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I hate, hate, hate cults of college coaches, but if I was ever going to join one, it would be the church of William Christopher "Dabo" Swinney, the Clemson football coach who led his team to a thrilling 35-31 upset victory over Alabama and Little Nicky Saban for the national championship last night. The Tide coach failed to win his fifth minor league football championship in eight years, and everyone in America outside of Alabama is breathing a sigh of relief.
Unfortunately, I don't think the Dabo cult, which will surely now enjoy explosive growth, would have me. Swinney has been scolded in the past for overdoing the Christian stuff and I bowed out of Christianity a while ago.
College football needed redemption after a boring season approached its end with the vast majority of meaningless bowl games turning into drab affairs that surely no one cared about other than the most delusional boosters.
For every awesome Michigan-Florida State Orange Bowl (somehow coach Jim Harbaugh always makes the football compelling even if he is ridiculously immature at times), there were handfuls of blowouts at the likes of the Bluebonnet Bowl, which no longer exists but remains my go-to meaningless bowl game name.
But the championship, which of course once again featured star athletes taking all of the risks and providing all of the entertainment and receiving no compensation, made fans forget all of that.
And let's dive right into a little recap.
How about Swinney's tremendously ballsy decision to not call a timeout with about 50 seconds left and his team barely in field goal range. Instead he let the clock run down and down and down, apparently to ensure Alabama wouldn't have any time left to drive back the other way if Clemson scored to either tie it or take the lead.
In fact, it seemed as though Swinney was playing for the field goal, what with Clemson still having almost 30 yards to cover to score a touchdown when he decided not to take the timeout.
But then Jordan Leggett made his amazing catch just inside the 10-yard line, the clock stopped with less than 20 seconds remaining first due to the first down, and finally the Tigers were in business:
But it was dicey. It looked like they would have a tough time getting three plays in before they would have to attempt the game-tying field goal.
In truth, Swinney's decision was Final Three Games of the World Series Joe Maddon-esque. (As it turns out, Maddon indeed "made an impression" on Dabo.) He was tremendously fortunate he didn't end up forcing his team to kick a relatively long field goal (with a kicker who had missed two of his previous three field goal tries). If Clemson had faltered on any play after that decision, the Tigers would have had to use their final time out to set up the field goal.
As it stood, they still only had one second to spare when they scored the game-winner:
And nice defense on that game-winner coach Saban. Not! Next time call the obvious zone defense to protect against just the sort of pick play Clemson ran and there's a good chance Swinney's clock management goes down in sports infamy.
Swinney's decision would have made a ton more sense if he was facing a team quarterbacked by, say, Peyton Manning in his prime. Instead it was Alabama freshman signal-caller Jalen Hurts on the other sideline, and while Hurts had just led the Crimson Tide on an impressive touchdown march after struggling for virtually the entire second half, he simply wasn't very good all second-half long.
In the end, the game was so reminiscent of the 2005 championship game in which quarterback Vince Young led Texas to an upset, comeback, last-second win over defending title winner USC.
But the aftermath of that game is a cautionary tale for Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson and the teams that think about drafting him. Young was drafted in the top three the following spring by the Titans but was a major bust in the NFL.
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Posted on Feb 14, 2020