SANTA CLARA, Calif — In Monday’s team meeting, Clemson’s coaches called out the offensive line.
In the eight days leading up to the national championship game, the offensive line at Clemson was reminded by the media over and over again about how bad it played in last year’s loss to Alabama.
“The normal rhetoric was Bama’s defensive line versus Clemson’s offensive line and it was a big miss match,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “We told our guys that it was going to stick around until we prove otherwise.”
The big guys up front did something about it.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence was not sacked and was hardly even touched as he scorched the Crimson Tide all night in Clemson’s 44-16 romp over previously undefeated Alabama. Then late in the game, the Tigers forced their will on the Tide with 10-minute drive to close the game.
After Lawrence ran for a first down on a quarterback power with 2:45 to play in the game, head coach Dabo Swinney pulled his starting offensive line so they could get a curtain call. It was a special moment for the unit and a nice rebound from the last time they played Alabama.
“To be able to come out today and allow no sacks and to be able to move the ball, I think that last drive started on the one-yard line and we moved it all the way down,” Scott said. “I am really proud of that group up front.”
Center Justin Falcinelli knew his team could have some success against the Tide’s defense, but he never imagined they would dominate them like they did.
“We tried to tune out as much as we could going into it and all of that, but it does get to you and you think about it,” the All-ACC center said. “We knew we had a shot. We watched them on film and we knew we had some opportunities and had some matchups.
“We thought we could do it coming in and to be able to go out and do it is amazing.”
Clemson closed the game with a 94-yard drive, all on the ground, that took the last 10 minutes and two seconds off the clock. It was a statement drive for not only the Tigers, but the offensive line as a whole.
“We knew it was going to come down to us,” guard Gage Cervenka said. “Every week, you win games in the trenches and especially in championship games. I wish we would have rushed the ball a little bit more and we did towards the end and it was nice.
“But at the end of the day, we scored 44 points. It was incredible. We played very good ball up front and I thought we kept them at bay a little bit.”