Football

Clemson defense key to turnaround win over Alabama

Clemson’s Mike Williams poses for photos with fans Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in Clemson, S.C., the day after the Tigers defeated Alabama 35-31 in the College Football Playoff championship NCAA college football game in Tampa, Fla. Williams had eight catches for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Clemson’s Mike Williams poses for photos with fans Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in Clemson, S.C., the day after the Tigers defeated Alabama 35-31 in the College Football Playoff championship NCAA college football game in Tampa, Fla. Williams had eight catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. The Associated Press

Clemson won its first national title Monday, defeating previously unbeaten Alabama 35-31 with a furious, 21-point fourth-quarter comeback.

Just about a year ago, Alabama won the title, outscoring Clemson in the fourth quarter for a 45-40 victory.

So what was the difference between Alabama-Clemson I and Alabama-Clemson II? A year ago, the Crimson Tide converted 50 percent of its third-down plays. Monday, it was successful on just 13 percent of those plays.

A year ago, Clemson put up more total yards (550) than it did this season (511), but getting those defensive stops (and forcing a season-high 10 Alabama punts) was critical.

Individually, Clemson quarterback enjoyed another big game against Alabama. He threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns Monday. A year ago, he threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns with one interception.

Hunter Renfrow caught seven passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns last year, and had 10 catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns Monday.

Alabama’s O.J. Howard had five catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns last year. He had four catches for 106 yards and a touchdown Monday.

Here’s a look at the basic team stats from both games, side by side:

2016

2017

Alabama

Clemson

Alabama

Clemson

Points

45

40

31

35

First downs

18

31

16

31

Third down efficiency

9-18

6-14

2-15

7-18

Fourth down efficiency

0-0

0-0

1-1

0-1

Total yards

473

550

376

511

Passing yards

335

405

155

420

Comp-Att

16-25

30-47

14-32

36-57

Interceptions

0

1

0

0

Rushing yards

138

145

221

91

Attempts

46

38

34

42

Yards per rush

3.0

3.8

6.5

2.2

Penalties

2-21

4-27

9-82

3-35

Fumbles lost

0

0

0

2

Possession

29:52

29:11

25:16

34:44

Clemson tops final AP college football top 25

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