GLENDALE, AZ (WCSC) - Clemson's quest for its first national championship in 34 years came up short as Alabama (14-1) surged ahead of the Tigers in the second half of the College Football Playoff National Championship, 45-40.
The scores was tied at 24 early in the fourth quarter when the Crimson Tide turned the momentum by recovering an onside kick. That led to a go-ahead touchdown for Alabama, a lead the now 16-time national champs never gave up.
The Tigers would cut the lead to 31-27 on their next drive with a field goal, but on the ensuing kickoff, Alabama's Kenyan Drake would make the most electric play of the game with a 95 yard kick return to put the lead back into double digits at 38-27.
"What a year. I'm incredibly proud of our team." Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said after the game. "Obviously we wanted to win the game and we came up a little short, but I think that at least the nation saw tonight why we've been so successful. They saw the heart of our team. This is a team that just has incredible will to win and heart, and I think they gave us everything that they had. They competed. We out-gained them. I thought we physically matched up great with these guys. Really proud of that."
The Tigers (14-1) have now lost 13 in a row to the Crimson Tide, a losing streak that dates back to 1909.
"This team, I really wanted to do the best that I could do for this team, probably as much as any team that I've ever coached" Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "because I really did want them to have the opportunity to win this game. You've got to give Clemson's team a lot of credit. They've got a great football team. Their quarterback is a fabulous player. Their team played hard. You know, I would like to congratulate them on the great season that they had."
Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry ran for 158 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end OJ Howard was named the games offensive MVP with 5 catches for 208 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Clemson's star quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for 405 yards and four touchdown passes. Tyler Renfrow caught 7 passes for 88 yards and 2 first half touchdowns.