National Championship at the Half: Back to Even

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The National Championship Game’s first half certainly delivered. Clemson and Alabama are deadlocked at 14-14 for the first national championship stalemate since Oklahoma and Florida went into the locker room deadlocked at 7 in 2009.

Monday’s first-half draw also marks the first intermission deficit of fewer than double digits since Auburn led Oregon 16-11 in 2011. That was also the last time the title round was played in Arizona.

Heisman Trophy finalists Derrick Henry and Deshaun Watson certainly lived up to their lofty reputations. Each accounted for both of his team’s touchdowns.

Henry and Watson showing up like the Heisman recipient and finalist they are is of no surprise. Sadly, the Pac-12 officiating crew capped the first 30 minutes in equally unsurprising fashion. Botched clock management after a Clemson first down cost the Tigers at least six seconds, as well as a timeout, forcing an ill-fated 43-yard field-goal.

An Alabama block preserved the 14-14 tie.

The Crimson Tide needed no help with Eddie Jackson making a terrific interception to snuff out a drive that, had it ended up in the end zone, would have given the Tigers a two-touchdown advantage. Rushing lanes for Henry on the subsequent possession, including a goal-line stand with A’Shawn Robinson playing lead blocker, looked like quintessential ‘Bama.

A scoreless second quarter for Clemson was also much more in line with the typical Alabama contest, after a very atypical first quarter defensively.

Of note, Ole Miss handed Alabama it’s only loss.

No, not everything’s gone to script. The speed of the Clemson defensive line has given Alabama’s ballyhooed offensive line fits in pass protection. Jake Coker’s been sacked four times, including twice by Kevin Dodd. Despite concerns about his health, Shaq Lawson has Coker hearing footsteps. That could play a significant role in the second half.

The last national championship halftime stalemate ended with the SEC team dominating, allowing just one more score to pull away by double digits. Can Alabama repeat history, or will Clemson emulate the last ACC-SEC title showdown, wherein a huge Florida State second half downed Auburn?