Last thoughts on the Alabama’s classic national championship win over Clemson.
Alabama’s National Championship Win Over Clemson Final Thoughts & Observations
I needed to let this one breathe. I was lucky enough to be on the field for most of the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship, and before I started getting all gooey about how great the game was, I gave it a day, watched the TV version, and then wanted to put it into a proper perspective.
– It really was awesome. I didn’t think it would be, but it was about as much fun as a championship game could possibly be.
– However, I wasn’t at the Texas win over USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
– Speaking of which, let’s get this out of the way. Deshaun Watson was incredible, but this wasn’t Vince Young against the Trojans. Young ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 267 yards without a pick, but it was more than that. That’s not taking anything away from Watson whatsoever, but a chunk of his 405 passing yards and his fourth TD throw came in the closing moments. The 73 rushing yards, though, were more impressive than the statistics.
– And the interception really mattered.
– And Young won the national title.
– Also, Nick Saban’s career has been special, and for a short burst it’s amazing, but Bear Bryant is still Bear Bryant. I’ve tried writing the Saban Is Better article three different times, and Bryant’s consistency and longevity turned out to be too impressive.
– That wasn’t the Clemson over the last month of the season. That wasn’t the Clemson that played Syracuse, that wasn’t the Clemson that played South Carolina, that wasn’t the Clemson against North Carolina in the ACC championship. For everyone giving me a hard time for not thinking the Tigers were the real deal, go back and watch those other games again and tell me you really and truly saw this coming.
– Here’s the thing we need to remember going forward – and Nick Saban said as much: it’s a super long season now. He said the team didn’t have the “juice” it had against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, and I believe it. That doesn’t take anything away from Clemson’s performance, but I see it. This was the 29th game this program has played in the last 16 months. Urban made a big deal out of it last year, and it was probably an issue considering the refreshed way the Crimson Tide looked against the Spartans.
– Also, to get this out of the way as well, Saban is getting too much credit for the call. It was a very, very safe and calculated risk. At this point in the game it wasn’t going to come down to just one drive, and with the way the Clemson return game was working the kick was a decent gamble. At worst, the Tide would’ve lost about 30 yards in the exchange – that was nothing in this game.
– But it worked, and as it turned out, it was game over. It just took a while to get there.
– Not that you care, but it might have been the most intense sport-watching moment of my life. On Clemson’s failed two-point conversion attempt, Watson was running right at me towards the sidelines with Alabama defenders bearing down. The combination of speed, power and ferocity from both sides was unparalleled to any one play I’ve seen in person, and then, just as I thought I was about to be blown up, Watson made the cut up the field to go for the pylon and just missed.
– And no, I’m not the guy who got in Watson’s place.
– I have an incredible knack for not recording the best plays on my phone. I got several boring ones, but that two-point try, Howard’s second touchdown, and the Kenyan Drake kickoff return were all right by me, and I whiffed.
– That’s not as bad as running on the field after, getting Saban hugging his players, and getting my phone right there for Watson and Henry hugging each other and talking …
– And then realizing I forgot to hit record.
– It was the game we all needed.
– I thought there was no way Clemson could move the ball on the Alabama defense unless Deshaun Watson came up with a special performance.
– Deshaun Watson came up with that special performance, and Alabama still won.
– Clemson couldn’t run inside a lick, realized that right away, and moved on.
– That made what Watson did all the more special.
– Derrick Henry had the big game worthy of a Heisman winner. Outside of the one big early run, it was a better performance than he’ll get credit for because it was the tone-setter for the game. He wasn’t able to spring the big, gashing dash in the second half, but he kept providing the body blows McCaffrey and Watson were flashier, but in an MVP sort of way, Henry was just as special.
– Who’s the NFL comp for Watson? He’s built like a punter and the running element in the pros like he does equals one dead quarterback.
– Stop before you start with the Alabama Can’t Stop Running Quarterbacks thing, it’s wrong. Johnny Manziel, Nick Marshall and Deshaun Watson weren’t just any running quarterbacks.
– At no time did I ever believe Alabama was going to lose this game. It’s just how national title games work out. Auburn had Florida State dead, and Oregon pushed Ohio State early. The better team finds a way. I just didn’t know how the Crimson Tide were going to get there.
– Either the Bama coaching staff missed big not utilizing O.J. Howard for the last few years, or something was just missing. A tight end shouldn’t run like that.
– No one gives a flying hoot about CTE during a game of this magnitude.
– It’s the loudest sporting event I’ve ever attended. From start to finish the Clemson fans were incredible. They came into the stadium jacked, and it didn’t stop even after the big Bama plays …
– Except for right after the onside kick.
– For a brief moment, the 70% all-orange crowd fell silent, the drowned-out 30% Tide fans went batspit, and the mood of the Alabama sideline was totally different.
– I’m a true believer that crowds don’t matter and home field is overrated. You take the crowd, I’ll take the better team.
– The Clemson crowd really, really mattered.
– Alabama is just plain massive. That was one of the biggest football teams I’ve ever been around.
– It’s not an exaggeration to say that Derrick Henry is the size of defensive tackles at a lot of schools.
– Alabama absolutely would’ve gone for it on fourth and goal from two inches out. Absolutely.
– I can’t wait to see Clemson next season.
– I can’t wait for next season.