GLENDALE, ARIZ. – A brilliant performance by superb sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson wasn't quite enough to give Clemson the national championship.
Alabama won its fourth title in seven years with a 45-40 victory Monday night, denying Clemson in its bid to become the first team to finish 15-0.
"I think at least the nation saw tonight why we were so successful," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
Watson did all he could for the Tigers, though. He completed 30 of 47 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns and ran for an additional 73 in a game that wasn't decided until a frantic final quarter.
Swinney said after Clemson's Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma that he believed Watson was the best player in the country. The coach reiterated that statement Monday.
"No doubt about it," Swinney said. "… He's got great toughness, great heart, a great mind for the game, and just made some huge plays all the way to the end."
Swinney was not happy with the clock operator and officials at the end of the first half.
Clemson completed a pass for a first down to the Alabama 27 with 15 seconds showing on the clock. The clock stopped for a first down, but restarted so fast it was rolling before Watson could stop it with a spike with 6 seconds left.
Swinney ended up calling his last timeout. The officials put 3 seconds back on the clock, but without a timeout Clemson decided not to risk running another play. But Greg Huegel's 44-yard field-goal attempt was tipped by D.J. Pettway and fell short, keeping the score tied 14-14.
"Really frustrating with how the clock was handled right there," Swinney said at halftime. "That's very disappointing. It cost me a timeout."
A quiet big game
Derrick Henry was held in check after halftime, yet the Heisman Trophy winner still became Alabama's career rushing leader while scoring three touchdowns.
Henry has 3,590 career rushing yards, passing Shaun Alexander's mark of 3,565 midway through the third quarter. Henry also tied Mark Ingram as the Crimson Tide's career leader in rushing TDs with 42.
Henry finished with 36 carries for 158 yards, but 50 of those came on the game's first TD. Outside of that, he averaged 3.1 yards per carry. In the second half, he had only 30 yards on 16 attempts.
• Defensive end Shaq Lawson had two of Clemson's five sacks; Kevin Dodd had the other three. Lawson suffered a sprained left knee in the Orange Bowl, and it wasn't certain he would even play.
• Tigers star cornerback Mackensie Alexander left late in the second quarter and did not return.