Late rally helps Clemson turn the tables on the Crimson Tide, win national championship

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TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow #13 of the Clemson Tigers makes a 2-yard game-winning touchdown reception against defensive back Tony Brown #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the fourth quarter of the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

TAMPA – When it came to motivating his team this season, Dabo Swinney channeled Joe Maddon.

“Try Not to Suck” is a theme from the Cubs manager that the Clemson head coach brought to his Tigers team in 2016 – hoping they would continue their momentum from the year before in hopes of taking it one step further.

While the weren’t that great to start off their second-consecutive National Championship game against Alabama on Monday night, they were good as the gold on the title trophy when it counted.

The Tigers shook off a 14-point first quarter deficit at Raymond James Stadium then rallied again in the fourth quarter after losing the lead in the final 2:07. Senior quarterback DeShaun Watson led a 68-yard drive in the closing two minutes and his touchdown pass on with a second left to Hunter Renfrow gave Clemson a 35-31 win over the Crimson Tide.

It avenges a loss in the title game to Alabama last year in Glendale, Arizona and gives the program their first National Championship since 1981 in a classic game that lasted nearly four hours.

Despite some early hits, Watson went the distance in a big way for the Tigers as he completed 36-of-56 passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Renfrow, who was lightly recruited out of high school, was the unsung hero for the Tigers as he caught a team-high ten passes for 92 yards and a pair of scores.

That includes the one on a quick route to his right in the endzone with just seconds left to play. That touchdown catch gave Clemson the lead back after they’d just lost it on a 30-yard touchdown run by Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts. Watson got the Tigers down the field in nine plays, capping it off with the throw to Renfrow that put both into college football history.