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Alabama Football Film Room: The Rally and the Fall

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A sputtering offense put together an impressive drive to retake the lead, but a tired defense couldn’t hang on.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama The Greenville News-USA TODAY Sports

Once Clemson took a 28-24 lead with under five minutes left, I’ll admit I wasn’t very confident the offense would respond. But they did. Six plays, 68 yards, and 2:31 later, Alabama had reclaimed the lead; but Clemson and Deshaun Watson would get another chance.

Going into the final drive, the Tide defense had been on the field for 89 snaps. The defense played a great game and harassed Watson all night, but they were just on the field too much.

3rd and 16: Clemson has the lead, and Alabama’s comeback hopes aren’t looking good after a blown up screen play. Alabama is in shotgun with 11 personnel, trips right and Hurts has Damien Harris to his left. He takes a five step drop; and Clemson only brings four but still gets some pressure on him. Hurts steps up then slides out to the right with LB Ben Boulware chasing him. While scrambling right, he sees ArDarius Stewart and heaves a pass across his body to the middle of the field. Stewart high points it and comes down with the huge 15 yard catch, just shy of the first down. Damien Harris darts up the middle for the 4th down conversion on the following play, and the drive is still alive.

1st and 10: After the Harris first down, he stays in as the lone setback with Hurts under center. The offense has two tight ends, O.J. Howard and Miller Forristall, on the left while Calvin Ridley and Stewart are on the right. Stewart motions to the left and lines up 5 yards behind the line. Hurts takes the snap and immediately turns and throws it back to Stewart, who catches it and sets up to throw. Stewart uncorks about 33 yards through the air with a defensive back charging in his face. The pass is right on the money, and Howard hauls it in on Clemson’s 30 yard line. Alabama has suddenly gone 44 yards in three plays. With Stewart’s early departure for the draft, he ends his career with a 100% completion percentage, averaging 18 yards/attempt, and a 251.2 passer rating.

1st and 10: Hurts is back in the gun with Harris to his left. Trips right with Howard, Stewart, and Forristall, but Howard motions to the left to join Ridley. Hurts gets to the end of his five step drop, and Korren Kirven has already gotten beat by his man. Hurts takes off, eluding Carlos Watkins. He just sprints down the middle, getting a crucial - and awesome pancake - block from Forristall. Hurts glides through a narrowing gap, shrugs off a diving defender, and scores a touchdown to put Bama back on top.

2nd and 5: Deshaun Watson’s back in shotgun, trips right and Mike Williams alone on the left. Anthony Averett is in press coverage but allows Williams a clean release. Alabama rushes six; so Averett is on an island against Williams, who has three inches on the cornerback. Watson is never going anywhere else. He lofts a beautiful pass, confident that his receiver will go up and get it. And he does. Averett isn’t in bad position at all either. He just turns his head to find the ball a little too late, and Williams makes a heckuva grab. He did have one arm in there, but Williams held on as Averett tried to rip it out. Clemson’s just inside Alabama’s 40 yard line with 1:50 left.

2nd and 10: Clemson picked up another first down and has moved inside the 30 yard line. They’re in the gun with four wide, two on each side, with TE Jordan Leggett and Mike Williams on the left. Ronnie Harrison gets matched up against Leggett, who runs a corner route. Watson throws it with three defenders closing in, and he puts it where only his man can reach it. Harrison is right on Leggett, but Leggett uses all of his length to lay out and snag it. Clemson’s inside the 10 yard line now.

1st and goal: Anthony Averett is flagged for pass interference in the end zone, so Clemson has a first down at the 2 yard line with time for one more play. Artavis Scott is wide right with Hunter Renfrow in the slot. Marlon Humphrey is opposite Scott, and Tony Brown has Renfrow. Watson rolls to his right, and it’s just a rub route. Now, the receiver going for the pick should at least attempt to pretend to run a route, but Scott just launches himself at Humphrey and blocks him. Brown has to go around them, and Watson has an easy toss to a wide open Renfrow. Brown lays a hit into Renfrow in an attempt to jar the ball loose, but it’s to no avail. Touchdown Clemson.