Clemson, Alabama tied at halftime

By The Sports Xchange   |   Jan. 12, 2016 at 12:26 AM
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Alabama running back Derrick Henry and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson took turns throwing haymakers in a riveting first half of the College Football Playoff Championship Game, and the teams were tied at 14 at the break.

The Heisman-winning Henry scored twice, including on a 50-yard run, and Watson fired two pretty touchdown passes to freshman receiver Hunter Renfrow.

Henry went over the 100-yard mark with 7:41 to go in the second quarter and rolled up 129 yards on 20 carries by halftime.

Watson, who was third in the Heisman balloting, kept Alabama off balance with his arm, his scrambles and a smattering of designed runs. He passed for 162 yards and ran nine times for 45 yards in the first half.

Each team missed 44-yard field goals, including Clemson in the final seconds of the half. Alabama defensive lineman D.J. Pettway got a hand on the attempt, causing it to fall short.

Alabama, which had allowed only 19 first-quarter points all season, gave up 14 to Clemson after the Tide took a 7-0 lead.

After the teams exchanged punts to open the game, Henry, on third-and-1 from midfield, took a handoff and made one cut to the right, where guard Alphonse Taylor and tackle Dominick Jackson opened a huge hole. With Clemson's defense pinching in, Henry got to top speed and ran past strong safety Jayron Kearse and into the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 7:55 to go in the first quarter.

Clemson immediately answered.

After the Tigers converted third-down plays on a pass-interference call and a Watson scramble, Watson lobbed a perfect 31-yard pass into the end zone for Renfrow, who slipped behind defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick to tie the game.

That Clemson combination struck again on the final play of the first quarter, as Watson, on third-and-9 from the Alabama 11, fired to Renfrow on an in-route in the middle of the end zone. Once again, Renfrow beat Fitzpatrick on the play.

Alabama tied the game after safety Eddie Jackson's interception at the Clemson 42. Henry topped the drive by going airborne from the 1-yard line with 9:35 to go in the half.

In 16 BCS championship games and one previous CFP title game, there was only one halftime tie.

NOTES: Next season's national title game will be held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 9. The semifinals will be held in the Fiesta and Chick-fil-A bowls on Dec. 31. ... Clemson DE Shaq Lawson, who sustained a sprained left MCL in the Orange Bowl, was in the starting lineup, playing with a brace on his knee. He had two sacks in the first half. ... Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander, who was nursing a hamstring injury, also started but left the game with 7:41 to go in the first half. Trainers quickly iced his left hamstring on the sideline. ... Alabama RB Derrick Henry scored a touchdown in his 20th consecutive game, an SEC record. ... Former Alabama Heisman-winning running back Mark Ingram was the Tide's honorary captain for the game. Ex-Clemson running back C.J. Spiller held that role for the Tigers. ... Coach Nick Saban was trying to win his fourth national title at Alabama and fifth overall. Only former Crimson Tide coach Bear Bryant (six) has won more than four national titles during the wire-service era (since 1936). ... Clemson was going for its second national title; the Tigers won in 1981. ... A Pac-12 crew officiated the game.

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