Clemson dominates Alabama to College Football Playoff championship game

 eu.usatoday.com  01/08/2019 04:45:58   Erick Smith

Live updates from the College Football Playoff championship game between Alabama and Clemson from Santa Clara, California: 

Congratulations to Clemson

This wasn't just a win for the Tigers. This was a domination of Alabama. They scored the final 30 points of the game behind a spectacular performance from freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his classmate wide receiver Justyn Ross. The defense did its part, holding the No. 2 scoring offense to three points in the final three quarters with a series of red zone stops.

Clemson wins 44-16 to take its second title in three seasons.

Exchange of punts

Alabama coach Nick Saban tried Jalen Hurts at quarterback with his team down 28. It didn't change anything as Hurts was sacked and the Tide punted back to the Tigers. All that's left is for Clemson to run the clock out with 10 minutes left.

That should do it

Another fourth-down stop for the Clemson should put this one away. Tua Tagovailoa's end run from the Tigers 2 was stuffed for 7-yard loss. Tigers take over with 12:17 to go with a 44-16 lead.

Tigers running away with it

Justyn Ross and Trevor Lawrence have simply been too good for Alabama. And Clemson is just 15 minutes away from completing a domination of the Crimson Tide for its second title in three seasons. The true freshman combined with two spectacular third-down conversions on the latest drive by the Tigers. It ended with Lawrence finding Tee Higgins, also on third down, for a 5-yard score and a 44-16 advantage. 

Good GRACIOUS Justyn Ross

(via @SportsCenter) pic.twitter.com/BzAfBWp7Kf

— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) January 8, 2019

Alabama comes up short again

A second drive of the second half saw the Tide come up with no points. They went on fourth-and-4 and Tua Tagovailoa was stopped one yard short after scrambling against pressure. Clemson keeps its 37-16 lead with 5:42 left in the third quarter. Big series upcoming for the Alabama defense. 

Clemson with big-play strike to extend lead

The Tigers are now firmly in control after Trevor Lawrence stood in the pocket against a third-down blitz and found fellow true freshman Justyn Ross for a 74-yard touchdown. The extra point was missed so Clemson holds a 37-16 advantage with 8:25 left in the third quarter. 

Freshman to Freshman!

The corner hits the dirt and Justyn Ross is OFF TO THE RACES 💨💨💨 pic.twitter.com/5aBcaMLTuV

— The Sports Quotient (@SportsQuotient) January 8, 2019

Fake fall short for Alabama

A fourth-down gamble paid off for Nick Saban and one did not. After Josh Jacobs converted a fourth-and-1 to extend the first drive of the second half, the Crimson Tide coach called for a fake field goal on fourth-and-6 from the Clemson 22. Mac Jones, the holder, was stopped for a 2-yard loss and Clemson takes over with 31-16 lead and 9:47 left in the third quarter. 

Teams headed to the locker room

Alabama elects to keep its three timeouts in its pocket and only runs two plays before the end of the second quarter. It's 31-16 Clemson after the first 30 minutes.

The Tide is winning the statistical edge, outgaining the Tigers 266-224, but the difference has been two uncharacteristic interceptions by Tua Tagovailoa that have led to 14 points. Besides the picks, the sophomore quarterback has been mostly sharp. He is 13-of-17 for 158 yards with two touchdowns but looked more confused in the second quarter.

Trevor Lawrence has some early struggles before a long pass to Tee Higgins seemed to get him more comfortable. He is 12-of-21 for 197 yards and one touchdown. 

One positive for Alabama. It's dominating the ground battle with 107 yards rushing and 4.7 yards per carry against the nation's top run defense. Clemson has managed just 27 yards on 10 carries. 

The Crimson Tide gets the ball at the start of the second half, which will be a key drive to determine who wins this game. 

Tigers extend lead

After a big sack on Tua Tagovailoa, Clemson forced a punt. A methodical drive worked the clock down to 45 seconds left in the half. Greg Huegel delivers on a 36-yard field goal to make the score 31-16. It's the most points allowed in the first half by a Nick Saban team at Alabama. 

Trayvon Mullen had a pick of Tua earlier in the game, he added this big sack as wellpic.twitter.com/MvwHxEeo1s

— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 8, 2019

Clemson cashes in off the turnover

The Tigers extended their lead to 28-16 with 4:38 left in the second quarter on a 5-yard shuffle pass from Trevor Lawrence to Travis Etienne. Clemson only needed to drive 47 yards after its second interception of Tua Tagovailoa gave them a short field. Big drive coming up for Alabama, especially with the Tide getting the ball at the start of the second half. Can get two consecutive possessions here if they play things right.

Another pick for Tagovailoa

Alabama's quarterback has been mostly spectacular but his misses Monday have been spectacular. After an earlier interception was returned for a touchdown, the sophomore tried to go deep into double coverage midway through the second quarter. It was intercepted by Trayvon Mullen and Clemson takes over the Tide 47 after a nice return.

