ATLANTA, GA-- The SEC-ACC match-up of the year ended up being a night of surprises. Nobody anticipated Alabama would whip Clemson in every aspect of the game. Head coach Nick Saban promised to play freshman against a veteran Clemson team lead by a backfield called "thunder and lightning". The tandem looked more like "Crashed and Burned" by the end the game. When the game ended, there wasn't a Clemson fan in the Georgia Dome as the Tide rolled to a 34-10 victory.
Surprise 1: Bama totally whipped Clemson in every part of the game.
Things went bad for Clemson early. Alabama's kicker nails a 54 yarder on the first drive. When Clemson got the ball, Cullen Harper almost threw an interception on the first play. The next play Harper fumbled. Alabama kicks another field goal to go up 6-0 with 7:01 remaining in the first quarter.
The Alabama defense continued to force the Tigers to three and out situations. Each time the Tide would get the ball they would score. By halftime it was 23-3 and Clemson really had nothing going offensively.
Surprise 2: Clemson abandoned the running game of "Thunder and Lightning".
In the second half, Clemson running back CJ Spiller took the opening kick-off for 96 yards and gave the Tigers some hope. The Clemson defense came out and forced Bama to punt on their first possession. But the window quickly closed as Bama scored a touchdown on their next drive and added a two point conversion to put the nail in the casket. Score: Bama 31-10. The Bama drive took nearly seven minutes off the clock and took the heart out of the Tiger players.
With about twelve minutes left, the Clemson fans started leaving the Georgia Dome. The Bama fans started chanting S-E-C, S-E-C. Bama kicker Tiffin put one more field goal on the board to finish out the game 34-10.
In the post-game conference, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden reflected on the game like a man whose team was ambushed. Bowden said his team was whipped in about every way you can get whipped. Bowden had no real answer for what had happened. One glaring coaching error was Playmaker CJ Spiller had only 2 carries in the game for eight yards. Ironically no name wide receiver walk-on Nelson Faerber had equal opportunities but had both passes dropped and an unsportsmanlike penalty called against him.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban commanded the news conference like he controlled the game. Saban was focused, in the present and brutally bold. Saban said his team played physically and mentally tough for an entire game but this was only one game.
Saban said his team would celebrate for 24 hours and then prepare for the next game.
Surprise 3: Playmaker CJ Spiller only had 2 carries for the entire game.
CJ Spiller had only 2 carries for 8 yards. James Davis had 6 rushes for 14 yards. Thunder and lightning turned out to be Crash and Burned. By the end of the game, Clemson had 14 rushes for 0 net yards rushing. Bama had 50 rushes for 239 yards. Clemson had 34 pass attempts.
As the Clemson players left the stadium, they were playing Sweet Home Alabama over the loud speakers at full volume. Clemson had been out coached, out played and sent home with a lot of questions to answer. Bama had dominated on and off the field and Coach Saban was looking like he was worth every penny of his multi-million dollar contract.
Jay Holgate is a sports analyst for SEC Sports Report.
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