SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Clemson took out a full year’s worth of frustration on Alabama Monday night in one of the most stunning championship game beat-downs in recent history.
The Tigers (15-0) got better as the night elapsed and rolled the Tide 44-16 at Levi’s Stadium to claim the program’s second national title in three seasons. The contest also served as the birth of a new college football megastar in Clemson true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who absolutely shredded Alabama’s defense by going 20-of-32 passing for 347 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s amazing,” Lawrence said. “I just love everyone that’s been a part of this journey. It’s really unbelievable.”
The 2019 College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship got off to a dubious start for the Crimson Tide when Tua Tagovailoa was picked off by A.J. Terrell, who motored 44 yards the other way for a touchdown.
Tagovailoa immediately bounced back with a 62-yard scoring toss to Jerry Jeudy, and after the two teams once again traded scores in the first quarter, the nationwide audience surely thought that an instant classic was in the making.
But Dabo Swinney’s Tigers had a different storyline in mind.
Alabama (14-1) tacked on a field goal early in the second quarter, but after that, it was all Clemson. The Tigers buried the Tide under an avalanche of 30 unanswered points — much to the delight of any college football fan fed up with seeing Nick Saban’s sour mug on their television set every January.
Clemson was untouchable during its surge, which saw Travis Etienne tally a 1-yard TD run and catch a 5-yard scoring strike from Lawrence before the Tigers added a field goal to take a 31-16 lead into the half.
Alabama still had a chance to rally after receiving the third-quarter kickoff, and the combination of Tagovailoa and Damien Harris quickly moved the Crimson Tide into the red zone. Clemson’s defense bowed its back and forced a field goal attempt, but Saban rolled the dice and dialed up a high-risk fake. It was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage, and from there, the Tigers clerly smelled blood and began to pour it on.
Lawrence went to the air and hit fellow freshman Justyn Ross for a 74-yard bomb to extend the lead, and after another fourth-down stop from Clemson’s defense, the QB capped the next drive with a 5-yard TD throw to Tee Higgins.
Once more the Tide drove into Tiger territory only to be turned away with nothing to show for it. Following a third straight turnover on downs, Clemson put the finishing touches on its blowout win by controlling the ball, keeping the clock moving and giving its starters a well-deserved curtain call.
“Alabama is Alabama, but I felt like we had the better team,” Swinney said afterward. “Our guys came in with the mindset that we were going to play on the balls of our feet and we were going to attack — and we did.”
The Tigers and Tide are now 2-2 when meeting in the new CFP, but Clemson holds a 2-1 edge with the title on the line. With their lopsided victory on Monday, the Tigers became the first NCAA Division I FBS team to finish a season with a perfect 15-0 record since 1897.
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