Randy Smith: A Game For The Ages

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - by Randy Smith
There were two things that really stood out in the 2017 National Championship Game last night in Tampa. First, Alabama may have had the most talented college football team in the country, but Clemson had the best team. The Tigers also had the best player. Deshaun Watson proved last year's championship game performance was no fluke as he practically equaled the numbers he put up against the Crimson Tide in last year's 45-40 Alabama win. 

Clemson ran 99 plays in last night's 35-31 victory. Ninety-nine times the Tigers snapped the ball to Deshaun Watson, and those ninety-nine snaps eventually wore down the heralded Alabama defense. Clemson scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, including the final touchdown with just a second remaining against a tired, frustrated 'Bama defense.
Watson connected on a two-yard TD pass to Hunter Renfrow for the game winner, sending the Tigers to their first national title since 1981.

Before the game began, Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney told his team, "We're gonna win this game. I don't know how but we're going to win. We're going to win because we love each other."

For the better part of the last two seasons, Swinney has been one of the best at post-game quotes, but this one really hit home. We all know his story; rising out of poverty to attend the University of Alabama, walking on to the team and eventually earning a scholarship and winning the 1992 national championship under Gene Stallings. He became an assistant coach in Tuscaloosa on Coach Mike Dubose's staff, but got out of coaching when Dubose was fired, He stayed out of football until Clemson Coach Tommy Bowden offered him a job and, when Bowden was let go, Swinney was named the team's interim coach. That interim tag was lifted as he became the Tigers head coach nine years ago. 

Dabo Swinney got his first college head coaching position without ever serving as an offensive or defensive coordinator, which is a really rare occurrence. He surrounded himself with perhaps the best coaching staff in college football, and Clemson pays them very well. They really earned their money with the win over Alabama.

The Clemson win also kept Alabama Coach Nick Saban from tying legendary 'Bama Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant for the most national titles with six. Saban won the 2003 title at LSU and has won four at Alabama in his nine years as head coach. Alabama and Clemson are both 28-2 over the last two seasons and, with the way these two teams recruit, another Alabama-Clemson match up in the near future wouldn't be out of the question.     

So, when Nick Saban decides he's had enough and retires it appears that Dabo Swinney is the heir apparent in Tuscaloosa. Not that anything is set in stone, but Alabama supporters have already hinted that Swinney is who they want. When the time comes to make that decision, Swinney will have a really tough time deciding. He could return to his alma mater and his home. Or he could stay at the place that gave him his first head coaching opportunity......a place that he obviously loves very much. Since love is how Clemson rolls, I wouldn't be surprised if Dabo stays right where he is.

* * *

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer.  His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for 30 years. He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century. In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have five grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, Mattingly, DellaMae, and CoraLee.



Lanters Are Latest Sister Acts Leading Lady Flames Teams

When one looks back on the success of the Lee University women’s soccer program over the past 16 years, it is easy to see what sisters have provided. Records show the surge began in 2001 and continues today with senior Summer and freshman Anna Lanter (former Soddy Daisy High School standouts) helping spark the Lady Flames to a current 8-4 overall mark and 7-2 in the rugged Gulf ... (click for more)

Time Change Announced For Georgia Northwestern And Cleveland State Volleyball Game On Thursday

At the request of Cleveland State Community College, Georgia Northwestern's volleyball match on Thursday at Cleveland State has been pushed back an hour and will now begin at  7 p.m. The Lady Bobcats (1-14) will be back at home at the Rossville Athletic Center  on Saturday  for their annual Pink Games to promote breast cancer awareness and to raise money ... (click for more)

$125 Million County School Building Plan Includes Shifting CSLA To Tyner Middle; Combining Tyner High/Middle; New Harrison Elementary, New East Hamilton Middle

Hamilton County School officials on Thursday unveiled a $125 million building plan that includes moving the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts to the current Tyner Middle School, which will undergo a major renovation. Tyner Middle will move across the street into Tyner High School. Both Tyner buildings have been under-utilized for a number of years. There will also be ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Committee Says Pulling Away From County Schools Is "Feasible"

After eight months of investigating the viability of Signal Mountain establishing a separate school district, a committee of six has determined that it is feasible and would meet the goal of improving the education provided to students. The committee was also tasked with identifying obstacles and if possible to find ways to overcome them.  Results of the report were presented ... (click for more)

The Deer Decline At Enterprise South Nature Park

There are now 11 fewer deer to see at Enterprise Nature Park. The hunters snuck another one in secretly so as not to cause controversy.   I go to that park three or four times a week, and haven't seen any deer for months, and I used to see them all the time. They had to put out "salt licks" to attract deer from surrounding areas outside the park. Then they killed them ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: New Schools On Agenda

Hamilton County School Superintendent Bryan Johnson confirmed on Wednesday that a plan for several new public schools will be included on Thursday night’s School Board agenda. Hamilton County has fallen woefully behind other metro school districts in the state and, with an estimated $340 million in deferred repairs, upgrading facilities - that now average over 40 years old - was ... (click for more)