Throwback Thursday: 2018 National Championship Game

By: Zachary Wagner

Leading up to the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship Game, no one was giving Clemson (14-0) a fair shot against Alabama (14-0) in what would be the two teams fourth meeting in the College Football Playoff. Clemson’s lone win in the CFP against the Crimson Tide came in the 2017, as Deshaun Watson led the Tigers to their first National Championship since 1981. 

Fast forward to 2019 and the Tigers, led by true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, are making their third National Championship Game appearance in four years. Alabama, led by Heisman runner-up Tua Tagovailoa, are making its fourth straight CFP National Championship Game, winners of two of them (2016,2018) 

Although Clemson was riding in on the fourth best offense in the nation, and the No.1 overall best defense in the land, many doubted Clemson’s resume up to the point. The Tigers only played one ranked team leading up to the playoffs, a 41-7 win over #16 North Carolina State. A 31-0 romping of #3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl Semifinal game turned some heads though. 

The game was to be held in Santa Clara, California at the home of the San Franciso 49ers’, Levi’s Stadium. 

Clemson got on the board first in the game, as A.J. Terrell picked off Tagovailoa and made a house call from 44-yards out. 

The Crimson Tide would answer three plays later though, as Tagovailoa found Jerry Juedy on a 62-yard touchdown reception to level the game, 7-7. 

On the ensuing drive, the Tigers used a 62-yard completion from Lawrence to Tee Higgins followed by a 17-yard touchdown rush from Travis Etienne to regain the lead, 14-7. 

Alabama found the endzone on its next drive, but a missed PAT attempt that bounced off the right upright gave the Tigers a 14-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. 

Clemson was unable to get the ball moving on its next drive, punting to Alabama who took advantage and drove the field. The Crimson Tide drive stalled out inside of the redzone though, and had to settle for a field goal to take their first lead of the game, 16-14. 

Travis Etienne would pay-dirt on the eighth play of the ensuing drive for his second rushing touchdown of the ballgame, giving the Tigers the lead back, 21-16. 

After Alabama could not get anything going on the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers got the ball with eight minutes remaining in the first half. Lawrence would complete 5-of-6 passes on the next drive, finding Etienne for a 5-yard touchdown reception. Clemson would open up the game 28-16 and add a 36-yard Greg Huegel field goal with less than a minute remaining gave Clemson a 31-16 halftime advantage. 

The Crimson Tide received the ball first in the second stanza, but were unable to move the ball and would have to punt the ball back to Lawrence and the Tigers. On the third play of the drive, Lawrence found a wide open Justyn Ross past the Alabama secondary, who took it 74-yards to the house, extending the Orange and White lead, 37-16. 

Lawrence found Higgins once again the next time the Tigers had the ball on a 5-yard touchdown connection, opening up the lead in blowout fashion, 44-16. 

The Clemson defense would stand tall in the fourth quarter, not allowing a single Crimson Tide point in the second half to secure Clemson’s third National Title in school history and becoming the first team in the modern era to achieve a perfect 15-0 record. 

Lawrence was named the offensive MVP, competing 20-of-32 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns. The freshman found nine different receivers on the night and guided Clemson to its second College Football Playoff National Championship in the last three years. 

Clemson fans, was the 2019 National Championship game your favorite Clemson game of all time? Sound off in the comments!

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