From joy to sorrow in 126-seconds

Published 4:44 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2017

hate using clichés but the national championship rematch between Clemson and Alabama was a rollercoaster. My emotions went up and down throughout the game like a boat on a rough sea, but every wave must break at some point. This year, it broke in favor of Clemson and the Tide receded in defeat with an unforgettable feeling of despair.

I certainly won’t forget it for as long as I live. I had to stream it on the Internet to watch it, and as the game got into the fourth quarter, the real crunch time, the stream failed, and I had to go through all those emotions without seeing it. I listened to one of the best games in history while it chewed up Alabama fans and spit them out on the losing side.

Leading up to the game I was nervous. If you read my column predicting the game I made it pretty clear I was uncertain. By kickoff I was ready, and when Alabama’s Bo Scarborough got around the corner and willed his way into the end zone, I erupted. Alabama 7, Clemson 0.

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Something still didn’t feel right, and then Bo did it again. He scrambled through the Clemson defense for his second touchdown of the day. Alabama 14, Clemson 0. Something was weird.

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. Nobody predicted it, nobody could imagine it, not even myself. Then it all caught up.

Slowly but surely, Clemson started settling down and Alabama’s defense got tired, that is when the roller coaster really started going up and down.

The middle of the game was just a prolonged wave of anxiety, but nothing really over the top or draining. Looking back on it I was more aware of the outcome than I’m willing to admit. I kept seeing Clemson move the ball and Alabama’s defense look sluggish on a few plays, something that was new to me.

Fast forward to the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. Clemson had just scored a go ahead touchdown, and I was pacing around my living room with the radio broadcast blasting from my phone. I was trying to imagine a scenario where an 18-year-old quarterback could win the National Championship. They kick off with a short kick and give Alabama the ball. It comes down to a fourth and one on the first drive, and I accepted defeat. I was wrong. Damien Harris scrambled for some yards and gives Alabama (and me) a breath of life.

I start pacing again, the announcers then told me that Alabama had just whipped out a halfback pass down the field. I’m glad I wasn’t watching, it would have been like those horror movies you have to watch through your fingers because that makes it less terrifying for some reason.

Then it happened. Jalen Hurts snaked his way through Clemson’s defense for a 30-year touchdown. I had never felt such a rush of disbelief and joy and relief all at once in my life. Last year’s game was fun but nothing compared to being led to the promise land by a QB that was in high school a year ago.

There was only one problem. 2:07 was left on the clock when Clemson got the ball back. Deshaun Watson had two minutes to drive down and score on the best defense in college football. “No way” I thought.

The wave came crashing down with a force I’ve never felt before. Not even the kick six hurt this bad, and I had to watch that play from a Burger King in Auburn which added insult to injury.