Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

INSTANT CLASSIC | There Have Been Plenty of Memorable Games in a Variety of Sports in Tampa Bay, but Monday Night's May Have Been the Best

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

INSTANT CLASSIC | There Have Been Plenty of Memorable Games in a Variety of Sports in Tampa Bay, but Monday Night's May Have Been the Best

Article excerpt

INSTANT CLASSIC

Around half past midnight, the Facebook postings echoed a familiar refrain: WHAT A GAME! INSTANT CLASSIC! ONE FOR THE AGES!

For those whose Tuesday morning job commitments had them toes up by the waning minutes of Monday night's College Football Playoff national championship game, don't fret.

They will be rebroadcasting this one for as long as televisions occupy space in America's living rooms. The hope was that Clemson- Alabama II could approach Clemson-Alabama I in all the ways that compel fans to watch sports in the first place -- excitement, competitiveness, drama, riveting storylines.

Consider it approached and surpassed.

Football fans were well versed in the game's backdrop. Clemson sought retribution for its title loss last year to the Crimson Tide. Alabama head coach Nick Saban was attempting to tie Paul "Bear" Bryant with his sixth national championship. His program was one victory from establishing itself as an historical juggernaut.

But the presence alone of these factors does not guarantee the kind of performance we were treated to at Raymond James Stadium. This one had it all, capped by a Clemson game-winning drive in the final seconds, engineered by wonderful Tiger quarterback Deshaun Watson, playing his final collegiate game.

How appropriate was it that a college football season filled with forgettable games ended with one that won't ever be forgotten?

And it was played just up the road, leading one to muse where it fits in among the greatest games ever played in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. In any sport.

In college football, right at the top. What game surpassed it?

In 1969 the University of Tampa hosted Florida A&M at Tampa Stadium in what was believed to be the South's first interracial college game. In 1984 defending national champion Miami rallied to beat Florida 32-20 at Tampa Stadium.

The 2000 Outback Bowl was pretty good, with Georgia overcoming a 25-0 lead of Purdue and quarterback Drew Brees in a 28-25 Bulldog victory. And Bulls fans remember when more than 67,000 packed Ray Jay in 2007 for USF's 21-13 win over West Virginia. A couple weeks later, Jim Leavitt's team was ranked second in the country. …

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