Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tiger paws up

OK, OK, OK. So it was a hell of a game, apparently.

Clemson 35, Alabama 31 did a couple of noteworthy things, even as the Blob gave it a miss. It made a legend out of one player the way only big college games seem to do, even if you can't exactly regard players the way we used to in these professional-grade days. And it gave college football a new champion to crown, which frankly is the best thing that could have happened to the sport.

Mind you, Clemson is every bit the corporate enterprise Alabama is, but when a school's gone 35 years between national titles, somehow it feels different. And so when a former walk-on named Hunter Renfrow caught the winning touchdown pass with a second to play, it gave college football a sort of old-timey, cinematic feel again. That the winning coach went by the equally old-timey, cinematic name of Dabo Swinney -- has there been a more perfect southern football coach name since the days of Bear Bryant and Shug Jordan? -- only added to the illusion.

College football needs its dynasties, its USCs and Notre Dames and, yes, Alabamas. But it also needs a break from them occasionally, which is why the Crimson Tide failing to win its fifth national title in eight years was not a bad thing.

Besides, it spared us 'Bama coach Nick Saban's chronic Debbie Downerism in the wake of another championship. Has anyone ever appeared to enjoy winning less?

No problem for the effervescent Dabo, or for his star, quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson signed this one the way so many others have signed the big games, leading the Tigers to four touchdowns on their last seven possessions, bringing them back from 14 points down early, erasing two deficits in the last five minutes. And he did it with style.

"I just smiled right when they scored," Watson said after Alabama scored to take its last lead with 2:07 to play. "I seen the 2:01 on the clock [after the Tigers' kickoff return], and I just smiled and I just knew. I just told my guys, 'Hey, let's be legendary, let's go be great.'"

And so off he went and did it, the way Johnny Rodgers did it for Nebraska against Oklahoma back in the day, the way James Street did it for Texas against Arkansas, the way Vince Young did it for the Longhorns against USC. Deshaun Watson's name is up there with all of them now, and many more besides.

"The paw is flying on top of that mountain tonight," Swinney said,  referring to Clemson's signature orange logo with his signature turn-a-phrase flair.

And how do you not love that?

No comments:

Post a Comment