Clemson Takes National Championship From Alabama on Last-Second Touchdown

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

Somehow, college football's first national championship rematch bested last year's matchup between Clemson and Alabama.

At the end of a back-and-forth fourth quarter that saw four lead changes, Clemson had a decision to make trailing by three on the Alabama two-yard line with six seconds remaining. If they ran the offense out, failed to score a touchdown, and weren't able to get down in time, the Crimson Tide would have clinched their second title in a row. A field goal would have forced overtime.

Instead, head coach Dabo Swinney dialed up a mesh play to dimunitve walk-on receiver Hunter Renfrow, who secured the two-yard score for a 35-31 victory and the Tigers' first national championship since 1981.

Sending their fans back in Clemson in a frenzy.


Deshaun's last touchdown throw. #beatbama #clemson #nationalchampions

A video posted by Josh Gibson (@gibson40) on

"We knew that play was going to work," said Tigers receiver Mike Williams after the win. "When you want it the most, you go out with your best call. We knew that was our best call."

"I saw the whole play develop, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, wide open,'"said Tigers defensive lineman Christian Wilkins. "I'm on field goal unit, so I sprinted right onto the field as Deshaun was throwing it. I knew it was game. One second left. It was beautiful timing."

Junior Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was phenomenal, hitting 36-of-56 passes for 420 yards, three touchdowns, and no intercpetions. He also rushed for 43 yards and another touchdown. Four different receivers—Renfrow, Williams, Jordan Leggett, and Deon Cain—finished with over 90 receiving yards.

In a tweet back in January 2013, Watson predicted in a tweet that he'd be where he is right now as he arrived on the Clemson campus for the first time: "Me. In a National Championship Game. I'm just waiting on that moment."

And he's going out on top—after the victory, Watson declared for the NFL draft.

"Whoever picks me up is gonna get a champion, not just on the field, but off the field, and just a champion at heart who'll make people around him better," Watson said. "I'm just gonna go to work, and regardless of my situation or where I go, I'm gonna play my role and do the best I can do."