Clemson tops Tide in classic

Playoff Championship Clemson Alabama Football-6
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Clemson's Deshaun Watson warms up before the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

APTOPIX Playoff Championship Clemson Alabama Football-4

The Associated Press

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Deshaun Watson’s 2-yard touchdown pass with 1 second remaining gave Clemson a wild 35-31 win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game. Watson completed 36 of 56 passes for 420 yards and three scores in his last college game, as the Tigers (14-1) got their first national title since 1981.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on the College Football Playoff national title game (all times EST):

12:25 a.m.

Deshaun Watson’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with 1 second remaining gave Clemson a wild 35-31 win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game.

Watson completed 36 of 56 passes for 420 yards and three scores in his last college game, as the Tigers (14-1) got their first national title since 1981.

Renfrow caught two scoring passes for Clemson, which rallied from a 14-0 deficit and snapped Alabama’s 26-game winning streak.

Bo Scarbrough ran for two touchdowns for Alabama (14-1), which failed in its quest to be the first 15-win major college team since Penn in 1897. Scarbrough left the game with a leg injury in the second half.

Alabama beat Clemson 45-40 last season in the title game. This sequel was as thrilling as the original.

Clemson put up 511 yards on Alabama’s defense, held the ball for nearly 35 minutes and scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Clemson then recovered an onside kick, and fittingly that gave Watson a chance to kneel down for the game’s final play — then streamed onto the field in celebration.

12:10 a.m.

SCORE ALERT: Alabama 31, Clemson 28.

Jalen Hurts’ 30-yard touchdown run with 2:07 left has given Alabama the lead right back in this national championship game.

And it came with the Tide’s title hopes essentially down to one play moments earlier.

Damien Harris delivered a 5-yard run on fourth-and-2 with 3 minutes left to keep the drive going. Then a backward pass — Hurts to ArDarius Stewart, who then threw it to O.J. Howard, got Alabama down to the 30.

Hurts did the rest, coming through with the TD run to put the Tide back on top.

12:05 a.m.

SCORE ALERT: Clemson 28, Alabama 24.

Clemson has taken the lead in the national championship game with 4:38 remaining.

Wayne Gallman’s 1-yard plunge gave the Tigers a 28-24 lead over Alabama, the first time all night that Clemson — which trailed 14-0 early on — has been on top. The Tigers are up to 451 yards of offense, and has Alabama’s 26-game winning streak in serious jeopardy.

A 17-yard pass to Mike Williams got the ball down to the Alabama 31, and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Crimson Tide tacked on to the end of that play got the Tigers down to the 16.

Watson went around the right side and dove for the pylon on the next play, getting stopped inside the 1. And then Gallman scored, sending the Clemson faithful into delight — sensing the Tigers now being on the brink of their first national title since 1981.

It’s Alabama’s first fourth-quarter deficit of the season.

11:55 p.m.

Midway through the fourth quarter, it seems like everyone in Raymond James Stadium is standing.

Clemson still trails Alabama 24-21, and just punted the ball away to the Crimson Tide. But virtually all of Alabama’s offense in this half has come on a 68-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Hurts to O.J. Horward, a blown coverage by the Tigers.

Alabama lost top rusher Bo Scarbrough to a lower right leg injury earlier this half. He’s officially questionable to return, but since he’s not on the field with the title at stake that would suggest his night is over.

11:25 p.m.

SCORE ALERT: Alabama 24, Clemson 21.

Here we go again.

Clemson and Alabama played an epic national championship game with a fantastic finish last year, and this one is setting up to be the same way.

Clemson has sliced into Alabama’s lead again, Deshaun Watson’s second touchdown pass of the night going to Mike Williams and getting the Tigers within 24-21 with 14 minutes left to play in regulation. Watson’s 4-yard TD pass has him up to 294 yards passing for the Tigers, who have outgained Alabama 367-281.

11:15 p.m.

SCORE ALERT: Alabama 24, Clemson 14.

Jalen Hurts completed 9 of his first 23 passes for 49 yards.

His 24th attempt was better than all that put together.

O.J. Howard was left all alone on the left sideline, and he and Hurts connected on a 68-yard touchdown pass with 1:53 left in the third quarter. That gave Alabama a 10-point lead again, not long after running back Bo Scarbrough was shaken up and walked slowly to the sideline.

But Hurts came through with the big play that Alabama desperately needed. And it was the longest completion Clemson allowed this season.

10:55 p.m.

SCORE ALERT: Alabama 17, Clemson 14.

Deshaun Watson’s 24-yard pass to Hunter Renfrow has Clemson now within 17-14 of Alabama in the national title game with 7:10 left in the third quarter.

The throw capped a four-play, 42-yard drive that took just 1:03, and was set up when Alabama shanked a punt to give Clemson the short field.

Clemson is now finding its offensive groove, having outgained Alabama 287-202. Watson is now 19 for 32 for 228 yards.

10:45 p.m.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson just became a punter.

Facing fourth-and-1 at the Alabama 43 midway through the third quarter, Clemson didn’t go for a conversion. Instead, Watson took a snap in the shotgun and pooched a kick toward the end zone. It was downed at the Alabama 5.

Clemson was stopped on fourth-and-1 at virtually the same spot in the first quarter.

Alabama still leads 17-7.

10:35 p.m.

SCORE ALERT: Alabama 17, Clemson 7.

Adam Griffith’s 27-yard field goal with 12:25 left in the third quarter has given Alabama a 10-point lead in the national title game.

And Clemson is lucky the deficit isn’t bigger.

Ryan Anderson’s second fumble recovery of the night set up the scoring drive. Anderson stripped Clemson’s Wayne Gallman a minute into the third quarter, then recovered the ball and returned it 12 yards to the Clemson 16.

Alabama only got seven yards in three plays after the fumble, settling for the field goal.

10:05 p.m.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney gave a televised interview before heading into the locker room for halftime, and made the second-half plan very clear.

“We’ve got to make this quarterback throw the ball,” Swinney said to ESPN.

Here’s why: Alabama has rushed 21 times for 143 yards and two touchdowns. But when freshman Jalen Hurts passes, the Tide have gotten 40 yards on 16 attempts — at least three of those throws getting batted down at the line of scrimmage.

10 p.m.

Halftime has arrived in Tampa, and it’s Alabama leading Clemson 14-7 at the break.