GLENDALE, Ariz. — In an epic, high-scoring duel, Alabama outlasted Clemson 45-40 to claim its fourth national championship in seven seasons.
It took a complete 60-minute effort for the Crimson Tide to put the Tigers away in front of 75,765 people in University of Phoenix Stadium on Monday.
With the win, Alabama coach Nick Saban joined Bear Bryant as the only coaches with five or more national championships (Bryant won six at Alabama).
After not having much success going up-tempo on its first drive, Alabama settled in and put the ball in Henry’s hands. Henry touched the ball each time on the three-play drive that ended with 50-yard touchdown run for the Heisman Trophy winner to make it 7-0 for the Tide.
Clemson would respond on the ensuing drive as Deshaun Watson tossed a perfect pass to receiver Hunter Renfrow for a 31-yard score to tie it at seven.
After Alabama missed a field goal attempt, Clemson drove the ball 73 yards in seven plays to take the lead.
Watson found Renfrow again, this time for an 11-yard touchdown to make it 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
But Watson’s first mistake of the game changed the momentum.
Early in the second quarter, Watson threw a pass straight to Tide safety Eddie Jackson.
Alabama took advantage of the short field with a drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown for Henry to tie it at 14 with 9:35 left in half.
After forcing Clemson to punt on its first drive of the second half, the Tide’s offense found the end zone again. This time it was Jake Coker finding a wide open O.J. Howard for a 53-yard score. The touchdown was Howard’s first of the season.
Clemson added a field goal on its next possession as kicker Greg Huegel was true from 37 yards to make it 21-17.
Alabama’s next drive stalled, and the Tide punted back to Clemson. The Tigers then drove the ball 60 yards in nine plays, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by running back Wayne Gallman to make it 24-21.
With 10:34 left in the contest, Alabama kicker Adam Griffith added a 33-yard field goal to tie it at 24.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Tide caught Clemson off guard with a perfectly executed onside kick. Griffith bounced the ball and cornerback Marlon Humphrey ran under it to give the Tide possession.
Coker once again found Howard running wide open and hit him in stride for the 51-yard touchdown to put Alabama up 31-24.
Huegel added a 31-yard field goal to cut it to 31-27. On the next kickoff, Kenyan Drake broke free for a 95-yard touchdown return. Drake dove and extended the ball inside to pylon to put Alabama up 38-27 with 7:31 left.