These short takes are presented as an adjunct to the Alabama-Clemson game column, which can be found here. Alabama won 45-40 in a game where nothing much happened.
(Pause to let sarcasm seep through.)
1. Deshaun Watson was beyond belief. Against the nation’s best defense and its best defensive coordinator, the Clemson quarterback threw for 405 yards and ran for 73 more. By himself, the sophomore from Gainesville, Ga., amassed more yardage against the Tide than any opposing team had this year. He threw 47 passes and was sacked only twice. He did get tricked into a second-quarter interception. (That was the careening game’s only turnover.) Even after Alabama had taken fourth-quarter leads of seven, then 11, then 12 points, Watson drove his team to a field goal and two touchdowns. Whenever Kirby Smart finally goes to sleep, he’ll surely say a prayer of thanks that Watson isn’t on Georgia’s schedule next season.
2. Nick Saban’s choice to try an onside kick in a tied national championship game with 10:34 remaining was surely due to Watson. The best coach in the business made his greatest call ever, but his hand almost forced. Rather than allow Watson to break the tie Alabama had just forged, Saban had Adam Griffith high-hop the kickoff. Marlon Humphrey gathered it in. The Tide’s coach had stolen a possession. Alabama scored 10 fourth-quarter points without Watson taking a snap, and those 10 points — even though 30 more points would be scored in this wild affair — carried the night.
3. Remember Jake Coker, the guy who couldn’t beat out Blake Sims (also of Gainesville) last year? He did OK, too. Bama’s quarterback threw for 335 yards and found tight end O.J. Howard running free through the Clemson secondary all night. (Howard caught five passes for 205 yards.) But Coker’s best delivery was a falling-away-under-pressure pass to Ardarius Stewart for 38 yards on third-and-11 with the Tide trailing 24-21. In a game that featured a zillion memorable plays, that one might get forgotten. It shouldn’t. Coker made a great throw. Stewart made a great catch. Championship stuff.