Best Sports Report: Alabama loses football title to Clemson

Jan 10, 2017

Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for the Edward R. Murrow Award for best Sports Feature, titled “Bama Loses Title to Clemson.”

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide wanted to capitalize on its 2016 title victory over the Clemson Tigers with a second championship when both teams faced off again, this time in Tampa. A series of last minute mistakes by Alabama gave Clemson the lead in the fourth quarter, which carried the Tigers to its first title since 1981. For Alabama, 2016 was a perfect season with no losses before the College Football Playoff Championship game in Tampa. When questioned by the press, Tide head coach Nick Saban admitted he was so focused on game preparation that he didn’t know Donald Trump was the new U.S. President and that the day before was election day.

Respectfully submitted,

Pat Duggins

News Director

Alabama Public Radio

Alabama head coach Nick Saban will have to wait until next season to try to tie the national championship record of the legendary Bear Bryant. The Crimson Tide lost the College Football Playoff Championship to Clemson in a game that came down to some critical mistakes by Alabama and a last minute score by the Tigers. APR’s Pat Duggins was at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and files this reports…

Alabama led the game until the last 4 and a half minutes. That’s when things turned Clemson’s way. Crimson Tide running back Bo Scarbrough scored twice in the first quarter. Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson responded with a touchdown run and then a pass to Hunter Renfroe to make the score fourteen to seventeen with Alabama in the lead at the half. The third quarter was marked by a sixty eight yard pass to Alabama’s O.J. Howard for a touchdown. But, Clemson tightened the score further 21 to 24 in the fourth quarter. An unsportsman conduct call against Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne put Clemson within striking distance to take the lead for the first time in the game. Bama scored and took the lead back. Finally, Alabama’s Anthony Averrett drew a pass interference call and Clemson made the go ahead touchdown and a win thirty five to thirty one. Clemson head coach Dabo Sweeney says Alabama played well, but the Tigers win was no surprise to him…

“We beat the last seven national champs…we beat this season," says Sweeney. "We beat the last seven national champions all of them, this year. I don’t know who Tweeted that out. But , I appreciate that little nugget.”

Alabama came into the championship with a perfect season marked by the process and focus of head coach Nick Saban. How focused is focused? Well, look at it this way. On Wednesday November eighth, this is what the world was waking up to news that Donald Trump had won the race for the White House. Later that day, Coach Saban was asked about Donald Trump being the next President…

“Well, to be honest with you, I didn’t know yesterday was election day,” he responded.

Coach Saban clearly had other things on his mind. The big day for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton came just two days after the Tide shut out LSU. Mississippi State and Chattanooga lost to Alabama as well, with each team scoring only one field goal. Then, came this game, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That was the Iron Bowl against Auburn. The final game of the season, and the one thing standing between Saban and the Tide’s first undefeated season since 2009.

“You know, I hate it when you say that..” Saban was responding to a certain question during post-game interviews…this one…

“What sense of accomplishment do you have, at this point, going into a game that some may argue…I’m not saying this," asked one reporter. "...that you don’t have to necessarily have to win to get to the playoff?”

That game was the SEC Championship against the Florida Gators at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta…

“Look…I’m really proud of our team,” says Saban. “But, really the legacy of the team lies ahead.”

Alabama won that game as well. The confetti flew as wide receiver Calvin Ridley helped his teammates hoist the wood and bronze SEC Championship trophy for the third year in a row… “It feels great, man,” said Ridley. “This is my second year here, and it looks like we’re making things happen.”

While the Tide felt the thrill of victory, Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain was left to deal with the agony of defeat during the post-game interview…

“Sometimes you go up against players that are pretty good, right?” said McElwain. “That the way it goes.”

Now, it’s Nick Saban’s turn to deal with a defeat.

”I think every loss is very painful. And my loss is the bad feeling I have for the players, who’ve worked so hard to create this opportunity for themselves. And, not to be able to finish is disappointing for me, but because of them.”

The college football landscape will change next year, at least as far as Alabama and Clemson is concerned. The Tigers star quarterback DeShaun Watson is expected to move onto the NFL draft. Alabama’s freshman quarterback will be a sophomore.