It was a fourth quarter epic between the two best teams in college football, who for nearly four-and-a-half-hours, smacked each other, like Ali-Frazier in the “Thrilla in Manilla.”
And with apologies to the Eagles, for the first time in nearly two-years (26 consecutive wins), “There’s A New Kid in Town,” as Groucho’s Boys, aka Alabama, fell to the Tigers of Clemson: 35-31 on a last second touchdown pass.
Just how impressive was the quashing of that “Title Town” streak?
Alabama, who at one time led 14-0, had been 106-6 when leading at the half, and an eye-popping unblemished 96-0 when leading by double digits (24-14) entering the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately for the Bear Bryant faithful, those numbers didn’t take into consideration the best player (he was our vote/choice for the Heisman) in college football, Clemson QB Deshaun Watson (36-57-0, 420-yards,-3 TDs, 1 rushing – (12/18 -130 2 TDs) in the last quarter) who in addition to leading three fourth quarter touchdown drives, including the game winner, was calmer than Robert Duvall as “Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore” in “Apocalypse Now,” checking out the surfing conditions on a beach still under enemy fire.
When Alabama scored with a shade over two-minutes left in the game to take a 31-24 lead, Watson quietly told his huddled troops, “Let’s be legendary. Let’s be great. That’s what I want to be. I want to be great.”
The peppermint cool gunslinger also said earlier in the week that he was only concerned about winning the title that no one votes on.
It was a performance of Mozart perfection.
The two time Heisman runner-up finished his unimpeachable Clemson career 32-3 as a starter, leading his team on a championship winning 68-yard touchdown drive that was capped off with a 2-yard TD pass to Hunter Renfrow with a skinny second showing on the clock.
In addition to the championship, the Tigers won its first bowl game trailing by fourteen or more points, and defeated a number one ranked team for the first time in school history.
The biggest key to the game was the way Clemson, who ran an astounding 99 offensive plays, the most ever run against Alabama, combined with Watson’s talented receivers, simply wore down the Tide’s “Iron Dome” defense.
How perfectly were the stars aligned for “Sons of Strom Thurmond ’23?”
On the night that the Tiger’s captured its second national championship, Coach Danny Ford, who led Clemson to its first, and only other title in 1981, was inducted in the College Hall of Fame. Perfect “Death Valley” symmetry.
As the Eagles sang; “There’s A New Kid in Town,” and its name is; The Clemson Tigers.