End of the first quarter: Alabama 7, Clemson 0
TAMPA, Fla. — Top-ranked Alabama struck first, thanks to a gamble gone wrong for Clemson, and the Crimson Tide lead the Tigers 7-0 after the first quarter of Monday night’s College Football Playoff national championship game.
This is the first time this season Clemson has trailed at the end of the first quarter.
Bo Scarbrough’s 25-yard rushing touchdown opened the scoring for Alabama, coming off Dabo Swinney’s decision to go for it on fourth and less than a yard from the Tide’s 41-yard-line. Deshaun Watson pitched to Wayne Gallman, who was swallowed up behind the line of scrimmage, and Alabama capitalized on the change of possession with a quick three-play, 59-yard touchdown drive.
Clemson’s first three offensive drives resulted in a punt, a turnover on downs and a fumbled snap by Watson. The Tigers have 46 yards on 18 plays.
Watson is 5-for-7 for 23 yards throwing the ball. He was unable to handle a snap that was low and to the left by center Jay Guillermo, and Tide linebacker Ryan Anderson made the recovery. Clemson’s defense, however, forced a punt.
Meanwhile, Alabama’s offense is moving the ball in its first quarter under new coordinator Steve Sarkisian. The Crimson Tide have 71 yards on 10 rushing attempts (Scarbrough: six rushes, 31 yards, TD) while true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has a 20-yard scramble. Hurts is 2-of-8 throwing the ball.
Tigers freshman Tanner Muse was credited with a partially blocked punt; JK Scott, whose first punt went 55 yards, settled for a 25-yard punt. That is the Tigers’ second blocked punt this season (Chad Smith, at Wake Forest.)
Two hits by Alabama defenders that did not draw penalties did draw the ire of Clemson fans inside Raymond James Stadium – and questions on social media as to whether they should have been called targeting. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and receiver Mike Williams each appeared to be hit in the head area on successive drives, but neither were flagged. Williams had to leave the game briefly after his hit, but returned on the next drive.