Clemson University

Clemson intercepts Tua Tagovailoa twice in first half of action-packed championship

3 things we’re watching as Clemson faces Alabama in the national championship

The State's Matt Connolly previews Clemson's matchup against Alabama in the national championship game.
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The State's Matt Connolly previews Clemson's matchup against Alabama in the national championship game.

Well that didn’t take long.

Clemson seized an early lead over Alabama in the 2019 College Football Playoff national championship game, thanks to an interception by sophomore defensive back A.J. Terrell returned for a touchdown.

Terrell picked Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa just a few moments into the first quarter of the championship for his fourth career interception and first career touchdown. It was also just the seventh interception and second interception returned for a touchdown in Tagovailoa’s career.

But Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide didn’t need long to avenge the touchdown, scoring on a 62-yard pass, making the score 7-7 less than three minutes into the contest.

The Tigers came right back, however, with a lightning-fast scoring drive of their own. Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence found receiver Tee Higgins for a 62-yard bomb on third down to put CU in the red zone, and sophomore Travis Etienne finished things off the very next play with a 17-yard run into the end zone.

Less than five minutes into the game, the Tigers led 14-7, and there were already more points than two national championship games since 2000 had over four quarters. Alabama scored once more in the first quarter to make it the highest scoring opening 15 minutes of a national championship in the CFP and BCS eras.

Midway through the second quarter, with Clemson leading 21-16 and Alabama moving down the field again, Tagovailoa attempted another deep pass but missed badly, getting intercepted by junior defensive back Trayvon Mullen, who returned the ball 47 yards to set up another Clemson touchdown, putting the Tigers up 28-16.

It was Mullen’s first interception of the year and fourth of his career.

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