Clemson, Renfrow battle to finish but fall to Tide for title

clemfoot-13Clemson fought valiantly and held a fourth-quarter lead, but late special teams plays by Alabama proved to be the difference in Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game as the Crimson Tide prevailed, 45-40. The Tigers finished the  season with a 14-1 record.

“What a year,” said Head Coach Dabo Swinney. “I’m incredibly proud of our team. Obviously we wanted to win the game and we came up a little short, but at least the nation saw tonight why we’ve been so successful. This was a team that had incredible will to win and heart, and gave us everything that they had. It won’t be 34 years before we’re going to be back, I promise you that.”

Deshaun Watson was brilliant in defeat, accounting for a career-high 478 yards of total offense and four touchdowns through the air. The sophomore signal-caller finished in fine fashion, becoming the first quarterback in FBS history with at least 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season. Defensively, Kevin Dodd was a bright spot with a career-high five tackles for loss.

The Tigers lost for the first time in their history when producing at least 500 yards of total offense. Clemson finished with 550 yards to Alabama’s 473, but the Crimson Tide scored on a kickoff return for touchdown in the fourth quarter that provided momentum. Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry finished with 36 carries for 158 yards for the Tide.

Henry struck first, scoring on a 50-yard scamper in which he went untouched over the right side of the defense. But Clemson answered quickly when Watson found former Socastee High standout Hunter Renfrow on a beautiful 31-yard pass into the right corner of the endzone to knot the score at 7-7. The two connected again a drive later when Watson hit him in the middle of the endzone to give the Tigers a 14-7 cushion after the first quarter. Renfrow finished with a season-high seven catches for 88 yards.

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