Kenyan Drake reaches for the goal line during the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.

People who say they can accurately predict college football are liars.

Every expert would have told you that Alabama would need to ride a wave of Derrick Henry to win the national championship on Monday night. No one would have said that Alabama’s special teams unit needed to give the sport two of its seminal moments to beat a Clemson team that was trying to shake a decades-old monkey off its back. College football refuses to be placed in a box, and Alabama showed the country why that is a most beautiful thing.

Tied at 24 in the fourth quarter with Clemson, Alabama head coach Nick Saban called for a pooched onside kick. It brought back memories of Sean Payton calling an onside kick at the start of the second half of Super Bowl XLIV, but this was far more reckless, at least on the surface. The game had been a grind for every single play, and the Tide had an impossible time containing Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Potentially giving him the ball on the plus side of the field with a wave of momentum could have been crippling.

Instead, Saban called for a kick to a huge opening on the field between the right sideline and the hash mark. Adam Griffith sliced the ball like a sand wedge, and a sprinting Marlon Humphrey easily caught it to turn the coach’s decision into a golden gamble. It was a moment born out of desperation and respect for the Tigers, but history will remember it as one of the shrewdest plays in college football history. Saban’s wry smile amidst the celebration was the topper.

Even with the onside kick slapping them in the face and giving momentum to the Crimson Tide, the Tigers wouldn’t go away. Down four with just under eight minutes left in the game, having just tallied a field goal, Clemson kicked the ball away to Kenyan Drake. The returner ran forward, cut left, hit the corner, and outran everyone to the end zone to the delirium of the crimson-clad masses in Glendale, Arizona.

Clemson’s T.J. Green gave chase like a maniac, head bobbing every which way as his shoulders pumped to catch an elusive target. The two men dove together to the pylon, but Drake won the race.  It was simply a footrace won by the Tide, aided by Clemson overcommitting to one side of its kick coverage. As Green propped himself up on one knee, a first Tide player got in on the celebration, and then a third and then a seventh.

Clemson didn’t fold and hung tight the rest of the way, but that kick return was the game.

In a game that will be remembered as one of the greatest ever, it wasn’t the little things that won the game. It was the big moments that slapped you in the face like a brick that proved to be the difference.

One was the type of play that coaches dream of pulling out, but rarely have the chance, or guts, to do. The other was a play every boy who has ever played football dreams of making, but rarely pulls off on the biggest stage. The national title was won with the help of two special moments, conceived in dreams before becoming reality on the game’s biggest night.

About Mike Abelson

Mike Abelson is an editor for Comeback Media. He also works as a writer and broadcaster for numerous organizations throughout New England. You can follow his journey to see a basketball game at every New England college at