Say what you want about the rest of life, but the world of sports just keeps giving us one incredible moment after another.
Clemson’s 35-31 win over Alabama, decided on a touchdown pass with a single second left, is just the latest example of an amazing run in thrilling championships (the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, LeBron coming all the way back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, Villanova’s last-second shot over UNC, etc.)
Like those three, this championship will be remembered for decades because of the drama that enveloped it. Here are six things I loved about it:
1. Three TDs in the final five minutes. Now that is how a national championship game is supposed to look. The sequel turned out to be as good or better than the original here – a rare case of back-to-back brilliance, like “The Godfather” and “The Godfather II” (or, if you ask my kids, the first and second “Shrek”).
Trailing 24-14 to begin the quarter, Clemson scored 21 points in the period in this 35-31 win! Alabama had a fourth-quarter touchdown, too, which meant the lead just kept changing hands. But 21 points in one quarter against that Alabama defense?! Extraordinary. With the win, the Tigers also avenged an equally thrilling 45-40 loss to Alabama in the national championship a year ago.
2. Deshaun Watson. What can you say? Let’s start with this: He should have won the Heisman Trophy, he’s the best player in college football, he will be a superb quarterback in the NFL (better than UNC’s Mitch Trubisky, who also will be a very high pick) and he deserved this. Hey, I picked Alabama, but I wanted Clemson to win. It’s a much better story than Alabama winning its fifth title in the past eight years. And it never would have happened except that Watson threw for 420 yards and accounted for four TDs.
3. Referee Mike Defee’s gun show. Defee’s muscular arms were such a big social media hit they quickly got their own Twitter account. I want to see Defee and NFL official Ed Hochuli go head-to-head in a bicep curl contest. Oh, wait, I don’t want to see that at all.
4. Steve Spurrier’s wink. As a ceremonial part of the pregame coin toss, Spurrier was booed loudly when introduced. Clemson fans don’t like him because he kept beating the Tigers at South Carolina; Alabama fans don’t like him because he kept beating the Crimson Tide at Florida. Spurrier’s response? The Ol’ Ball Coach winked at all of them.
5. Hunter Renfrow. The kid who caught the 2-yard TD pass with one second left for the final score? That kid was a 150-pound quarterback as a high school senior and had to walk on at Clemson. He not only scored twice Monday night but he saved another score, tracking down an Alabama defender who was about to go to the house with a fumble return. That tackle ultimately accounted for four points – Alabama could manage only a field goal instead – and Clemson won by four.
6. Onside kick Part 2. Alabama won last year’s title in part because of a beautifully executed onside kick. This time the Tigers had one.
After taking their 35-31 lead with one second left, Clemson didn’t want to kick the ball deep and take a chance on a score. Instead, its kicker surprised everyone with an onside kick he recovered himself, allowing Watson to come back on the field, kneel down on the final play in “Victory Formation” and send all Clemson fans into a frenzy that they may not recover from until February.