Junior wide-receiver Hunter Renfrow caught the game winning touchdown with 0:01 left on the clock to help Clemson overcome Alabama 35-31 to win their second national championship trophy and defeat the infamous Crimson Tide led by Nick Saban.
In this 2016 final rematch, Clemson got their revenge after last year, when they lost to an Alabama team led by Heisman winner Derrick Henry. Alabama came into this game with freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, who helped his team to an undefeated record and passed for over 2,400 yards in his rookie season. Hurts accounted for 33 total touchdowns, rushing for 841 yards and complete 65.2% of his passes this season. Clemson came into this game 13-1 on the season with Deshaun Watson throwing for 4592 yards on the season, and combining for 50 total touchdowns.
Alabama took an early lead in the game when Bo Scarbrough, Henry’s prodigee, rushed for a 25 yd touchdown on their first drive. Scarbrough would extend the Tide’s lead with a 37 yd touchdown early in the second quarter. Clemson started their comeback with an 87 yard drive capped off with Deshaun Watson’s eight yard rushing touchdown. Pressure started to mount on Alabama when Clemson forced an immediate three-and-out against the Crimson Tide offense.
Alabama started the second half off with a 27 yard field goal from Adam Griffith following a Clemson fumble. Clemson fans looked bleak until Heisman-finalist quarterback Watson threw a 24 yard pass to Hunter Renfrow to make it 14-17. In the championship last year, O.J Howard punished Clemson with a 53 yard touchdown, and he did it again this year with another long touchdown catch, this time for 68 yards. Clemson’s star wide-receiver Mike Williams came up big with a four yard touchdown catch from Watson in response after a 72 yard drive. The game heated up as redshirt junior Wayne Gallman II rushed in for a one yard touchdown to give Clemson their first lead of the game to make the game 28-24. Alabama immediately took back the lead with a 30 yard touchdown run by Hurts, an electrifying display of the freshman’s abilities.
With 2:01 left on the clock, Watson knew this was his moment.
“I just smiled right when they scored,” Watson said to reporters after the game. “ I seen the 2:01 on the clock, and I just smiled and I just knew. I just told my guys, ‘Hey, let’s be legendary, let’s go be great’”
A 68 yard drive with some spectacular catches from Watson’s two big senior targets, Jordan Leggett and Mike Williams to put Clemson within field goal range to tie the game. Going against what most coaches would’ve done, Swinney decided to go for the win. After Renfrow’s 2 yard catch, Nick Saban’s undefeated season came to an end.
“It’s a blessing to let the world know what Clemson is all about,” Watson said.