Alabama needed it all to win the toughest national title game it had ever played during the Nick Saban dynasty. All of its power. All of its speed. Even one gutsy trick. Derrick Henry, OJ Howard, and Kenyan Drake hit No. 1 Clemson with long touchdowns, and Alabama outlasted the dynamic play of dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson to win the College Football Playoff championship 45-40 on Monday night. The Crimson Tide (14-1) won its three previous championship game appearances in runaway fashion. This game was an instant classic—a welcome relief for fans who sat through the blowouts that turned the New Year's Six lineup into a dud. It finally turned on maybe the boldest call of Saban's career.
With 10:34 left in the fourth quarter and Alabama having just tied the game with a short field goal, Saban took a gamble to try to keep the ball away from Watson and the Tigers. He called for a high-bouncing onside kick that Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey caught over the shoulder at midfield. "I think that changed the momentum of the game, and our guys finished it," Saban says. Moments later, Alabama took back the lead. The Crimson Tide are now the second team in college football's poll era, dating back to 1936, to win four titles in seven seasons. Alabama joins Notre Dame, which won four titles from 1943-49. For Saban, it's his fifth national championship, leaving him only one short of former Tide coach Bear Bryant for the most titles in history.