At 11 a.m. on the day of the College Football Playoff title game, Clemson's offensive players gathered for a team meeting.
A key point of emphasis: That this game could come down to one final drive ... and that the Tigers were ready for that.
"Even though we wanted to win last year, the best parts of the movie don't happen in the middle, they come at the very end," co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott told Deshaun Watson & Co. "Tonight is the final piece of this movie that we've been living out this season. I just have a feeling it's going to be a great finish.'"
Of course, Clemson put together a drive for the ages later that night, with nine plays that made history. When the Tigers got the ball back with 2:01 left, trailing Alabama 31-28 in the College Football National Championship presented by AT&T, nobody in the huddle panicked.
Here's how it happened, through the words of Scott, co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, head coach Dabo Swinney, Watson and other key players, who offer their insight into how the final drive went down:
In the team huddle with 2:01 remaining from the Clemson 32:
Watson: "I just kind of smiled and I told myself that they left too much time on the clock ... I told the guys, 'Hey, let's be great. Let's be special.'"
Wide receiver Artavis Scott: "There was nothing to doubt. We put in the work the whole time; there's nothing to doubt. We were confident in everything we did."
Offensive lineman Jay Guillermo: "We said, 'Go score.' Everything we worked for in those last two minutes or so: 'Let's go score.'"
Running back Wayne Gallman: "No nerves. None."
Elliott: "We've scored in 30 seconds this year, so if you give us the ball with any time on the clock, we feel like we can go score."
On the first play of the drive Watson completes a 5-yard pass to tight end Jordan Leggett:
Scott: "At that part of the game, we knew what concepts worked for us. Our very first throw we wanted to get in empty and just throw a quick gain to get some positive yards on first down, and also Deshaun really liked whenever we get on empty because it spreads everybody out and he can read the defense more clearly. We knew we wanted to come back to [receiver] Mike Williams on a one-on-one matchup, and that's what we hit on the next [play]. We knew there was a chance they were going to be in man coverage so we hit Mike on a big play."
On second-and-5 with 1:56 remaining, Watson's pass to Williams is complete for 24 yards to the Alabama 39.
Williams: "I wanted the ball. Who doesn't want the ball? I was like, 'Come on, let's go!' That was just Deshaun giving me opportunities to go make plays for the team."
On first down with 1:41 remaining, Clemson tries a trick play similar to the one it used against LSU on its game-winning drive in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl, but the Tigers gain only 6 yards:
Jeff Scott: "It was a pass out to Artavis, and we had the hook-and-ladder pitch to Wayne Gallman. It didn't work out exactly like we were expecting, but we still got positive yards on that."
After picking up 1 yard on a second-down run by Watson, Clemson was faced with a third-and-3 from the Alabama 32 with 28 seconds remaining:
Jeff Scott: "We thought about using a timeout there but really wanted to hold our timeouts for when we got inside the red zone. Also, on third down we didn't want to slow down to give the defense time to get their thoughts together. We went fast and hit [receiver Hunter] Renfrow there for a big first down."
Renfrow picks up 6 yards, giving Clemson a first-and-10 from the Alabama 26 with 20 seconds remaining. Watson spikes the ball on first down, giving Clemson second-and-10 with 19 seconds remaining:
Swinney: "Our mentality was to play to win. I was trying to hang on to a timeout. I was just kind of guarding it with my life. That's why we clocked the ball, because I didn't want to get in a situation where we're having to run what we call 'red field goal.' The clock is running, you try to run your guys out there on a red field goal situation. It's a long way to go, guys coming off the sideline, and I just -- I didn't want to get into that situation, so I was trying with everything I had to keep one timeout."
Jeff Scott: "The thought in the headset with 19 seconds left was, 'Let's take some shots and have a chance to win the game and keep enough time to at least kick a field goal to tie it up and go into overtime if we don't hit on some of those shots.' Coach Swinney wanted to be aggressive, so the next play we hit Jordan Leggett. It was the same play that we called two drives earlier when Jordan dropped the ball on third down. I think that was one of the reasons that he made an extra effort to catch the ball because he knew he dropped the previous one. That was a great catch."
Clemson now faces first-and-goal from the Alabama 9 with 14 seconds left. The Tigers call timeout:
Swinney: "That was a fun timeout. That was a fun huddle."
Jeff Scott: "We wanted to work Jordan Leggett, and one of the best concepts we run is him on a corner route. They covered it really well."
Swinney: "We took a shot with Leggett. It's called Menu 2 Special, and [Watson] threw it away, wasn't there."
Now it is second-and-goal from the 9 with 9 seconds left:
Jeff Scott: "We called a play that gave us options to the field and the boundary and [Watson] ended up trying to throw a fade to Mike Williams, and that's when [Alabama] got the [pass interference] call."
