to-back carries giving Clemson the lead back 21-16.

On Alabama’s next possession, the Tigers would again get to Tagovailoa as an overthrow from the Heisman runner-up was intercepted by Trayvon Mullen. Mullen returned the football 46 yards to the Alabama 47-yard line giving Clemson a chance to strike and the Tigers did just that.

Marching 47 yards on eight plays, Lawrence and company seemed to confuse the Crimson Tide defenders with multiple looks leaving the Tide defense on their heels. The most significant coming on third-and-seven when Lawrence found Amari Rodgers for 26 yards to the five-yard line. An inside shovel pass to Etienne expanded the Tiger lead to 28-16, and the blowout was on.

© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Trayvon Mullen intercepts Tua Tagovailoa during the 2019 National Championship.

Needing an answer before the half, Alabama moved out towards midfield, but a perfectly timed blitz, dialed up by Brent Venables on third down forced the first Alabama punt of the night. Mullen rocked Tagovailoa from his cornerback spot for an 11-yard loss.

Lawrence led a quick eight-play, 61-yard scoring drive just before the half and a 36-yard field goal from Greg Huegel gave Clemson a 31-16 lead with just forty-five seconds left in the half.

To open the second half, Alabama marched into Clemson territory before Clemson’s secondary got back to work. Terrell made a great tackle in space, knocking the ball loose, leaving the Tide facing third-and-six. On the play, Mullen appeared to cramp up and in his first snap of the College Football Playoff, backup cornerback Mark Fields broke up a sure first down. Alabama faked a 39-yard field goal, but the Tigers were not fooled taking over at the 24-yard line.

Getting the ball back, it was another third-down conversion that broke the game open. On third-and-eight, Lawrence found Alabama native, Justyn Ross for a 74-yard touchdown giving Clemson a commanding 37-16 lead. Ross finished with six receptions for 153 yards and one score.

Alabama would again drive deep into Clemson territory, but Saban decided to roll the dice again. Needing four yards on fourth down, the Tigers held firm taking over at the 11-yard line.

The Tigers needed another third-down conversion and Clemson’s freshman connection of Lawrence and Ross hooked up again for a huge 37-yard gain into Crimson Tide territory. Ross made a juggling grab before falling out of bounds. Lawrence would find Higgins in the back of the end zone expanding the Clemson lead to 44-16.

The signature moment, defining the return of Clemson’s defensive front came with 12:17 left, stuffing Alabama on four plays inside the two-yard line and keeping the Tide out of the end zone.

Clemson made a resounding statement on the West Coast that will be felt across the country: The Tigers are the kings of college football.

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Sweet Home California: Clemson hammers Crimson Tide 44-16 in 2019 National Championship

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