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7 defining moments of Clemson’s national championship season

Clemson celebrates national championship victory

Clemson won the college football national championship against Alabama in a blowout 44-16 victory at Santa Clara January 7, 2019.
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Clemson won the college football national championship against Alabama in a blowout 44-16 victory at Santa Clara January 7, 2019.

The 2018 college football season ended with Clemson winning the national championship, but there were plenty of obstacles the Tigers had to overcome along the way.

Here is a look at seven defining moments from Clemson’s national championship season:

Bryant helps Tigers past Texas A&M

Kelly Bryant was benched to start the second half against Texas A&M in favor of freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but when Lawrence and Clemson went three-and-out on the first two drives of the second half, Bryant was inserted back into the game. The senior led Clemson on back-to-back touchdown drives to finish off the third quarter as Clemson built a 28-13 lead and held on for the victory.

Lawrence goes off against Georgia Tech

The freshman phenom was still coming off the bench for Clemson four games into the season before his performance against Georgia Tech forced Dabo Swinney to make a change. Lawrence completed 13 of 18 passes for 176 yards and four touchdowns against the Yellow Jackets and made big-time throw after big- time throw. The following Monday he was named Clemson’s starting quarterback for the upcoming game against Syracuse, and Bryant announced he was transferring later in the week.

Brice leads season-saving drive

Lawrence was injured in the first half of his first start against Syracuse, and redshirt freshman Chase Brice was called upon to save the day. With a heavy assist from Travis Etienne, Brice led Clemson on a 13-play, 94-yard touchdown drive to give the Tigers a 27-23 lead with less than a minute remaining in the game as Clemson went on to earn the crucial victory. The biggest play of the game came when Brice found Tee Higgins for a 20-yard gain with Clemson facing a fourth-and-six on its own 48.

Rodgers seals win at Boston College

Clemson was playing for the ACC Atlantic title when it traveled to Massachusetts to face Boston College in November. The Eagles were still hanging around and trailed only 20-7 early in the fourth quarter when Tigers receiver Amari Rodgers returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown to push Clemson’s lead to three scores and seal the victory.

Offense shines against South Carolina

The Clemson defense had one of its worst days in school history against South Carolina, but the Tigers’ offense had one of its best, so it didn’t matter. Lawrence carved up the Gamecocks secondary for 393 passing yards, and four Tigers had rushing touchdowns, including defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, as Clemson rolled to a 56-35 victory.

Ross takes over second quarter of Cotton Bowl

The Cotton Bowl between Clemson and Notre Dame was tied at 3 after the first quarter, and then Justyn Ross took over. Clemson’s star freshman receiver caught five passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns during the decisive second quarter as a tie game became a 23-3 halftime lead for the Tigers. Clemson never looked back as it clinched an appearance in the national title game for the third time in four years.

Secondary steps up against Alabama

Clemson’s secondary was questioned throughout the 2018 season, and not many pundits expected the Tigers to be able to slow down Tua Tagovailoa and Alabama’s passing attack. But A.J. Terrell, Trayvon Mullen and company showed up in impressive fashion, picking off Tagovailoa twice in the first half as the Tigers rolled to a 44-16 victory. Terrell recorded a pick-six in the first quarter to give Clemson an early 7-0 lead, before Mullen picked off Tagovailoa in the second quarter, leading to a Clemson touchdown.

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