Longtime friends Shannon Thigpen and Lee Price couldn’t make it to California to cheer their Clemson Tigers in the national championship game.
So the two Charleston natives and Clemson grads did the next best thing. The two made the trek to the Upstate and had their purple and orange chairs planted a short distance from one of the two large-screen TVs set up on College Avenue in downtown Clemson.
And the two friends and thousands of others didn’t leave disappointed as the Tigers defeated Alabama 44-16 for their second national championship in three years.
“This the best atmosphere in the state right now, I tell you,” said Price, a Clemson season ticket holder who lives now in Shelby, N.C. “Every 15 or 20 minutes, there are just waves of people. Just give it a couple hours. I have been to a lot of stadiums colleges and lot of towns, but it is hard to beat this place.”
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Both Thigpen and Price, who went to the last two Tigers national title games in 2016 and 2017, already took the day off work Tuesday, as did many others gathered Monday night. Classes for Clemson students don’t begin until Wednesday, but there were plenty of them downtown enjoying the festivities.
“There is gonna be a lot of hoarse voices tonight, and we are going to be in the middle of it,” Thigpen said.
College Avenue was bustling with foot traffic, and big projection screens were set up and most of the bars on the street filled to capacity before pregame introductions.
As the final seconds began to count down in the game, chants of “We too deep!” were heard throughout the crowd as some people started climbing trees and hanging from the street lamps.
But for the most part, everyone behaved and only a few people ended up in handcuffs.
The city of Clemson is in the habit of throwing a national championship party. The Tigers played Alabama in its third national title game in four seasons, and fans were ready for it.
Police expected about 8,000 people in downtown, about 3,000 more than last time the Tigers won a national title. Clemson suspended open-container laws for five hours and closed downtown streets for the party Monday night.
Workers at the Mr. Knickerbocker, a Clemson clothing store, were busy setting up the outside of the store so fans could get their pictures with orange and purple balloons.
Tiger faithful started pouring in downtown early on Monday before kickoff of the game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Charleston Pub Sports Bar of Clemson general manager Caleb Walker said his establishment began fielding phone calls over the weekend about what time they were opening.
Walker said people began arriving at 11 a.m., some nine-plus hours before kickoff.
It was the first time Walker was in Clemson for a national championship game after managing the other location in Charleston. But he knew what he was in for on a rather unseasonably warm night in the Upstate.
“I am interested on how it is going to play out. I was told it will stay chaotic until they win or lose. If they win, it will be a party all night. If they lose, it will be complete mayhem,” Walker said.
It was the fourth straight year Clemson and Alabama played each other in the College Football Playoff. The Tigers were looking for redemption after losing to the Crimson Tide in last year’s semifinal.
Clemson won the title two years ago, its first since 1981, by beating the Crimson Tide on 35-31 Deshaun Watson’s pass to Hunter Renfrow.
“I can’t wait and see what Tigers are going to do. I think we got a real good chance and am going to win,” said Michael Grimsley, a cheerleader at Clemson who didn’t make the trip to California. “Trevor Lawrence is one of the best quarterbacks in nation. Trevor Lawrence is something special. He is going to have something for Bama.”
Lawrence not only had something for the Crimson Tide but so did the Tigers defense as they shut out Alabama in the second half.