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Clemson Beat The Dementor of College Football and I’m Still Gloating

Richard Hay
Written by Richard Hay

Clemson powered for a glorious victory of the underdog against Alabama’s bully juggernaut. Two days later, Richard Hay is still reliving it — and, yes, gloating.

aNewDomain — The great game is past, but I’m still gloating. That’s okay, you see, because Alabama is the Dementor of college football.

They suck the life and the joy and the spirit out of opponents. They are a Golem, the army of darkness. The zombies in World War Z. They come in and destroy opponents spirit to fight.

Mercilessly efficient.  The Roman legions impacted other kingdoms of the world in the exact same way. Imagine: the relentless sound of the feet marching in unison, the Gauls facing off against Julius Caesar, and losing to the Romans’ smaller army.

That’s the way this college football season. Lots of people thought the triumphant and unprecedented 15 – 0 SEC Champion/Naicehousetional Champion Alabama Crimson Tide would rule supreme against an ocean of foes.

Or, to borrow another metaphor, Alabama is the Agent Smith of college football.

Well, do you hear that sound, Mr. Anderson?

It is the sound of inevitability.

That’s the sound of you dying.

In the first quarter of Monday’s National Championship game in Tampa, it was 7 – 0, then 14 – 0. Clemson with 37 yards and no life.  The zombies were overwhelming the living.  The white walkers and their minions will breech the wall.  Every casualty becomes another soldier for your foe.  Hope is fading.

The light is fading.

Darkness reigns.

Now I chose to spend the evening at C. Hunts Ice House in Austin Texas playing Texas 42 (my favorite game in the world) against talented foes.

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There was a bama fan at our table and she was cheering when ‘bama would score.

Most were rooting for Clemson because it is a Texas town and burnt orange reigns so they were going for the team wearing orange.  And because Alabama ALWAYS wins.  The natural inclination was to see a change of pace.  Let someone else experience the joy of winning the National Championship.

Now, speaking as an Aggie fan, the tendency would be to go for the SEC Champion. Pride of the conference and all that. But the downside is the Alabama fans are insufferably arrogant.

And why not? The team’s won four of the last eight National Championships.

Anything less than a NC is failing to achieve their No. 1 goal every season. Win it all.

And they are #unlivenexttooable when they win.

But then Clemson showed signs of life.

Down 14, they got a screen pass that literally doubled their offensive output on 1 play with a 40 yard scamper.  They got another first down.  Then another.

Then Deshaun Watson cut around the left side and tiptoed his way in for the TD that cut the lead to 7 before the half.  Alabama had Clemson bottled up late in the 2nd Quarter and were calling timeouts to force a punt and a possible scoring opportunity.

Clemson threw for a key first down.  They ended up having to punt anyway, but Clemson, like they did all night, pooched it to deny Alabama to score a special teams TD on a return.

They gave up some field position by utilizing this strategy, but Alabama did not run back a kick for a score all night.

Good strategy, Dabo Swinney.

And Clemson was set to get the kickoff in the second half.

Maybe they cut tie the game?

Nope. They fumbled the ball and only a heroic TD saving tackle by of the Clemson heroes of the game Hunter Renfrow prevented the Alabama D from scoring for a 12th time this season.  As it was they held bama to a Field goal to trail 17 -7.

But they kept grinding and playing and not throwing interceptions (not a single one all night thanks to spectacular QB play by Deshaun Watson).  And they scored a TD to cut it to 17 – 14.

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But Alabama is Alabama.  The wicked witch and her army of flying monkeys.  They schemed a pass that confused Clemson’s DBs and lit them up for a 68 yard TD pass.  Alabama 24, Clemson 14.  The light was fading again.

Going into the fourth quarter it still looked like Alabama had control of the game.  But Clemson was driving and scored again to close to 24 – 21.  And they ran a rub route with receivers on one side criss crossing to screen one of the players and allow him to beat man coverage, get open and make a catch for a TD.

The most famous rub route failure of recent note is a couple of years ago when the Seattle Seahawks had the ball at the 2 yards line with a minute left and plenty of time and all they had to do was hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch.

Instead they ran a rub route, the DB jumped it, picked off Russell Wilson’s pass, and the evil empire that is the New England Patriots escaped with a win in the Super Bowl.  So rub routes do not always work.  But they did for Clemson against bama last night.  Twice.

Alabama fans will complain that Clemson ran pick plays and scored two TDs and could have been called for Offensive Pass Interference.  But you could also so there is nothing new about the rub route and when the Clemson WR blocks his defender and pushes him back and the Alabama defender screens the other defender from staying with the other WR and he is open for the TD then that is a good scheme and successfully beats man coverage.

If the screening WR had taken out both defenders to free up the other WR that would be pass interference and illegal.  Clemson toed the line and ran successful plays that got a WR open for a TD two times without drawing the PI flags.  And against this Alabama D that is amazing.

C. Hunt’s Ice House Snapchat Spectacles Video

Then Clemson took the lead for the first time 28 – 24 and Alabama was in an unfamiliar position of relying of the offense to score.  There was much made of the way Saban did not want Lane Kiffen riding his coat tails and getting another National Championship under his belt so he was cut loose last week.  Many will speculate if the game would have gone differently if Kiffen had been the OC.  But such speculation is moot.  Coulda, shoulda, woulda, didn’t.

But Steve Sarkesian dialed up a great drive that included converting a 4th and 1 and a lateral pass downfield for gobs of yards and freshman QB Jalen Hurts running for the go ahead TD and putting the tide up 31 -28 with 2 minutes left.

Clemson’s keys to victory? Right hereclemson

Clemson made plays.

And everyone knew that if Clemson was going to defeat this Alabama Juggernaut they would have to play the game of their lives.  They played great last year but still watched Alabama walk off the field winning 45 -40.  Last year they came up short.

This year they put themselves in a position to be the ones celebrating in the post game locker room.  A 1st down circus catch at the 10 with 14 seconds left.  A pass into the endzone draws the PI flag.  First and goal from the 2 with 6 seconds left.

The threat was if the play did not succeed the clock could run out and this story is a different narrative.  But golem was there to bite off Frodo’s finger and fall into the lava with the ring of power.  They ran the rub route for a second time with success.  Hunter Renfrow was open and caught the go ahead TD for the lead and the win with 1 second left.

Game, set, match.

Ding dong the witch is dead!  Jon Snow wields longclaw to shatter the White Walker.

Neo stops the bullets in mid air.  Expecto Patronum.

Congratulations Clemson Tigers for being St. George who slayed college football’s most terrible dragon.

Check out this video I shot:

For aNewDomain, I’m Richard Hay.

About the author

Richard Hay

Richard Hay

Based in Mountain View, CA, Richard Hay is a test engineer at Google by day. By night, he covers sports and science for aNewDomain. None of his views reflect those of Google -- or aNewDomain's, for that matter. This opinion columnist is an intellectual free agent ...