On Monday at the Greenwood Clemson Club’s Prowl & Growl event at Piedmont Technical College, Dabo Swinney took a few minutes to relive two of the most important minutes in Clemson football history.
Swinney shared his perspective on the Tigers’ national championship game-winning drive with the crowd on hand.
He began by talking about a play made by Hunter Renfrow, but not the one everybody remembers. Swinney pointed out Renfrow’s six-yard reception on third down and 3 with 23 seconds left in the game that converted the only third-down play of the possession.
“A lot of people don’t really talk about that play, but that was a monstrous play,” Swinney said.
After spiking the ball to stop the clock with 20 seconds remaining, Deshaun Watson connected with a diving Jordan Leggett for a 17-yard completion that gave the Tigers another first down at Alabama’s 9-yard line and set up the last-second heroics.
Following an incompletion to Leggett and a pass-interference penalty against Alabama on Mike Williams, Clemson faced a critical first-and-goal play from the 2-yard line with six seconds left.
“We had already talked about a last-play scenario,” Swinney said. “We had two different plays that we were going back and forth on, but Jeff (Scott) was really adamant. He coaches wideouts, and he was very confident.”
The rest, of course, is history. Watson hit Renfrow in the flat for the game-winning touchdown with one second on the clock.
The play Clemson ran is called “Orange Crush.”
“We had actually run a different version of that play earlier in the game with Mike Williams,” Swinney said. “This was a sprint-out, a different style of play. We actually ran it against Ohio State as well. But we knew it was a safe play. When it came down to it, six seconds left, we felt like we’d have two seconds left. If it’s not there, he’s going to throw it away and we’re going to kick the field goal.”
The play was highly debated in the aftermath of the game, with some believing that Renfrow and Artavis Scott ran an illegal pick on Alabama defensive backs Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown.
Swinney scoffs at that assertion.
“Everybody calls it a rub, and there was a lot of debate, but we didn’t rub anybody,” Swinney said. “We tried, but Artavis got tackled, which was a great play by their defense because had they tackled Renfrow and tackled Artavis and just called pass interference, we would have had to throw the ball away. You don’t get the time back, so now you would have only had about two seconds left and had to kick the field goal.”
“I think that’s what the one DB was doing, but the other one didn’t get the memo,” Swinney added with a laugh.
It doesn’t matter now, though. All that matters is the two-minute drive and two-yard completion that helped Clemson earn its first national title in 35 years.
“It was an amazing moment,” Swinney said, “and something I’ll never forget.”