|Thursday, January 12, 2017, 9:46 AM- -|
I stayed up for almost 50 straight hours with the trip to Tampa and slept a little and got caught back up on other things Tuesday, but I finally got a chance to sit down at the keyboard and share some thoughts.
The entire trip was amazing. I thought downtown Tampa was beautiful. The city was ready and did it first class all weekend. The bay was a great setting.
I was overwhelmed with pride to see how many more Clemson fans were there the entire weekend. Clemson fans painted the area orange.
The pre-game festivities were also a hit. The only negatives were the way they botched the parking and stadium entry situation. I am not sure who came up with the way they routed traffic and people into the stadium.
The game was perhaps the finest football game I have ever seen. It had everything. If you liked defense, you loved the first half. If you liked a tough, physical, field position battle, then you loved that aspect of this game. If you love offense, you loved the second half.
I found it interesting that last year Clemson had injuries and suspensions coming into the game (Williams, Cain, Lakip, Lawson, Alexander) and Alexander didn't finish the game due to an injury. This year Alabama came into the game without Eddie Jackson and Shaun Dion Hamilton, then lost Bo Scarborough during the game.
I loved Clemson's game plan. They got Alabama running East and West early in the game and fatigue became an issue. Clemson ran 99 offensive plays which helped the Tigers score 21 points in the fourth quarter.
There were so many huge individual efforts. Tanner Muse blocked a punt and played safety for two drives in the fourth quarter. Taylor Hearn destroyed his man on Gallman's touchdown run. Jordan Leggett made an amazing catch on the final drive. Mike Williams dominated the smaller Bama corners. Mitch Hyatt did what he does every game. Gallman picked up blitzing linebackers time and time again. Deon Cain turned the game around with his 43-yard reception. Deshaun Watson ripped up the Tide defense for 400 more passing yards. Carlos Watkins was in the Alabama backfield all night. Ben Boulware had two tackles for losses. And Hunter Renfrow made a game saving tackle and caught two unforgettable touchdowns.
These guys, these coaches, these stories will always be a part of Clemson's story.
The numbers should be remembered. Bama punted 11 times. Clemson had 31 first downs to Alabama's 16. The Tigers outgained the Crimson Tide 511-376. Clemson had the ball for almost 35 minutes to Bama's 25. Alabama was just 2-15 on third down. Four Clemson receivers had at least 90 yards receiving.
The celebration is something I will never forget. I will always remember the phones calls and text messages, the videos, the pictures and the emotion. The looks on Clemson people's faces were priceless. The memories will last a lifetime.
Yes, Clemson did it. They punished Vegas for its biggest loss ever for a football game. They beat the all mighty Bama and the Evil Empire; The Death Star was destroyed.
I keep thinking that I am having this dream where Clemson scores with one second left to beat Alabama and end their 26-game winning streak. I keep thinking this dream of Clemson winning its second national title in the state of Florida. This dream just keeps getting better. Please don't let me wake up to find out it's just a dream.
The Brad Hughes All-State Insurance Agency
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