TAMPA, FL (WCSC) - The Clemson Tigers won their first National Championship in 36 years Monday night, toppling the Crimson Tide.
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An unbelievable last-second play delivered the first National Championship loss for Alabama coach Nick Saban and secured Clemson's victory.
College football's first national championship rematch was even better than the original, with an incredible twist at the end.
Deshaun Watson and Clemson dethroned the champs and became the first team to beat Nick Saban's Alabama dynasty in a national title game, taking down the top-ranked Crimson Tide 35-31 Monday night in the College Football Playoff.
Watson found Hunter Renfrow for a two-yard touchdown pass with a second remaining to give the Tigers their first national championship since 1981. A year after Alabama won its fourth title under Saban with a 45-40 classic in Arizona, Clemson closed the deal and denied the Tide an unprecedented fifth championship in eight seasons.
"That has to be one of the greatest games of all time," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
The lead changed hands three times in the fourth quarter, but Watson got the ball last. Likely playing in his final college game, the junior quarterback threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns. In two games against Alabama and the most ferocious defense in college football, Watson has thrown for 825 yards and accounted for eight touchdowns. He was sacked four times and took some cringe-inducing shots from All-Americans Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster.
Swinney, the native Alabaman and former Crimson Tide walk-on receiver, has built an elite program at Clemson that was missing only one thing. Now the Tigers can check that box, too.
"Eight years ago we set out to put Clemson back on top," said Swinney, who can turn post-game interviews into a rousing sermon. "We came up a little short last year, but today on top of the mountain, the Clemson flag is flying."
The Tigers snapped Alabama's 26-game winning streak and beat a number one team for the first time ever.
Last season, Alabama met its match in Clemson, but prevailed. This time, Clemson made sure the sequel had a different ending.
Gov. Nikki Haley ordered a Clemson University flag be flown over the South Carolina statehouse on Tuesday in honor of the team's win.
"I'm a proud Clemson alum, I'm a proud governor, and I'm a proud South Carolinian," Haley said in a statement. "Clemson showed their heart and humility throughout the entire season, and in an unforgettable national championship victory, they reminded us that, with faith and hard work, anything is possible. That's what defines South Carolina."
Clemson's flag was flown on the Statehouse dome following its last national championship football win in 1981. The University of South Carolina flag was flown in 2010 and 2011 and the Coastal Carolina University flag was flown last year in honor of those schools' national championship baseball wins.