Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Schaible: Clemson's national title was no shock, but more of the precise execution

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen- Getty Images

By: Brian Schaible
Twitter: @SBNationReports

“If you’re going to dream, dream big.”

This was the phrase I heard repeatedly throughout Clemson’s postgame celebration. What we witnessed in Santa Clara was an outcome few would ever have conceived, even in their most quixotic of sports fantasies.

No, it’s not a surprise that Clemson is the National Champion.

I picked them to win a close one. I’m no expert.

For many, this was a coin-flip type of matchup.

We expected a close back and forth four-hour slugfest. We thought last year’s defensive struggle was an aberration.

Instead the Crimson Tide got rolled.

“I don’t think it was anything they were doing that stopped us,” said Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. “We shot ourselves in the foot by throwing that interception, and then not finishing drives the way we wanted to.”

Tagovailoa was uncharacteristically bad. On his first interception, AJ Terrell easily picked off the Sophomore sensation and returned it for 44 yards to score.

The second interception was even worse. Tagovailoa threw the perfect strike in stride to Traÿvon Mullen, if only he didn’t suit up for Clemson.

As halftime arrived, Alabama found themselves trailing by 15. While things were looking ominous, you had to believe Nick Saban would have some answers.

He didn’t.

The Crimson Tide had four second half possessions. Three ended after failing to convert on fourth down. The last ended with a punt in garbage time.

“I have a feeling I didn’t do a very good job for our team, with our team, giving them the best chance to win,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I always feel that way, even sometimes when we win, that there’s things we could have done better or that I could have done better.”

Justyn Ross needed 153 receiving yards for 1000 yards in his freshman season. He accumulated exactly that amount.

Clemson is so loaded that arguably its top three stars are ineligible for the NFL draft. They are all too young! I think it’s pretty clear that if Trevor Lawrence was able to declare this season, his name would be right near the top.

“Games like this, you have to make big plays, and the guys that we have, they definitely did that,” said Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. “You just give them a chance and they’ll come down with it. Just amazing players and really just so proud of these guys.”

With the 44-16 throttling, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney improved his overall record to 115-30. He also won his second national championship.

So, what’s next for him?

“As a young boy growing up in Alabama, I’ve lived so many of my dreams and I dream big,” said Swinney. “We’re just little ol' Clemson. We’re not supposed to be here. We’re not supposed to be the first 15-0 team in history. But, we are.”