Clemson trounces Notre Dame, Bama rolls Oklahoma to reach CFP title game
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Trevor Lawrence completed 27 of 39 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns, and No. 2 Clemson rolled to a 30-3 win over No. 3 Notre Dame on Saturday evening, Dec. 29, in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in Arlington, Texas.
Clemson (14-0) advanced to the Jan. 7 national title game, where it will meet No. 1 Alabama in Santa Clara, Calif., for the title.
The Tigers reached the final for the third time in four years and will seek their second championship in three seasons.
Justyn Ross had six catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers. Tee Higgins and Travis Etienne also scored for Clemson, while Austin Bryant finished with two sacks to lead a dominant defensive effort.
Ian Book completed 17 of 34 passes for 160 yards and an interception for Notre Dame (12-1). The Fighting Irish were outgained 538-248 and averaged 3.6 yards per play, compared with an average of 6.9 yards per play by Clemson.
Etienne put the game out of reach with a 62-yard rushing score with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter. The standout sophomore finished with 14 carries for 109 yards and tallied his 23rd touchdown, 22 of which have come on the ground.
Clemson built a 23-3 halftime lead.
The score was tied at 3 late in the first quarter when Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love left the field because of a head injury. Clemson quickly took advantage by picking on backup Donte Vaughn, who replaced Love.
The strategy paid off as Lawrence connected with Ross for a 52-yard touchdown along the right sideline with 12:50 left in the second quarter. Ross fought off Vaughn and stiff-armed safety Jalen Elliott on his way to the end zone.
Lawrence found Ross again for a 42-yard touchdown on a deep seam route with 1:44 to go in the second quarter to make it 16-3.
A terrific reception by Higgins increased the Tigers' lead to 20 points with two seconds remaining before halftime. Vaughn deflected a pass in the end zone, but Higgins juggled the ball with his right hand and brought it close to his body while he fell to the ground. A video review confirmed that he had possession before falling out of bounds.
Alabama 45, Oklahoma 34
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Tua Tagovailoa threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns as Alabama advanced to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game with a 45-34 win over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl at Miami Gardens, Fla.
Alabama got off to a red-hot start, building a 28-0 lead by the time the second quarter was two minutes old.
Tagovailoa outperformed his counterpart, Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray, especially early.
Alabama's defense made life difficult on Murray from the start, sacking him twice in Oklahoma's first three offensive plays of the game and three time overall. Murray had been sacked just 15 times all season coming into the game.
Murray did help the Sooners climb back into the game, finishing with 308 yards passing with two touchdowns and running for 109 yards and another score.
But Oklahoma could never get closer than 11 points.
Each team had a big-time star as a question mark for health reasons coming into the game.
Alabama's -- Tagovailoa -- showed little effects from the ankle injury that required surgery after the Crimson Tide's come-from-behind win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
Tagovailoa was able to move around in the pocket and make the throws that made him a Heisman runner-up.
Oklahoma's, though, had little impact on the game. Receiver Marquise Brown was playing just a few miles from where he grew up in nearby Hollywood, Fla., but it was clear from the start that the foot injury that knocked him out of the Big 12 championship game would not allow him to be his typical explosive self.
On the first offensive play for the Sooners, Brown went in motion and was eventually run into by Murray. Brown finished without a catch and didn't play much after the first quarter.
DeVonta Smith led the Crimson Tide (14-0) with six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. CeeDee Lamb had eight catches for 109 yards for the Sooners (12-2).
Alabama is in the title game for the fourth consecutive game and will face Clemson for the third time in those four seasons.