The Clemson Insider handed out some helmet stickers in the aftermath of Clemson’s 35-31 win over Alabama on Monday to win the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Williams was not on the field a year ago when Clemson pushed Alabama to the brink. One could argue the difference in the two results was his presence on the perimeter. He caught eight of his 11 targets for 94 yards and a touchdown in the game. Several of his grabs were of the circus variety, as Deshaun Watson threw to him in critical moments—even if Williams was blanketed by the Crimson Tide secondary. He managed to box out a cornerback on a couple of occasions to essentially rebound the ball in the air. Watson and Williams excelled at the back-shoulder fade in the second half, as well.
Cain was also absent from the Tigers’ heartbreaking defeat last season, and he emphatically announced his presence. The sophomore had 94 receiving yards on five catches, including the longest play of the game for Clemson—a 43-yard gain that may have been the most important offensive play for the Tigers since it led to the team’s first touchdown. Cain’s burst gave Clemson hope on offense when it looked like Alabama could run away with the game by halftime.
Leggett’s catch on the game’s final drive will get all the headlines, but it was his general effort all over the field that helped lead Clemson to a victory. He led the Tigers with 95 receiving yards in the game, and he snagged seven passes in the process. His ability to create space in tight windows was critical with Watson flinging the ball in perilous situations. He caught a seam route for 26 yards on third down to set up Clemson’s first score, and then there was the 19-yard reception off his back shoulder with less than 20 seconds remaining that put the Tigers into a goal-to-go situation.
In what might masquerade as an uneven defensive showing in many respects, the Tigers were very good on that side of the ball for lots of the game. There wasn’t a particular standout who stole the show, but Boulware was perhaps the most productive. He finished second on the team with six stops, led the team with two tackles for loss, and broke up a pass. He was also credited with the most emphatic stop of the game for his second-down hit for a four-yard loss on Bama’s final scoring drive that threatened to end the game.
Rushing yards are never easy to come by against Alabama. The Tide’s front seven was ferocious on Monday, but Gallman kept running hard. He picked up 46 yards on 18 carries—including a one-yard run that gave the Tigers their first lead with less than five minutes to play—to pace Clemson in that regard. Gallman also had three catches for 39 yards in the game, with all three going for exactly 13 yards apiece. It would have been easy for Clemson to forget about Gallman, but the Tigers kept pounding the rock for a reason.