Justin Falcinelli says he is still kind of in shock and admitted it is hard to appreciate what just happened at Clemson. However, he says in a few years, when he and his teammates reflect on what a special year 2018 was, he knows he will remember it very fondly.
“What is going to stick with me is the guys that I did it with,” the Tigers’ two-time All-ACC Center said. “It is the best group of guys in the world. All the memories I have with my teammates here. This has been the most fun I have ever had. We have been focused and we have been intense, but we had a lot of fun along the way.”
Falcinelli really enjoyed the ride. When Clemson won the national championship two years ago, he played just 174 snaps, mostly in mop-up duty. The year, his final season at Clemson, he started all 14 games he played in.
Of course, one of the best memories came back in Week 5, when the Tigers rallied from 10-points down in the fourth quarter to beat Syracuse.
In the days leading up to the game, Clemson had been through a lot. There was the change at quarterback, then Kelly Bryant left the team and then his replacement, Trevor Lawrence, was injured during the game and was forced to sit out the rest of the afternoon.
Yet, despite all of that drama, the Tigers rallied to win the game with their third-string quarterback in Chase Brice. The best part was running back Travis Etienne and the offensive line that led the way.
Clemson leaned on its powerful running game in the second half and slowly worn down the Orange. Etienne ran for a career high 203 yards and scored three touchdowns, while the Tigers ran for 293 yards overall.
Falcinelli and the offensive line paved the way for Etienne on the winning touchdown as he walked into the end zone untouched on the two-yard run with 41 seconds to play.
“Once we got through Syracuse, I could see it start to click and start to get there,” Falcinelli said. “It was a tough week. With all the adversity we had with the quarterback change, with Trevor getting hurt, being down and getting through all of that. I knew if we could do that after going through all of that and still win, then we could do pretty great things.”
And they did.
Clemson went on to become the first 15-0 team in the modern era of college football, capping it with a dominating performance over Alabama in the national championship game. Falcinelli and his fellow offensive linemen capped it by not allowing the Crimson Tide to sack Lawrence and then running the football down their throat on 10-minute and two second drive in the fourth quarter to run out the clock. The 94-yard drive is the longest, from a time standpoint, in Clemson history.
“We knew we had a shot. We watched them on film, and we knew we had some opportunities and had some matchups,” Falcinelli said. “We thought we could do it coming in and to be able to go out and do it is amazing.”
And what a great way to go out.