Clemson’s tough

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Dabo Swinney was a walk-on wide receiver at Alabama who won a national championship in 1992.

Last Monday night in the College Football Playoff title game, Swinney, the Clemson head coach, claimed his second national championship in three seasons after the Tigers tamed top-ranked Alabama 44-16 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Trevor Lawrence became the second true freshman quarterback since 1985 to lead his team to the national title.

In front of 74,814, Lawrence tossed three touchdowns and hit 20 of 32 for 347 yards and was selected the Offensive Player of the Game.

“Yeah, I mean, the games like this, you’ve got to make the big plays,’’ said Lawrence,’’ who stands 6-foot-6, weighs 215 pounds and gained 27 yards on six carries.

This is the fourth consecutive time Clemson and Alabama have faced each other in the playoffs, the third time a national crown was at stake and now the Tigers hold a 2-1 edge.

Lawrence’s five-yard shovel pass to sophomore running back Travis Etienne (86 yards on 14 carries) and 4:38 left in the second quarter saw Clemson (15-0 and 482 total net yards) extend its lead to 28-16 and was made possible when sophomore Tua Tagovailoa (22 of 34 for 295 yards) was intercepted by junior cornerback Trayvon Mullen, who was named Defensive Player of the Game.

Tagovailoa’s first pick by sophomore cornerback A.J. Terrell was returned 44 yards and came with 13:20 left in the first period as No. 2 Clemson led 7-0.

Lawrence’s 74-yard bullet to freshman wide receiver Justyn Ross (153 yards on six receptions) and 8:26 showing in the third pushed the cushion to 37-16.

Lawrence’s five-yard laser to sophomore wide receiver Tee Higgins (81 yards on three catches) made it 44-16 as 21 seconds remained in the third.

Etienne’s 17-yard scurry with 10:35 left in the first frame pushed Clemson ahead 14-7.

Etienne’s one-yard ramble with 11:38 showing before the half handed the Tigers a 21-16 advantage.

Senior Greg Huegel’s 36-yard field goal with 45 seconds left made it 31-16 at the break.

Tagovailoa’s 62-yard aerial to sophomore wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (139 yards on five receptions) evened it at 7-7 with 12:05 left in the initial period.

A one-yard toss from Tagovailoa to senior tight end Hale Hentges reduced Clemson’s lead to 14-13 with 6:23 on the clock in the first.

Freshman Joseph Bulovas nailed a 25-yard field goal with 14:18 left in the second that gave the Crimson Tide (14-1 and 443 total yards) a 16-14 edge.

Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at


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The Sports Department Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at

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