Tua Tagovailoa made a rare mistake early in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. And it wouldn’t be his only one as Alabama fell behind Clemson 31-16 at halftime.
On Alabama’s very first drive, Tagovailoa, the Heisman runner-up, fired two passes right on the money for gains of eight and 12 yards on the Tide’s first two plays. On the third play, however, disaster struck.
Tagovailoa was looking for Jerry Jeudy near the sideline when Clemson’s A.J. Terrell came off his man and read the eyes of the quarterback. He stepped in front of Tagovailoa’s pass and took it 44 yards for a touchdown.
Terrell’s play, just the fifth interception of the year for Tagovailoa, opened the scoring and came after Clemson quickly went three-and-out on offense to open regulation.
It marked the first time Clemson scored first in the four College Football Playoff matchups between the two teams. But the interception would not linger. On the ensuing possession, Tagovailoa went back to the air and found Jeudy behind the defense for a 62-yard score.
The teams would trade touchdowns on the next two drives, but Clemson held a 14-13 edge thanks to a missed extra point by Alabama’s Joseph Bulovas.
Bulovas would redeem himself with a 25-yard field goal on Alabama’s next drive to give his team a 16-14 lead. But the lead didn’t last long. Clemson marched right down the field and surged back in front, 21-16, on Travis Etienne’s second touchdown run of the half.
On the next Alabama drive, Tagovailoa would throw his second interception. He was fooled by a Cover 3 look from the Clemson defense. Instead of staying in the flat like Tagovailoa anticipated, Clemson corner Trayvon Mullen played the deep ball and was there to intercept Tagovailoa’s deep ball.
Mullen returned the interception out toward midfield. From there, Lawrence led the Tigers right through the Crimson Tide defense, capping the drive off with a five-yard scoring connection with Etienne on a shovel pass. That score extended Clemson’s lead to 28-16.
The Tigers would add a field goal in the half’s final minute to take a 31-16 lead into the locker room. In the end, Clemson prevailed 44-16 in a dominant effort.
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