CHARLOTTE— While the Clemson fanbase can, for the most part, detail every play of the game winning drive with 2:01 left on the clock in the early morning hours of January 10 that led to the Tigers’ national championship game victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Few people understand what went into that drive, and all of the pieces that played out in the coaching staff’s minds as they were preparing for that historic drive.
But Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney let the media inside what was going on in his head, as well as some behind the scenes of what happened on that faithful night—or morning and below is a transcript of how the head coach remembers the events.
“I didn’t think about it. It was just, this is what you do,” Swinney said. “This which prepare and spend hours and hours and hours– you just executed, you know, what you’re prepared to do. I don’t know how to explain it other than that. You are so focused and locked into your decisions and you know it was, I felt good. I was kinda mad the quarterback scored. I was still mad about the third-and-23 or whatever it was–16 or whatever. Where the guy got the crazy play–the double pass and all that.
“But when I looked at the clock, I was like, ‘OK, there’s 2:07 we need a good return here. Let’s just get a good starting point field position wise– we got a chance. We got the best player in the country.’ You know, let’s go play. There was just a poise and Deshaun was like, ‘Let’s go.’ In fact, he told his teammates, ‘let’s go be legendary.’ That’s what he told his teammates and we just executed. We had a good plan, we had a good little two-minute, nobody panicked– it was like as soon as he scored, as soon as we saw him running– here’s our calls, here’s our thoughts right here.
“We practice two-minute drill every week, that’s what we do and we only need a field-goal. I’ll script the situation– I’m like all right boys we’ve only got two minutes or a minute 45, you got one timeout, need a field goal to win it, or field goal tie it or you need a touchdown to win. Whatever it may be, and we execute that all the time. We come right out and hit Leggett and we just kind of just got in rhythm.
“Obviously, guys made big plays. The play to Mike, the throw by Deshaun and then we had a little lull there on third down where we were little long in the play in. But we needed the right play, and that third-and-3 to Renfrow was huge, because the allowed clock the ball. Then we come back and we hit Leggett on unbelievable play. Which then we’re like now we got a chance to touchdown here. We still haven’t used timeout, we had one timeout left. It was a very intense, but very, very, very focused drive. I remember after we hit Leggett we called timeout they come all over there, and they were all just talking and it was like a mad house was going on in the huddle right there.
“They were just so excited and into the moment, and I just went off on them. ‘Shut up!’ I just started yelling at them all, and they all looked at me and I went, ‘Is this a blast or what? Are you kidding me? We are in the national championship boys! This is unbelievable! Let’s take a deep breath here.’ And they all laughed and we had a little loose moment there, and then it was I was talking with Tony (Elliott) and Jeff (Scott) about a couple, two or three, plays.
“Then the PI (pass interference) put us in a situation where we were able to just go right off, we had two calls, what we thought was best play. Inside the five they been very consistent with what they had done, and we got six seconds with the ball Deshaun’s hands– if it’s not there he’s gonna throw it away or a clean run in or whatever. We got a timeout, and we’ll kick field-goal and go win it in overtime. So, we were kind of talking through all those things, but as soon as we saw them line up– and Renfrow did an unbelievable job of setting his defender. You know, a lot of times guys, with plays like that, get anxious and they go too fast and they give a guy in early key, but he went got his defender and did a great job of sticking him–freezing his feet. Then Renfrow’s so fast and his defender had to run the hump. It was a well-executed play and a magic moment.”