Nice INT and return by #CoconutCreek HS (FL) alum & #Clemson#Tigers CB Trayvon Mullen Jr. (@Mullen_1era) in the #NationalChampionship⁠ ⁠Game pic.twitter.com/Yqcuk4xOoE

— Sleeper Athletes (@SleeperAth1etes) January 8, 2019

Tennis match being played in Santa Clara

And just like that Clemson has taken the lead. It took six plays for the Tigers to go 65 yards capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Travis Etienne. The big play was a screen from Trevor Lawrence to Tavien Feaster that put them in scoring position. We'll see if the Clemson defense can force its first punt with the score 21-16 and 11:38 left in the second quarter.

Alabama back out front

A quick stop of the Tigers got the ball back for the Tide. Their drive inside the 5 stalled out, and Joseph Bulova hits a 25-yard field goal to put Alabama ahead 16-14 on Clemson with 14:18 left in the second quarter.

End of first quarter

Clemson leads, but not for long. Alabama is threatening inside the Tigers 5 at the end of the first 15 minutes. So far, the Tide has been unstoppable on offense except for an interception thrown by Tua Tagovailoa on its first possession. He bounced back well and ends the 15 minutes at 11-of-13 for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Still, it's Clemson 14, Alabama 13.

We're almost even

Alabama is back in the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa to Hale Hentges on a drive set up by some efficient passes from the Tide quarterback and a running game that is having its way against the Clemson front. The lone problem? Joseph Bulova missed the extra point. Tigers hold 14-13 advantage with 6:23 left in the first quarter.

Clemson gets its offense rolling

Trevor Lawrence looked shaky early which is understandable for a true freshman. But he soon made his mark on the game with a laser strike to Tee Higgins for 62 yards on a third-and-14. Travis Etienne then went around left end for a 17-yard touchdown on the next play and the Tigers are up 14-7 with less than five minutes gone in the first quarter.

Tough run by Travis Etienne!! #CFPNationalChampionship#Clemsonpic.twitter.com/OERqNZG6lV

— The Lunch Table Blog Show LLC (@TLTBlogShow) January 8, 2019

And Alabama quickly responds

Tua Tagovailoa didn't let an interception returned for a touchdown get him down. His next throw after Alabama started with two runs on the next drive found Jerry Jeudy running free down the middle of the field. The 62-yard score tied things up at 7-7 with 12:05 left in the first quarter.

Jerry Jeudy is da BEST WR in college 🤷🏾‍♂️ Tua Tagovailoa 62yd TD to Jeudy 💰 pic.twitter.com/hGGst9omHP

— BLACK SPORTSCENTER (@VersaceBoyEnt) January 8, 2019

Clemson strikes first with a huge defensive play

Tua Tagovailoa looked settled in with two early completions for 20 yards. But on his third throw, the Clemson defense fooled him by jumping a short route. A.J. Terrell made the interception and returned the ball 44 yards for a touchdown. 

It's 7-0 Clemson with 13:20 left in the first quarter.

Tua threw A.J. Terrell open tbh pic.twitter.com/SCoEsnyE3s

— RJ Young (@RJ_Young) January 8, 2019

Tigers fail to get going

A good start for the Alabama defense as it forces a three-and-out by Clemson. Trevor Lawrence's first pass to the flat was batted down and his third-and-7 attempt sailed past Hunter Renfrow. Tide takes over on its 20.

Coin toss complete

Alabama wins the toss and defers its option to the second half. That means Clemson and freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence get the ball first.

Kickoff coming shortly. 

Game preview

Call it Round 4. And Round 3 in the College Football Playoff championship game.

Alabama and Clemson meet again Monday in the fourth consecutive postseason. The showdown in Santa Clara, California, comes after they split two previous matchups in the title game in the 2015 and 2016 season. Alabama won last year's semifinal. 

This will be the third title in four years if the Tide prevail and second in three seasons for the Tigers should they win. If history holds, this should be another memorable and close matchup between the teams. The previous two title games were decided by less than a touchdown. 

Whichever team wins will also become the first team in the modern era of college football to finish its season with a 15-0 record.

STAFF PICKS: Who wins the title game between Alabama, Clemson

KEYS TO VICTORY: How Alabama and Clemson win the title game

NEED TO KNOW: Breaking down the Alabama-Clemson matchup

Clemson stars make it to California

Former Tigers stars Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins both play together with the Houston Texans. With their team knocked out of the playoffs this past weekend in the NFL wild card round, they decided go support their alma mater.

Watson is also serving as honorary captain.

Nikki Haley in attendance

The former United States ambassador to the United Nations graduated from Clemson and was also governor of South Carolina. Having resigned her job at the end of the last year, she made the trek west to support her alma mater.

.@ClemsonPrez and @NikkiHaley are ready to cheer on the Tigers! Are you?? pic.twitter.com/vnepdk2fr6

— Clemson University (@ClemsonUniv) January 8, 2019
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