TAMPA, Fla. — It’s a fine line.
Clemson wouldn’t have been here celebrating — pulling an all nighter into Tuesday, basically — if NC State’s Kyle Bambard had made an easy 33-yard field goal on Oct. 15.
It all depends how you look at Clemson’s life-changing — for the Tigers — national championship. Had Alabama not perfectly executed an onside kick in the fourth quarter last year in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship, the Tigers might actually be back-to-back titleists.
Is Alabama celebrating another title itself right now if Bo Scarbrough doesn’t go out with a broken leg late in the third quarter? After the injury, Bama got only 27 rushing yards the rest of the way until freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts’ 30-yard dash to put it ahead 31-28.
It was Alabama’s last lead in Clemson’s last-second 35-31 win.
A fine line. To the victors goes the sunrise.
“I literally didn’t get any sleep last night,” said one of those Clemson all-nighters, linebacker Ben Boulware said. “I feel like crap.”
Tuesday, though, dawned as the day Clemson no longer has to justify itself. It’s not a little brother on the national scene, nor is it just an ACC power.
It’s elite — just in case you wanted to know. And Dabo Swinney wanted you to know after Clemson’s first title since 1981.
“There is no doubt in my mind, the best is yet to come for us. It won’t be 35 years before Clemson will do this again,” Swinney said. “This program is built to last.”
Social media, though, was still raging Tuesday morning over another fine line. Clemson’s Hunter Renfrow caught the winning 2-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson with a second to go only after teammate Artavis Scott did something to Alabama defensive back Marlon Humphrey.
Replays seem to show Scott diving at the legs of Humphrey before the ball is even in the air. But even that was up for debate depending on what locker room you were in.
“Legal,” declared one prominent former head coach.
“It was a good ‘no call,'” said Rogers Redding, the national coordinator of football officials.
“It should have been defensive pass interference,” Swinney claimed.
Such screens, picks or rubs are practiced constantly. They have become a fine art in a sport where linemen are allowed to block 3 yards downfield on pass plays. (The NFL allows a more rigid 1-yard space.)
“It’s a common technique,” said Big 12 officiating supervisor Walt Anderson, whose crew did the game. “There’s a legal way to ‘pick’ and an illegal way.”
Humphrey suggested to reporters in the early hours of Tuesday morning that he was improperly picked by Scott to create space for Renfrow.
“Definitely sucks,” Humphrey said.
“To me, that moment, that epitomizes what our program is all about,” Swinney said. “You’ve got the five-star quarterback [Watson] throwing the game-winning touchdown to the walk-on wideout [Renfrow]. And that’s the epitome of our team. It doesn’t matter if you’re the five-star guy or the walk-on, best player plays. You earn it. There’s no entitlement in our program. You earn it. Period.”
Swinney wasn’t finished. Looking a little bit bleary-eyed himself, he posed with the national championship trophy that most likely will tour every hamlet and burg in South Clemson that bleeds orange and purple.
A fine line, then, has been crossed by the Tigers. It wasn’t just the goal line.
“Greatness,” Dabo said, “is for everyone. It’s not just for the Alabamas and the Ohio States and the Notre Dames and the Texases.”
Until next season, at least, all of it is for Clemson.
Source: General Sports