SANTA CLARA, Calif — Clemson turned two Tua Tagovailoa interceptions into touchdowns as the second-ranked Tigers lead No. 1 Alabama, 31-16, at halftime.
Tagovailoa came into the game with just four interceptions, but A.J. Terrell picked off a pass on Alabama’s first possession and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown. Midway through the second quarter, Trayvon Mullen intercepted another pass in the end zone and returned it to the Clemson 44.
The Tigers turned the Mullen’s interception into points when Trevor Lawrence threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Travis Etienne.
Speaking of Etienne, the Clemson running back scored three first-half touchdowns. He had a 17-yard run that gave the Tigers a 14-7 lead with 10:35 to play in the first quarter and on a 1-yard run for 21-16 lead with 11:38 to go in the half.
Lawrence, playing in his first national championship game, played as flawless as anyone could expect. He completed 12-of-21 passes for 197 yards, including a 62-yard pass to Tee Higgins down the seam on the Tigers’ second possession of the game.
Clemson finished the first half with 224 yards, including 138 in the second quarter.
After a slow start by the defense in the first quarter, the Tigers tightened up in the second stanza. They allowed 224 first-quarter yards and 13 points in the first 15 minutes, but in the second, the Tide had just 42 yards and a field goal.
Clemson outscored Alabama 17-3 in the second quarter.
Tagovailoa finished the half 13-of-17 for 158 yards and two touchdowns, throwing a 62-yard touchdown to Jerry Jeudy and a 1-yard score to tight end Hale Hentges.
However, the Tagovailoa’s two interceptions proved to be the difference. He threw just four interceptions all season prior to the opening half.
Huegel made a 36-yard field goal with 53 seconds to play for the 31-16 lead.