Rolled Tide! Clemson slams ‘Bama for title

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Clemson needed a big performance to unseat defending champion Alabama. The Tigers got plenty of them from start to finish.

Cornerback A.J. Terrell got it rolling with a 44-yard pick six on Tua Tagovailoa’s third pass of the game, Justyn Ross had a stunning display of acrobatic catches and Clemson’s defense shut down hopes of a Crimson Tide rally with three unlikely stops on downs in the second half of a 44-16 victory Monday night to win its second national title in three seasons — both over powerhouse Alabama.

It was an unexpected ‘Bama beatdown by the Tigers (15-0), who showed poise, strength on the offensive line and speed on defense to manhandle Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide (14-1).

It began almost immediately as Terrell stepped in front of Tagovailoa’s throw and ran untouched into the end zone to put Alabama on its heels, down 7-0. It wouldn’t be the last big play surrendered by the Crimson Tide.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence hit Tee Higgins with a 62-yard pass on third-and-14 deep in Tiger territory and Travis Etienne followed with a 17-yard TD run through Alabama vaunted defense. Tagovailoa’s second interception in the first half, this one by Trayvon Mullen, led to another Clemson score and a 28-16 lead.

In the second half, the 6-foot-4 freshman Ross and the Tigers defense took over.

Ross, an Alabama native who spurned his home state school for Clemson, made several outstanding and timely grabs. He broke free for a 74-yard TD catch and run that put the Tigers ahead 37-16. On a third-and-12, Ross grabbed the ball with just his right hand for a 37-yard gain with the Tide desperate to regain possession.

Alabama was going nowhere against Clemson when it mattered most. Backup defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney stuffed Alabama holder Mac Jones on a fake field goal try that ended far short of its goal.

Clemson linebacker Tre Lamar and safety Tanner Muse stopped Tagovailoa a yard short on fourth-and-3 on Clemson’s 14. And with Alabama hoping for any sort of momentum swing, All-American defensive end Clelin Ferrell stopped Tagovailoa for a 7-yard loss on fourth down near the goal line.

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