Clemson notes: Hunter Renfrow the hero, Clemson fans take over Tampa
TAMPA, Fla. — He rolled over backwards in the end zone and tossed the ball to the referee like it was just another routine touchdown in another routine game.
But it wasn’t. Far from it.
There’s something about big-time games on big-time stages that bring out the best in Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, the 5-11, 180-pound redshirt sophomore from Myrtle Beach. Monday night was no exception.
It was Renfrow who caught the game-winning touchdown pass in Clemson’s 35-31 national championship victory over Alabama, snagging a 2-yard pass from quarterback Deshaun Watson with one second left on the clock and the Tigers trailing Alabama by three points.
Clemson lined up on the 2 facing first and goal, and Renfrow bolted for the right corner of the end zone. Watson placed the ball perfectly and Renfrow caught it easily.
A year ago, it was Renfrow who scored two touchdowns in this very game against an Alabama team that eventually took the title.
Monday night in front of 74,512 raucous fans, he caught two more but this time with a different outcome.
The confetti fell and the music blared. The Clemson fanbase went ballistic. Renfrow snagged his national championship garb and the celebration began.
“We came up a little short last year,” an emotional Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in the postgame trophy presentation.
“But tonight, at the top of the mountain, that Clemson flag is flying.”
Clemson fans turn out
Nine days after Clemson’s fans were outnumbered by Ohio State fans at the Fiesta Bowl by about a 3 to 1 ratio, the Tigers showed up in droves for the national championship game.
Clemson fans comprised at least 60 percent of Raymond James Stadium with the title game being played on the east coast after the Tigers played last week in Phoenix. About 50 minutes before kickoff, there were only about 100 tickets left on StubHub, with the cheapest selling for $1,795.
The officiating crew Monday seemingly dropped the ball on two potential targeting incidents in the first quarter that would have immediately ejected two Alabama players had they been called. The first glimpse of possible targeting came at Deshaun Watson’s expense, when senior linebacker Reuben Foster knocked the Clemson quarterback off of his feet with a low tackle. Minutes later, Clemson receiver Mike Williams was briefly shaken up when Alabama defensive back Tony Brown delivered a helmet-to-helmet blow. Foster was called for a personal flag on his play, but Brown was not. Both remained in the game by virtue of the no-calls. The officials were from the Big 12 Conference.
Best in the nation
With its third tackle for a loss Monday, Clemson ensured it will lead the nation in TFLs for a fourth consecutive season. The Tigers passed Arkansas State, which had 123 TFLs in two fewer games than the Tigers.
Ferrell leaves with injury
Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell left the game with an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return. Trainers wrapped his left ankle and he spent the rest of the night on the sideline.
Deshaun Watson sent a pooch punt 38 yards when Clemson elected not to go for it on 4th-and-1 in the third quarter. It was the second punt of Watson’s career, and his longest. He punted for 23 yards last year at Louisville.
Politics, Peanuts and Pecans
It looks like Tim Scott should be receiving a delivery of Alabama pecans soon, now that his state’s team has won the title.
U.S. senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) made a friendly wager ahead of kickoff, with Scott betting on the Tigers and Shelby going with the Crimson Tide. Now that Clemson has won, Shelby will deliver an order of Priester’s Pecans — out of Deposit, Ala. — to Scott’s office.
The Tigers are expected to return to Death Valley at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, where fans are invited to welcome them home at Memorial Stadium.
• Peyton Manning was at Raymond James on Monday night, where he stood at midfield during the coin toss before kickoff.
• Steve Spurrier was also part of the toss, but when the former South Carolina coach was introduced, Clemson fans unleashed resounding boos as he made his way to midfield.
• Award-winning country group “Little Big Town” sang the national anthem, with country singer Dierks Bentley headlining the pregame concert.
• Grant Radakovich, the son of Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich and a redshirt graduate transfer, was flagged for a 15-yard penalty on a Clemson kickoff return in the first quarter. The penalty soured Artavis Scott’s 34-yard return following Alabama’s first score of the game, and set the Tigers back to their own 29-yard line before the drive ended with a three-and-out.