Instant Halftime Analysis: Tigers open up double-digit lead on Alabama


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Travis Etienne scores one of his three first half touchdowns
Travis Etienne scores one of his three first half touchdowns

SANTA CLARA, CA – After a half that saw 47 points, buckle up because the second half is sure to be a wild ride.

An offensive first half saw Clemson jump out to a 31-16 lead at Levi’s Stadium Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Alabama had 224 yards in the first quarter, but the Clemson defense began to put pressure on Tagovailoa in the second quarter and the Tide offense began to show cracks. Alabama managed just 42 yards in the second quarter as Clemson added on to the lead.

Clemson amassed 224 total yards. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence was 12-of-21 for 197 yards and touchdown. Travis Etienne carried the ball seven times for 24 yards and two touchdowns. Tee Higgins had two catches for 76 yards and a score.

PLAYER OF THE HALF: Travis Etienne has been an unstoppable force in the redzone.

He scored Clemson’s second touchdown of the game on a 17-yard run and added two more touchdowns in the half, a one-yard run and a five-yard catch on a shovel pass from quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

STAT OF THE HALF: This marks just the second time under Nick Saban that a team has scored 28 in the first half vs Alabama. The other was the 2013-2014 Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

Clemson's 31 points set a school bowl record for a first half, surpassing the 27 first-half points scored by the Tigers in the 1986 Gator Bowl and 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl.

WHAT WENT RIGHT:

*Turnovers: A.J. Terrell and Trayvon Mullen both had interceptions and big returns. Terell’s interception on Alabama’s first series went for a touchdown and Mullen’s set up a Travis Etienne touchdown in the second quarter.

*O-linen play: Clemson’s offensive line has played arguably its best game of the season so far. They’ve opened up holes in the run game and given Lawrence plenty of time in the pocket.

WHAT WENT WRONG:

*Big plays: Alabama’s first touchdown was a 62-yard pass to Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy got behind the defense and safety Tannery Muse was too late to make a play.

*Time: Alabama ran 38 plays and had the ball for 18:41 seconds. Clemson’s defense needs to get stops and get off the field.

*Tackle: Several times Alabama running backs ran through tackles in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage for big gains. If Clemson’s defense makes those plays, Alabama’s offense doesn’t have near as much success.

TURNING POINT OF THE HALF: Alabama’s offense was moving the ball at will, but Clemson’s defense stood tall in the redzone at the end of the first half keeping the Tide out of the endzone and forcing a field goal. After the field goal, Clemson scored on back-to-back possessions.

WHAT CLEMSON NEEDS TO DO TO WIN: Offensively, Clemson needs to stay the course. Coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott have called a balanced game so far getting the ball to Etienne and Tavien Feaster.

On defense, Clemson needs to get pressure on Tagovailoa and shore things up. Alabama was pretty balanced in the first half and hit on several big plays, especially to Jerry Jeudy.


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