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Alabama Tops Clemson for National Championship

CFP National Championship - Alabama v Clemson
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Alabama rallied for a fourth quarter comeback to beat Clemson, 45-40, and secure the Crimson Tide’s fourth national championship in seven years.

Unlike the New Year’s Six bowls, the national title game lived up to the hype, turning into a back-and-forth shootout with plenty of big plays. No. 2 Alabama scored on four plays of 50+ yards and the two teams combined for 1,023 yards and a championship game-record 95 points (including 40 in the fourth quarter–another record).

Despite the big offensive numbers, it was a pair of special teams plays that gave Alabama the win. After kicking a field goal to tie the game at 24 early in the fourth quarter, Alabama surprised the top-ranked Tigers with an onside kick and got the ball back at midfield. Two plays later, Tide quarterback Jake Coker hit tight end O.J. Howard with a 51-yard strike to give the Crimson Tide a 31-24 lead. Clemson responded with a field goal, but Alabama’s Kenyan Drake returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. Alabama’s 17-3 run took just over three minutes off the clock, but gave the Tide the lead for good and helped end Clemson’s FBS-best 51-game winning streak when leading going into the fourth quarter.

The stars shone bright in this one. Alabama’s Heisman winner Derrick Henry rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns while the often-overlooked Coker threw for a career-high 335 yards and two scores. Clemson’s Deshaun Foster threw for a championship game-record 405 yards and four touchdowns while also picking up 73 rushing in the loss. In the game, he became the first college player to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season.

This is coach Nick Saban’s fourth title at Alabama and fifth overall. He is one short of former Alabama coach Bear Bryant on the all-time list. The Crimson Tide join Notre Dame (1943-49) as just the second school to win four titles in seven years in the poll era (since 1936).

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