The Clemson Tigers coaching staff knew after it had won the National Championship last season that it would be hard to replace the outgoing Deshaun Watson with Kelly Bryant. Watson was one of the best ever college quarterbacks and after one season with Clemson Bryant is far from that point.
The wheels came off as Bryant tossed a pair of interceptions with both leading to touchdowns by Alabama. The Clemson signal caller was sacked five times, the most all season, in the Tigers 24-6 loss Monday in the Sugar Bowl.
Bryan said he and his teammates knew the game would be physical, but the team made big errors at critical moments during the game.
Alabama Defense Had Plenty of Time to Prepare
The previous two meetings Clemson has with Alabama were high-scoring, thrilling battles for the national title that both were decided in the final seconds of play. The teams split those two title bouts.
This season the game was the CFP semifinal with Clemson’s new quarterback hoping to lead his team past the Crimson Tide to face Georgia for the national championship.
Entering the game, Bryant had thrown for 2,678 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed of 826 yards and 11 touchdowns during the regular season.
However, Alabama head coach Nick Saban and staff had a full month to prepare for the offense of Clemson this time around, as opposed to only one week in the prior to meetings with the Tigers.
The results were much different. Bryant ended the game on Monday with just 124 yards passing completing 18 of his 36 passing and was held to just 19 yards on the ground against Alabama. The Tide’s swarming defense kept him unsettled most of the night. Both Bryant interceptions were tipped passes.
The offense for Clemson could muster just 188 total yards after ending the regular season with an average of 448.1 yards and 35.3 points per game.
Two Interceptions Changed the Entire Game
The first interception took place when an Alabama defender hit the arm of Bryant when the Clemson quarterback was releasing the ball. The pass fluttered in the air and into the arms of an awaiting Alabama defender.
The second interception was tipped by an Alabama player and intercepted by Mack Wilson who raced 18 yards into the end zone to stretch the Alabama lead to 24-6.
Bryant was almost intercepted a third time, just one play after he was sacked for the fifth time. The pass by Bryant looked like it had been intended for an Alabama defense but was because of the duress Bryant was under when he stepped back to pass.
Bryant’s first game in the College Football Playoff ended with an incompletion from the 5-yard line of Alabama with just 1:43 left to play in the fourth quarter. However, if they scored at that point it would have left the Tigers at least two possessions from tying with hardly any time remaining.
You can be sure that Bryant is set to lead Clemson next season and the Tigers are on track to be one of next season’s favorites to win a national title.