No. 2 Clemson took a 31-16 lead on No. 1 Alabama into halftime of the College Football Playoff National Championship in Santa Clara, California, and Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban was clearly feeling the heat.
After driving down to the Clemson 24-yard line in 13 plays to open the third quarter, the drive stalled and Saban called the field goal team out on fourth-and-6. The outcome didn’t work out the way Saban planned.
Clemson lined up in its safe defense, holder/backup quarterback Mac Jones took the snap and was stopped for no gain up the middle.
What makes matters worse is that Jones and kicker Joseph Bulovas appeared to look over to the sideline when they noticed Clemson was prepared for the fake, and the coaching staff still decided to run it.
It’s not the first time Alabama has been involved in a critical special teams play in the second half of a big game. Late in the fourth quarter of a tie game vs. Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart called a fake punt on fourth-and-11 that failed miserably. Backup quarterback Jalen Hurts led the Tide down the field, scored the game-winning touchdown and clinched a spot in the College Football Playoff.
In the national title game following the 2015 season, Saban called a surprise onside kick up seven points on Clemson with 10:34 left in the game. That drive led to a touchdown, and the Crimson Tide won the first meeting between the two powers in the College Football Playoff era.