When I first saw Star Wars as a kid—I’m talking about the first one in the original trilogy—I thought it was the greatest movie that I had ever seen. Luke Skywalker learning the ways of the Force, Obi-Wan Kenobi was as cool as one can get, Han Solo was awesome, Princes Leia (wow!) and of course Darth Vader.
The fight scenes with the laser blasters, and then Vader’s and Kenobi’s lighsaber battle … as kids we all wanted our own lightsaber. When I left the theater that afternoon, I knew there was no way anything could top Star Wars. I was wrong.
A few years later when Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was released, I was excited they made a second movie but I was very skeptical of how it might compare to the first one. But, it was awesome. The fight scenes and the special effects were way better and the storylines for the three heroes were much better.
Spoiler alert, Vader tells Luke that he is his father – WHHHAAAT!
The sequel, to my surprise, was better than the first one, in my opinion.
I can only remember a few other times that this has happened. I thought Rocky II was better than Rocky, and most recently, I felt like The Dark Knight was better than Batman Begins. In each case, it was not much better, but it was a little bit better. It got you fired up and hoping for a third one, which in each case happened.
However, Rocky III was a dud, Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi was okay and The Dark Knight Returns—though not as good as the first two—is probably the best third movie in a trilogy series in the history of Cinema.
But, in my opinion, those are the only examples where the sequels were better than the originals. So when Clemson and Alabama met for a second straight year on Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, I thought there was no way this game could live up to what we saw last year out in the Arizona Desert.
I mean, Deshaun Watson was amazing for Clemson in that game. He dominated the Crimson Tide’s defense to the tone of a record 478 total yards. He was Clemson’s Superman as he made one big play after another.
Nick Saban, knowing he could not stop Superman, pulled off an onside kick for the ages so he could get an extra possession and then Kenyan Drake took a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to one up Watson in a thrilling 45-40 Alabama victory.
That was a lot to live up to as Clemson and Alabama headed into Monday night’s rematch at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. But it did.
Like in Star Wars, Watson found that little passageway to send the laser down to blow up Nick Saban’s Death Star at the last second. Watson’s two-yard touchdown pass to his Han Solo—Hunter Renfrow—ended Alabama’s chances to win a fifth national title in eight years.
Clemson vs. Alabama: Dabo’s Revenge, saw the Tigers rally from deficits of 14-0, 17-7 and 24-14 before finally getting its first lead with 4:38 to play in the fourth quarter on a Wayne Gallman one-yard touchdown. However, like in all of the classics, the villain was not done.
The Crimson Tide quickly rolled down the field on their next possession, capped by a 30-yard Jalen Hurts touchdown run with 2:07 left on the clock.
Watson, like all great heroes do, knew Alabama had left him enough time on the clock to lead the Tigers to victory. The All-American, who threw a championship record 420 yards and totaled four touchdowns, directed a 68-yard scoring drive in the final two minutes that might be considered the greatest game-winning drive in the history of college football.
Watson hit Mike Williams for a 24-yard gain, then Renfrow for a six-yard pass on a key third-down play to keep the chains moving before he hit tight end Jordan Leggett with one of the best passes and throws you will see in a late-stage moment.
Leggett’s catch moved the football to the Alabama nine and got everyone to their feet. Everyone’s hands across the country were sweating as Watson—with six seconds left in the game—rolled to his right and hit Renfrow with the game-winning touchdown with one second to play.
To start the celebration of Clemson’s first national title in 35 years, Swinney called a surprise onside kick that rolled just enough for the required 10 yards to be a legal play, which Clemson recovered to seal the victory.
It was a comeback for the ages and was one of those rare examples when the sequel was actually better than the original.
–Photo Credit: Bart Boatwright/The Greenville News via USA TODAY Sports