Clemson cruises to a win at the College Football National Championship

January 08, 2019 - 7:01 am

For the second time in four years, the Clemson Tigers are the champions of college football.

Clemson captured its third title in program history with a 44-16 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Monday at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

The night belonged to the Tigers after the opening 15 minutes of play, going on to score 30 unanswered points to roll over the Tide in the Bay Area.

Clemson got the scoring started when cornerback A.J. Terrell picked off Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on the Tide's first offensive drive of the game and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown. Alabama immediately responded with a three play drive that was capped off by a 62-yard touchdown toss from Tagovailoa to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Each team went on to score a touchdown on their next drives, but Alabama ended up missing the extra point after their score to trail the Tigers 14-13.

The Crimson Tide managed to tack on a Joseph Bulovas 25-yard field goal very early in the second quarter to take the 16-14 lead, but that would be it for Alabama for the rest of the night.

On the next drive, Travis Etienne rushed for his second touchdown of the half to give Clemson the lead, 21-16. At that point, the route was on.

Alabama's next drive saw Tagovailoa get picked off again, this time to Clemson cornerback Trayvon Mullen. Eight plays and 47 yards later, the Tigers found the endzone again as true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence connected with Etienne on a five-yard pass to up the deficit to 12.

Clemson added a field goal to make the score 31-16 before halftime, and then it was the defense's turn to shine in the second half.

On Alabama's opening drive, the Tide march down the field and get to the Clemson 22-yard line. However, facing a 4th-and-6 and a 34-yard field goal, Alabama attempts a fake field goal with placeholder Mac Jones taking off with the football. However, Clemson defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney bust through the Alabama offensive line and tackled Jones for a two-yard loss.

Three plays later, Lawrence went to work again and stuck the dagger through Alabama's heart with a 74-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Justyn Ross.

After another huge fourth down stop by Clemson at their own 14-yard line, Lawrence drove the ball back the other way and capped the drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tee Higgins.

Clemson was able to put a final stamp on their win with a third straight fourth down stop, this time in the fourth quarter with a huge tackle on 4th-and-goal at the two-yard line. Tagovailoa tried to run it in himself, but he was dropped for a seven-yard loss by defensive end Clelin Ferrell.

The Tigers closed out the game with a 14-play drive that chewed up the last 10:02 of the clock to cap off a perfect 15-0 season, the first perfect season for the national champion since the Florida State Seminoles in 2013. It is also the first time that a team went a perfect 15-0 in a season since 1897 when the Penn Quakers pulled off the feat.

Lawrence ended his night throwing 20-of-32 for 347 yards (10.8 yards per-pass) and three touchdowns. That performance was good enough to earn him the honor as the Offensive Most Valuable Player in the game. The 19-year-old Clemson quarterback is not draft eligible until the 2021 NFL Draft.

As for Tagovailoa, he struggled throughout the night, completing just 22 passes on 34 attempts for 295 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Tagovailoa will be NFL Draft eligible next year.

The 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship will take place in New Orleans, Louisiana at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

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