Hunter Renfrow

Rematch revenge! Clemson knocks off Alabama to win the 2017 National Championship Game


In order to be the champions, you had to beat the champions. Mission accomplished for Clemson.

A historic rematch for the ages lived up to the hype thanks to a wild and career-defining fourth quarter that saw the Tigers win the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game in dramatic fashion 35-31 over Alabama.

The two defenses dominated the game early and often as many predicted given the number of stars on that side of the ball. Neither team found much success on third down (just nine combined conversions) and the passing game was inconsistent for both teams outside of a few big plays.

The Crimson Tide jumped out to an early lead behind the strong running of tailback Bo Scarbrough, who continued to abuse opponents with his punishing running style. He found the end zone early in the first quarter by scampering off to the left side of his big offensive line and finding pay dirt after 25 yards for the game’s first points. His second touchdown was even better than the first, using a few key blocks from his tight end and left tackle to hit the edge and scamper 37 yards for the score, running over a few defenders and carrying a few more on his back into the end zone.

Unfortunately the sophomore was injured in the third quarter with a leg injury, putting all the pressure on young quarterback Jalen Hurts. While he never looked too much like a true freshman, passing the ball was a struggle most of the night until he found a wide-open O.J. Howard for a 68-yard touchdown that had plenty thinking back to last year’s title game where he had a career outing.

That wasn’t enough to contain a determined Deshaun Watson in the final quarter however, as the signal-caller marched his team 88 yards in just six plays before leaping into the end zone for the first Clemson lead of the ball game with just under five minutes left. It was a vintage performance from the college superstar (who finished 36-of-56 for 420 yards and three touchdowns), which included several key hookups with receiver Mike Williams and a few key runs that moved the chains.

The Tide didn’t seem phased however, answering right back in a wild sequence of events. They broke out of their offensive malaise with a surprising trick play that found Howard for a big gain once again to enter Clemson territory. That’s when Hurts finally used his legs to find the end zone, scampering 30 yards to the goal line as he weaved and ducked out of numerous tackles.

Watson wasn’t done yet though, and saved his best for last with the game and his legacy on the line.

Facing a defense that was operating at a historic level coming into the game, Watson sliced and diced the Tide for a nine play, 68 yard march toward the end zone. With a make or break play coming up, the game’s offensive MVP dropped back and smoothly found ever reliable target Hunter Renfrow wide open in the end zone with just one second left.

That set off a wild celebration among the Clemson faithful as the school celebrated its second national title — and first since 1981 — in the sweetest of fashions. It was a game for the ages given the ending and tense final moments but will no doubt be remembered for an incredible drive that culminated in a championship for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers.

Alabama leads Clemson with just one quarter left in the national title game

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All good things must come to an end and there is just one more quarter of college football left this season. Judging by the way the College Football Playoff National Championship Game has gone for three quarters, the end of this season is looking like it will be wrapping up the same way the last did too.

Alabama continued to control the game on both sides of the ball, grinding their way to a 24-14 lead entering the fourth quarter after a few big plays for both teams highlighted the effort coming out of halftime.

The Tide could have had a more comfortable margin had they capitalized on yet another costly Clemson turnover after tailback Wayne Gallman fumbled on the Tigers’ opening drive of the second half, which setup Alabama in red zone. The offense stagnated however, and was held to a field goal to extend their lead to double digits.

After exchanging punts later in the quarter, Clemson finally showed some life for the first time in the second half on one of the rare times they began with good field position. Following a clutch play from Watson and Deon Cain to move the offense down the field, the quarterback found reliable receiver Hunter Renfrow across the middle for a 24 yard touchdown that narrowed things on the scoreboard and seemed to ignite the Clemson faithful who made the trip down to Tampa.

Alabama never seemed to panic despite the momentum shifting a bit and tailback Bo Scarbrough (team-high 93 yards, two scores) limp off with a leg injury of unknown severity. That’s because quarterback Jalen Hurts finally was able to do something with his arm, launching a deep pass to a wide-open O.J. Howard for a 68 yard touchdown that evoked plenty of memories from last season’s game.

There’s still plenty of time for the Tigers to get back into this one with the offense in the red zone entering the fourth but, with just one quarter left in the national title game, the Crimson Tide dynasty is looking well on their way to picking up another ring for head coach Nick Saban.

Late drive gives Clemson halftime lead as penalties hamper N.C. State’s upset bid

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There was no hurricane around but both N.C. State and Clemson played as sloppily as if there was one in a low scoring first half from Death Valley that ended up with the Tigers taking a late 10-3 lead into the locker room.

While Wolfpack did have their moments, penalties were the name of the game for them as they committed a whopping nine of them through two quarters. That was one reason why promising drives stalled and a few big plays were wasted in the team’s upset bid on the road at the No. 3 team in the country.

NCSU quarterback Ryan Finley threw his first interception of the season but the offense still averaged seven yards a play against a stingy defense loaded with future NFL talent. The biggest play of the game for the Wolfpack came on the other side of the ball however as they stuffed Clemson on fourth and goal from the one yard line.

Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson struggled with downfield throws but did manage to get going on the final drive the team found the end zone on an impressive effort before halftime. The signal-caller finished with 173 yards through the air on 18 completions but really got hot late by going 8-of-9. Wideout Hunter Renfrow returned to action with a cast on his hand after sitting out the past few weeks with an injury.

Most concerning was the status of running back Wayne Gallman, who took a scary hit to the side of the head early in the first quarter and fumbled the ball as he went down quickly, having to be helped off the field with the assistance of trainers. He eventually headed to the locker room and didn’t return to the game.

While many had thought Clemson turned the corner after beating Louisville and throttling Boston College on the road, the close score and strong play from N.C. State could make for an interesting second half of ACC play.


Clemson WR Hunter Renfrow to miss “a few weeks” with hand injury

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Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow will miss time after suffering a hand injury, head coach Dabo Swinney announced Monday.

Renfrow is expected to miss “a few weeks.” Renfrow injured the hand securing a 35-yard touchdown reception in the Tigers’ defeat of Troy on Saturday.

“We thought Hunter was going to be fine, but the MRI on Monday showed a little crack below his thumb,” Swinney said in his Monday night radio show.  “He could play with it, but the injury would make it more difficult to hold on to the ball when he tried to tuck it away.  He will have surgery to repair it and miss a few weeks. We hope to have him back for the NC State game, but certainly by the Florida State game after the open date.”

Renfrow is a regular in the Tigers’ wide receiver rotation. He snagged 33 passes for 492 yards and five scores in Clemson’s run to the national title game, including seven grabs for 86 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama. He’d posted four receptions for 62 yards and two scores to date this season.

Ray Ray McCloud, fresh off a 7-catch, 86-yard performance against Troy, is expected to replace Renfrow in the starting lineup.

Clemson hosts South Carolina State on Saturday, then follows with a road trip to Georgia Tech, a home game with Louisville, a Friday night game at Boston College and returns home to face N.C. State on Oct. 15. The much-awaited trip to Tallahassee looms on Oct. 29.