History will show that the Clemson Tigers won a national championship in 2016, but history may forget that Clemson, at one point in the first half, trailed 14-0.
“We were (still) very confident,” Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It was looking very grim for us, the defense giving up those two explosive plays, and I know our offense was starting slow, which we kind of expected little bit. Everyone knows how talented and dominant Alabama’s defense is, so we knew it was going to be a little slow to start out with and our offense had to get acclimated. So the first 14 points was looking a little grim. We were still confident and we knew what we were capable of and we knew how talented and resilient our team was. We just put our head down and went to work.”
Clemson outscored Alabama 35-17 the rest of the way to avenge its 2015 title-game loss. The Tigers won seven games by seven points or fewer this year.
“We felt that pressure,” Boulware said. “We understood that there was very high expectations off last year, but at the end of the day, we found a way to win. It honestly wasn’t perfect. Everyone thought Deshaun was going to throw for 100 touchdowns and 50,000 yards this year, but at the end of the day, he’s human. He’s going to make mistakes. For him as an individual, people have put way too high of expectations on him. I think that label kind of goes for our team, too. Everyone probably thought we were going to dominate for four quarters all 15 games this year. With college football, anything can happen. You can get beat any time of the day.”
For Clemson, that day was Nov. 12. The Tigers lost at home to Pitt, 43-42.
“We respect Pittsburgh, but for the most of the season, we were a better team than them – but not on that given day,” Boulware said. “That’s college football. We respect how at any given day you can lose to any team. We respect how fragile it is. . . . But we found a way to win. That’s what makes a national championship team. You might not be perfect and each day might not go the way you want it to be, but if you’re resilient and put your head down and go to work, at the end of the day, you find a way to win and the outcome will be the one you want. That’s what we did this year, and we’re national champions.”
Boulware, who will enter the NFL Draft, believes Clemson is on the verge of the next college football dynasty.
“I definitely think there’s more national championships to come for Clemson,” he said. “I definitely think that with the recruits that we’re bringing in, with the resources that Clemson has, with their new facilities and academic stuff, we’re definitely at the top of the country. Each year is going to build upon each other until we have a dynasty. We’re not there yet. That’s something we have our eyes on. Alabama has a dynasty with what they’ve done the last 10 years. We’re just getting started. We’ve only had one in the past 35 years, but I think with the resources, the staff, the talent that we recruit, our coaching staff – I think we have everything that goes into being a dynasty.”