In my last blog, my title was ACC Champs! So much has happened since then. But to preface, a bit of personal family history. I was at the Orange Bowl when we last won the national championship. That was 35 years ago! This year, two of our sons were in Tampa for this championship game. The title to my first blog in September of last year was “One Clemson Family’s Story”. So, “One Clemson Family” has come full circle. It has been a fun ride, filled with highs and lows; but the lows were wiped away by this second National Championship title. And the way our team won was spectacular by any standard.
We won the ACC Championship in early December and then looked toward the first round of the final four BCS Championship series on New Year’s Eve against Ohio State, coached by Urban Meyer.
Clemson was hitting on all cylinders and had an unexpected easy victory over that legendary program and coach, winning 31-0. So, everybody felt pretty good about facing the football power of this decade with a storied history of excellence. We had faced them the previous year and lost 45-40. Many of our key players were returning and we would be a much more experienced and seasoned group. Still, we were not surprised that Alabama was favored by even the experts on the morning of the game.
The game was touted and promoted as a rematch of two titans, one an established winner of championships and the other a highly respected program of winning, but could they go all the way. The question was…Could Clemson pull it off? Could they go the distance? Could they really get it done? Avid followers of the Tigers weren’t confident of victory, but we felt pretty good. We had come close the previous year against the same powerful program.
Most expected this to be a shoot-out and they were not disappointed. After a slow Clemson start (we only gained 47 yards and trailed 7-0 at the end of the first quarter), we seem to begin to click. At the end of the first half, we trailed Bama 14-7. We played well in the third quarter, but still trailed 24-14. All year we have been known as a strong fourth quarter team. It’s a key part of Dabo Swinney’s mantra. Play all four quarters. Finish the game!
The fourth quarter was filled with big plays and scoring on both sides. Clemson made up the deficit and was rolling. But don’t forget Alabama. They scored on a big run late in the game to take the lead 31-28. Clemson had the ball with very little time remaining and proceeded downfield with key passes gaining much needed yardage. We were now on the Alabama 2 yard line and were trailing by three points with 6 seconds remaining in the game.
The easy answer was to kick a chip shot field goal to tie the score and send the game into overtime. The coaches conferred and Dabo said “go for it”. They called a fast developing pass play that, if it failed, would hopefully still leave enough time to kick the field goal…hopefully. It was gutsy, but typified Clemson’s coaching philosophy under Dabo.
The pass play called was well thought out and worked! Clemson scored with one second left on the scoreboard to win by four, 35-31. It was truly a shootout and Clemson thankfully prevailed against the most powerful program in college football.
What a year it has been! What a finish! All Clemson fans will now look forward to the next football season. This was the culmination of a well designed long term program by Dabo Swinney to bring Clemson from a pretty good football program to greatness. But Clemson coaches, players past and present and their ever faithful fans look at this as only the beginning. As Dabo said after the game…… the best is yet to come!
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