Alabama is not immortal. When they are cut, they’ll bleed like the rest. Clemson saw blood in the water and attacked like frenzy of sharks looking to feast on injured prey. What happened next was nature. Everything must die. Some deaths are simply more violent than others.
The Tigers had slayed the beast before, but not like this. Dabo Swinney preaches bringing one’s own guts. For one night, in sleepy Santa Clara, Clemson was content to disembowel the Crimson Tide on the biggest stage.
Thirty unanswered points. No one does that to Nick Saban. No one makes him tap out. No one leaves him hands folded, no longer trying to find answers.
Clemson is the champion. A worthy one. They did it by turning in the most impressive title game performance of the playoff era. Perhaps the best one ever. They did by turning the reins over to a freshman quarterback who now has two years to kill before being selected as the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
Trevor Lawrence threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns. The 19-year-old was the picture of poise, out-dueling Tua Tagovailoa and rendering big-game experience unimportant. Fellow freshman Justyn Ross hauled in six passes for 153 yards and a score, repeatedly coming up big on crucial third downs.
The victory for the ages was fueled by kids of a certain age.
Clemson scored 44 points on 63 plays, several of which were devoted to running out clock without running up the score. The Tigers held Alabama scoreless for the final 44 minutes. Brent Venables painted a masterpiece, getting pressure without exotic blitz packages and bullying the offensive line in the trenches.
To say it was a shocking result would be an understatement. But at the same time, this was the culmination of years of program building. It was the product of Swinney building Alabama 2.0, then turning that weapon against its blueprint.
Two national championships in three years means Clemson takes a back seat to no one. They are no longer the hunters, but the hunted.