Ben Boulware was not going to lie. When Clemson fell behind 14-0 to Alabama after Bo Scarbrough rumbled 37 yards for a touchdown with 10:42 left in the second quarter, he knew they were in trouble.
“It looked very grim,” Boulware said.
However, it wasn’t over. The Tigers’ linebacker knew they would find a way to get back in the game and they knew it was just a matter of time before quarterback Deshaun Watson and that offense got going. After totaling just 72 yards and five first downs and not scoring in the first 22 minutes of the game, Clemson had 439 yards, 26 first downs and 35 points in the final 28 minutes as the Tigers rallied for a 35-31 victory to win its first national championship in 35 years.
“We knew it was going to be a battle all night. We knew it was not going to be an Ohio State type game,” Boulware said. “So we just put our head down and went to work. We controlled what we could control. We knew the offense could take care of its business.”
Once Watson, who threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another, settled into the game, the Clemson defense handled its business. Scarbrough, who had 62 of his 93 yards on his two touchdown runs, did nothing the rest of the night has he totaled just 31 yards on his other 14 carries before going out with a broken bone late in the third quarter.
At one point, the Clemson defense forced five straight three-and-out possessions and had nine overall. Alabama totaled just 376 total yards, had just 16 first downs and was 2-of-15 on third down.
“Overall, we did our part in slowing down that offense,” Boulware said. “It is a very high scoring offense. They dominated a lot of teams all year, and to slow them down at the end of the game and put the ball in No. 4’s hands, you are very confident on the sideline.”
Boulware wished the defense could take back Jalen Hurts’ 30-yard run which gave the Crimson Tide a 31-28 lead with 2:07 to play, but he knew Watson and the offense had the defenses’ back and they would come through.
“We knew on that last drive that No. 4 was going to handle his business and do what he does and be who he is,” the senior linebacker said. “He is obviously The Goat and is one of the greatest players to come through here so when you are on that sideline, you are very confident and have a lot of trust in him. We knew he was going to take care of business.”
Watson had to do it against an Alabama defense that was having an historic season overall. The Crimson Tide and allowed just 32 points all season in the fourth quarter. In Alabama’s prior eight games, the Crimson Tide’s opponents had 19 fourth‐quarter drives, which produced zero points with five turnovers.
However, with 2:01 left in the game, Watson guided the Tigers on a nine-play, 68-yard drive for the ages. The game-winning drive included a 24-yard pass to Mike Williams and a 17-yard one to Jordan Leggett—both spectacular catches—before finding Hunter Renfrow open in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown with one second left.
“To be the best, you have to beat the best, and that was Alabama,” Boulware said. “They have been the standard for a long time, but not anymore. Clemson has arrived. Clemson is here. We are back on top.”
—Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
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