Saban, Alabama retain college football dynasty
The undefeated Clemson Tigers had one weakness, and coach Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide exploited it to a 45-40 win in the College Football Playoff national championship game Monday night. The hotly contested matchup in Glendale, Ariz., earned Saban his fifth national title and his fourth at Alabama since 2009.
“We didn’t play our best game tonight,” said the notoriously serious coach. “But they did what they had to do to win—and I’m smiling.”
The Alabama defense surrendered 550 yards of total offense to quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Tigers, while the Tide often struggled to get first downs when they had the ball. But an opportunistic Alabama gashed Clemson’s injury-depleted secondary for three touchdown plays of 50-plus yards.
“Championship football is a game of a few plays, and that’s really what this one really came down to,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
The turning point came early in the fourth quarter, when Alabama attempted a surprise onside kick with the game tied at 24. The Tide recovered and scored two plays later. ’Bama then added a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown three minutes later following a Clemson field goal to take firm control of the game, 38-27.
“Relax. It is just football,” Swinney reportedly told his quarterback at that point. Watson would lead the Tigers to two more touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough.
Alabama played mistake-free football, with no turnovers. And Clemson couldn’t stop the Tide when it mattered, en route to Alabama’s game-sealing touchdown with 1:07 to play, leaving a stone-faced and spent Swinney on the sidelines with his head in his hands.
Both teams finished the season 14-1, but Alabama earned the title with Monday night’s win, continuing its dynasty.
“You deserve to be here, but you’re entitled to nothing,” Saban told his team before taking the field. After his narrowest Alabama title victory, Saban told the crowd after the game that he’s “never been prouder of a bunch of young guys.”
Swinney, whose Tigers missed a chance to end a 34-year title drought and finish the season undefeated, had his own postgame message. “You can’t let one game define you,” he said. “Win or lose, you have to continue to grow and challenge yourself to get better—and that’s what we’ll do.”
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