“Alabama does:” Crimson Tide brings home 16th championship

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Kelly Ward

By Kelly Ward | Digital Managing Editor

GLENDALE, Ariz. — At some point, the confetti will be cleared from the field and the cigar smoke scrubbed from the locker room. For now, the confetti litters University of Phoenix Stadium and the cigar smoke pervades the visiting locker room.

It’s a time to celebrate, and Alabama football has a lot to celebrate – a 45-40 win over the previously undefeated Clemson Tigers and its 16th national title.

“This is my – I hate to say – favorite team, because I love ‘em all, but these guys have come so far and done so much,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Their will, their spirit, to compete and do the kind of things they needed to do to be the kind of team they could be, I’m happy for them. This is about winning a game for them. It’s great for our fans, it’s great for the state of Alabama, but I wanted to win this game for these guys, man.”

And Alabama did win it. The caps the players wore after the game bore “Won as one” on the side.

It took the entire team to pull it off. Alabama’s offense put up 45 points and 473 yards. The defense allowed 550 yards and 40 points but had a timely interception and were able to limit Clemson to 6 of 14 on third downs. Alabama’s special teams had a kickoff return for a touchdown and a recovered onside kick.

“We felt like we had to win special teams in this game,” Saban said.

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson had 478 total yards, including 405 in the air. He was sacked twice, both times by Rashaan Evans. He threw for four touchdowns and was 30-47 with one interception.

“I think when you play players like this, the whole team has to win,” Saban said. “It’s not just the defense stopping him; it’s the offense doing what they need to do, making plays on special teams that you need to make.”

Derrick Henry led all rushes with 158 net yards. He ran in three touchdowns, including a 50-yard score in the first quarter.

Jake Coker was 16-25 for 335 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked five times.

Both touchdowns were to O.J. Howard, the tight end who has waited his turn. He had five catches for 208 yards. Both touchdown receptions were 50-plus yards. For his efforts, he was named offensive player of the game.

On the defensive side of the ball, Eddie Jackson took home player of the game honors. He finished with three tackles and an interception.

After a slugfest with it coming down to an onside kick, which Alabama recovered and took a knee to run out the final 12 seconds, the Crimson Tide finished what it set out to do at the beginning of the season: win it all.

“This is what we stood up and said at the beginning of the season,” Howard said. “We wanted to come out and win a national championship this season, and our team fought hard for that, and I’m just so proud of our team, and no team deserved this more than we do.”

So the confetti fell and the cigar smoked enveloped a team that overcame a five-turnover loss, that battled through accusations of one-sidedness, of being overrated, of dead dynasties and injuries and unmeetable standards.

What kind of team does that?

“Alabama does,” defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said. “We win national championships.”