As the first half unfolded, I was very skeptical of Clemson’s ability to score enough points to win the game. Both defenses were strong, but Alabama’s running back, Bo Scarborough, was able to get free and score two big touchdowns. Even after Clemson got on the board, it didn’t look like Alabama was all that concerned. Their D was doing fine and their freshman quarterback was ice-in-his-veins calm. Alabama’s strength and size allowed them to keep the game plan simple and just be exceptional athletes doing the fundamental things correctly.
Deshaun Watson has had more turnovers this year than last and his fumble in this game gave cause for concern. Alabama won every game this year in which they forced two or more turnovers…until tonight. Watson redeemed himself with a couple of stellar drives downfield in the second half, but again Alabama held Clemson at arms length with a 10 point lead. Jalen Hurts found his tight end wide open down field, reminiscent of a big play from Howard in last year’s game. Their offense wasn’t quite the same, though, after Scarborough left the game with an injury. The Tigers pounced and appeared to take the momentum.
The 4th quarter was a nail biter. After trading some punts, Clemson eventually put together two drives and wrestled the lead away from the Tide. Coach Saban wanted an offensive penalty called for setting a pick on the first one, but he didn’t get his way. Alabama started to sputter on offense and their defense was finally showing some vulnerability. It looked like the Tigers were about to make another defensive stand and seal the win, when the Tide used a trick play to get in field goal range. Moments later Hurts got loose on a lead-stealing 30 yard run. He calmly waltzed into the end zone, handed the ball off, and walked to the sidelines as if it was just another day at the office.
It looked like the Tide would once again hoist the trophy, but 2:07 on the clock was plenty of time for Watson and the Tigers. The final drive was almost perfect, aided by a penalty gift from the Tide defense. Like a fairy tale ending, Deshaun found his favorite receiver (on a similar pick play as the one Saban argued against) with one second left on the clock. Obviously the Alabama team and fans were devastated and the Tiger crowd was euphoric. Redemption was theirs. A national title was back after 35 years.
As for our championship, it was also a classic. Sprinkles made some great picks down the stretch. Her pick by mascot strategy and ACC loyalty paid off this year. She was one of a small handful of pickers (16%) who had faith in the Tigers. I picked Bama back in the beginning of the bowl season, but my faith in Clemson grew after their destruction of Ohio State and I found myself cheering for them. We have a lot of Clemson faithful in our family (one a former professor) and in our camp community. I am extremely happy them.
In the office:
Sprinkles: 28-14, Rambo: 26-16, Scoot: 22-20, Trip: 20-22, and T-Bone: 18-24
As expected, you, our precious camp community and family once again beat the staff picks. Four extremely savvy pickers came out with more wins than our best. This year we had to go to a tiebreaker to determine the overall winner. She didn’t pick the Championship team, but she had the right matchup and was the closest to the actual margin of victory. Congratulations, Rachel! Mike, you played a tough game and should be proud of your record and your almost flawless first half of the bowl season.
Here’s where you stand:
1st place: (30-12) Rachel Wiley (Overall winner by tiebreak) and Mike Hochman
2nd place: (29-13) Julia Lancaster and Terrence McBride (moving up with a Clemson Championship pick)
tied with us: (28-14) Jennifer Lancaster, Laura Watkins (moving up with a Clemson Championship pick), and David Maggiore (last year’s champ)
Sometimes it just isn’t your day. Sometimes it just isn’t your week. And then sometimes it just isn’t your year. Kronk, you are one of the greatest young men I know, despite being a Bama die hard. (Just kidding, of course) You brought up the rear almost all bowl season and then, to kick you while you were down, Bama lost the big one, too. I am sure you will bounce back just fine next year. For now, I will enjoy giving you are hard time!
Thanks again for playing our game. Trip and Sprinkles will start working on sending out the winning gifts. We can’t wait to see you this summer and undoubtedly lace up our cleats for next year’s Bowl Bonanza!