Clemson trounces Alabama to win national championship

Clemson has its second national championship in three seasons.

Unlike in 2017, when a touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson to Hunter Renfrow with one second left was necessary to secure a victory over Alabama, its win Monday night over Alabama was over not long after the fourth quarter began in a 44-16 blowout win over the Crimson Tide.

It’s the first time an Alabama team coached by Nick Saban has lost by more than 14 points.

Clemson’s performance was powered by dynamic plays from its two freshmen offensive stars. And in a second-half defensive performance that will go down in Clemson lore. Alabama (14-1) turned the ball over on downs three times inside the Clemson 25-yard-line.

Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. One of those scores went to Justyn Ross, who caught a short pass from Lawrence and took it 74 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to extend the Tigers’ lead to 37-16. The score came three plays after Alabama made the odd decision to go for a fake field goal when Clemson’s defense was waiting for it.

Alabama drove down the field after Ross’ touchdown but got stifled in the red zone again. Clemson’s defense held as the Tide approached the end zone and Tua Tagovailoa’s scramble towards the sticks was stopped a yard short by a cavalcade of Clemson defenders.

Ross went HAM after that. The freshman made two crazy catches on third downs on Clemson’s next drive. The drive ended when Lawrence tossed his third touchdown of the evening, a five-yard score to Tee Higgins.

See photos from the game: 

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Alabama vs. Clemson: College Football Playoff Championship Game
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Alabama vs. Clemson: College Football Playoff Championship Game
Clemson's K'Von Wallace stops Alabama's Irv Smith Jr. during the first half the NCAA college football playoff championship game, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Clemson's Justyn Ross makes a one-handed catch in front of Alabama's Josh Jobe during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Clemson's A.J. Terrell intercepts a pass for a touchdown during the first half the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Clemson's Justyn Ross celebrates his touchdown catch during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Jonah Williams (73) and the offense walk off the field dejected during the Alabama Crimson Tide's game versus the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on January 7, 2019, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) rolls out to pass during the Alabama Crimson Tide's game versus the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on January 7, 2019, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 07: Justyn Ross #8 of the Clemson Tigers falls to the ground after making catch against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the third quarter in the College Football Playoff National Championship at Levi's Stadium on January 07, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Tee Higgins #5 of the Clemson Tigers makes a third quarter touchdown catch against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Tee Higgins #5 of the Clemson Tigers makes a catch against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 07: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Clemson Tigers throws a pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the third quarter in the College Football Playoff National Championship at Levi's Stadium on January 07, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Josh Jacobs #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide carries the ball against the Clemson Tigers in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney reacts after his defense held on a fourth down play during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Clemson's Tre Lamar stops Alabama's Josh Jacobs during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Clemson's Justyn Ross catches a touchdown pass during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Alabama's DeVonta Smith recovers his own fumble during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Clemson, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Clemson's Trevor Lawrence throws while being rushed by Alabama's Anfernee Jennings during the first half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Offensive coordinator Jeff Scott has gatorade dumped on him by J.D. Davis #33 of the Clemson Tigers after their 44-16 win over Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Clemson Tigers wide receiver Tee Higgins (5) celebrates after a 5 yard touchdown catch during the second half of the Alabama Crimson Tide's game versus the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on January 7, 2019, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Sean Pollard #76 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates his teams 44-16 win over the Alabama Crimson Tidein the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers celebrates with his team late in the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers celebrates with his team late in the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers celebrates with his team late in the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Clemson Tigers reacts after his teams 44-16 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Tagovailoa throws two interceptions

Perhaps Alabama’s opening possession was a sign. Tagovailoa threw a pick-six on the Tide’s first possession of the game as a pass meant for Jerry Jeudy was caught by A.J. Terrell and returned for a touchdown.

Tagovailoa bounced back on the next drive and found Jeudy for a long touchdown. But he threw his second interception of the day in the second quarter and with the Tide trailing 21-16. Trayvon Mullen’s pick set up a short field for Clemson, who took advantage and went up 28-16 on a pass from Lawrence to running back Travis Etienne. The possession that ended with Tagovailoa’s second interception was the last time Alabama would be within a single score for the rest of the night.

The Tide did have one last gasp after Higgins’ touchdown and Tagovailoa led Alabama down the field in short order. But just like it had on the previous two drives, Clemson’s defense came up huge and Tagovailoa was sacked for a loss on fourth and goal.

Tagovailoa was replaced on Alabama’s next drive by Jalen Hurts.

Clemson ties Alabama for most playoff titles

The national championship is the third in Clemson history and ties the Tigers with Alabama for the most titles in the College Football Playoff era. Only Ohio State, who won the inaugural playoff after the 2014 season, has also won a playoff title.

The Clemson win keeps Saban tied with Bear Bryant for the most national championships by a college football coach and cements the Tigers and coach Dabo Swinney as Saban’s biggest foil. Especially when you consider how Monday night’s game played out. Thee were no last-second touchdowns or fluke plays needed in this one. Clemson straight-up beat Alabama in every facet of the game.

It’s the worst blowout of Saban’s career at Alabama and it’s not even close. Until Monday night, a 35-21 loss to South Carolina in 2010 and a 45-31 loss to Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl stood as the largest losses of Saban’s Alabama tenure.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

Follow @NickBromberg on Twitter

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