Williams: "We just needed a quick ball so he threw me the fade and I got a PI [pass interference]. That helped us out a lot, too. We got the ball at the 2, so that gave us another quick play. For him to get me that fade ball was a great opportunity to go up and make a play, but I got a PI so we won that situation."
First-and-goal from the 2-yard line with 6 seconds remaining:
Jeff Scott: "Six seconds is not a long time and we didn't want to run out of time on the clock, but at the same time we felt like we had some good momentum going. If you kick the field goal and go into overtime, the momentum restarts a little bit, so we wanted to come up with at least one more opportunity to win the game. We threw out several ideas."
Swinney: "There was a lot of discussion there on what the right play was, and that's why I love working with Tony and Jeff, because we have such a great chemistry. And they have such trust, too, with each other. Jeff was adamant on the play. I wasn't as sure because we had run that earlier in the game and they had given us a different coverage. But we were inside the 5, and they had pretty much shown basically zero coverage inside the 5, and Jeff was adamant. I said, 'OK, let's go.'"
Jeff Scott: "It was a sprint out. One reason we liked the sprint out was because we knew we'd be getting some pressure up the middle and we wanted to get Deshaun out there on the move. The call was Crush, and it's working an option route to Hunter Renfrow."
Elliott: "We're going to call it 'Orange Crush.'"
Jeff Scott: "Alabama had been 100 percent man and Cover 0 inside the 5-yard line, which is exactly what you want on the sprint-out crush concept that we called. We had a lot of success with that in the past. That's what we told our guys. We may have a few new plays here and there, but we're going to go with the same stuff that got us here. In that situation we went to one of our bread-and-butter plays. The thought with Deshaun was sprint out; if it's open, let's hit [Renfrow] and win the game. If it's not open, just throw it away and at least we'll have a couple seconds left to kick the game-tying field goal."
Watson: "Just kind of slowed down the moment. I knew if [Artavis Scott] makes his block and gets the little pick, Renfrow was going to get in the end zone. I kind of smiled, and I knew before I even snapped the ball it was going to be a touchdown. All I had to do was just get the ball to him. I slowed down the moment, everyone made their blocks and did their part, and I did my part, and we pulled it out."
Renfrow: "I'm thinking, 'With 6 seconds, we're rolling right. Even if we get sacked, we can still call timeout.' Just an unbelievable play by Deshaun. Artavis Scott did a great job on the outside getting a little rub, and it was an awesome play call by our coaches."
Swinney: "It should have been defensive pass interference. Yes, it's a rub play, it's a pick play. Artavis was actually trying to go pick the guy, but he couldn't get there because he got tackled. Unbelievable. I mean, literally the guy tackles him. It was a heck of a play. Renfrow did a nice job of setting it up, but yes, it's a rub play, and when you play zero coverage, man coverage, I mean, you're susceptible to crossing routes and mesh plays and things like that. We didn't quite get that opportunity. I mean, if you really watch the play, we never even got a chance to really rub the guy. But he had to play over the top. That's the way the play is designed. Renfrow, first of all, has to set his defender, and he made it happen."
Elliott: "We got ourselves in position to make the call. Coach said, 'Hey, let's go win it.' And we dialed up what we thought was going to be the best call, and the guys executed it to perfection and now they're champs."
Artavis Scott: "[Renfrow is] a baller. He's just a low-key sniper. ... He just shocks you because of how great of a player he is. It's awesome to have a guy like him on the team."
Gallman: "I can't tell you how many times we've been in those different types of situations in practice that prepared us for that moment. I can't tell you how all 11 of us were just prepared to do our job the best that we could."
Williams: "We knew that play was going to work. When you want it the most, you go out with your best call. We knew that was our best call. We knew we were going to get Hunter out there in the flat. He was wide open. It wasn't even a competitive play. Catch a touchdown, celebrate with him."
Guillermo: "I didn't see it until I turned around and I saw him kind of coming down with it. I didn't really know if he had it at first, and then I just heard the crowd go crazy. Then I'm looking for the clock like, 'Oh man, is it over?' I saw we had one second. It was like a movie ending."
Elliott: "When Renfrow catches that touchdown, I just broke down, and the reason I broke down is because I wanted this one so bad for Coach Swinney -- what he's meant to me, what he's meant to these players, what he's meant to this program. The attitude, belief that he instills in everybody that he's around is contagious. To see him build a program the right way, to be able to hold up that trophy, that's all I was thinking about."
Watson: "I couldn't hear the crowd; I couldn't really. I was just in my zone. I just felt just at peace. It just kind of went through there, and once I threw the touchdown I just kind of ran off. At that moment, honestly, it's like a blur. The only thing I remember is Renfrow going to the sideline, and I'm just sitting there, and the guys just coming over there. That's all I really remember. It just happened so fast. It's just incredible."