Dabo Swinney describes playcall decision on national championship-winning TD

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday January 10, 2017


Run or pass? What should Clemson do with six seconds left and on the 2-yard line?

Fade to Mike Williams? Option run? RPO? They had a timeout. ESPN’s Samantha Ponder said she overheard Deshaun Watson calling for a running play. But co-offensive coordinator / wide receivers coach Jeff Scott wanted the rollout pass to Hunter Renfrow off a rub. The Tigers went with it.

Renfrow was open and caught the final touchdown with 1 second left, dethroning Alabama and winning the national title.

“Jeff Scott did a great job,” Swinney said on Sportscenter. “We were very back-and-forth on the play we wanted. Jeff was very committed to that call, and we went with it. As soon as we lined up, we knew we had man coverage. We knew we had an opportunity for the play.

We actually called a timeout before, and I told everybody to take a breath right there and I said, ‘Man, ain’t this fun? Is this not fun? You kidding me? This is what it’s all about.’ They all smiled. We were going to try to win the game. We would have kicked the field goal had we not made the play. Our mentality wasn’t to settle for a field goal. Let’s go win the game, put it in No. 4’s hands and let him make the decision.”

Swinney made sure to play it wasn’t a pick play. It was a rub play. The Tigers had scored a touchdown earlier on a pick that wasn’t called, but there was no penalty on the final play.

“It’s a rub play,” Swinney said. “That’s what we call it.”

Watson led game-winning drives in the final minutes against Louisville and Florida State this year. He had 2:07 to use against Alabama. He only needed 2:06. It looked like the time management was running too much clock, but Jordan Leggett made a huge twisting catch to get inside the 10-yard line with 19 seconds left.

“That’s what we prepare for,” Swinney said of the final drive. “I know when you’re a fan, you can’t breathe, but to be honest, that’s when we’re at our best as coaches and players. That’s just what we do. When you have a guy like No. 4 and you have the guys out outside, Deon (Cain), (Artavis Scott), Leggett, Mike (Williams), the plays they made.

No panic. We work that all the time, and let’s make the plays. We’ve got two timeouts, we’ve got forever. We need a field goal to tie, touchdown to win. We talk about the situation and go to work.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.