The second national championship game of the College Football Playoff era was nothing short of a thriller, as the University of Alabama claimed the program’s sixteenth national title, defeating the Clemson Tigers, 45-40, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
In a game in which offense would be pivotal, Clemson quarterback and Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson would set the record for most total yards in national championship game history, putting up 478 yards against the Crimson Tide – a feat that would be overshadowed by performances from Alabama’s biggest offensive threats. Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry rushed for 158 yards on 36 carries and three touchdowns, while Offensive Player-of-the-Game O.J. Howard had five receptions for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
Tied 14-14 at the half, Alabama’s special teams unit provided the boost the Crimson Tide needed to roll past the Tigers. A kickoff return for a touchdown, the team’s sixth special-teams touchdown of the season (tied for most in the FBS at the time), a blocked field goal in the second quarter and a game-changing onside kick recovery with 10:34 left in the fourth quarter put the Tide in front to stay.
The victory marked the fourth Alabama Crimson Tide national championship in seven years.