Alabama’s strong start was not enough, as Clemson crawled back into the game and eventually dethroned the defending champions by a score of 35-31 late Monday night thanks to a furious rally led by quarterback Deshaun Watson.

The Tide’s hopes in the game were significantly hurt following the injury to running back Bo Scarbrough, who had rumbled to two first-half touchdowns before leaving the game with an injury and not returning. Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts did not have a strong overall performance but did manage to march down the field for a go-ahead touchdown during Alabama’s final possession of the game.

Unbelievably, it was the Alabama defense that failed to hold the lead, as Watson connected with receiver Hunter Renfrow in the closing moments of the game for the final points of the game.

“I have to say that I’m extremely proud of our team for what they were able to accomplish this entire season,” head coach Nick Saban said. “I don’t think one game defines who you are, you know, as a person, as a competitor, or as a team and certainly not define what this group of young men was able to accomplish this year. It was a hard-fought game out there today, very disappointing to lose a game like that, and I wish there was something else that I could do for the players to help them be more successful in the game.

“But to the older guys on our team, the seniors, their leadership has been commendable all season long, and these guys have accomplished a tremendous amount of success for the University of Alabama in the years that they’ve been here. To win three straight SEC Championships, to be in the playoffs three straight years, to win a National Championship last year, you know, these guys have really done a fantastic job of representing the university, and I’m really proud of these guys and they’re winners in every way.

“As I said before, one game doesn’t define a team, and I think our team demonstrated time and time again this year that they were winners. I’m extremely disappointed that we didn’t have a better outcome today, but I’m also at the same time very proud of what this group of young men was able to accomplish.”

On any struggles due to the offensive coordinator change: 

“I think the players handled it very well. I think we scored 31 points in the game to a defense that shut out Ohio State in its last game. I thought the preparation was good, we gave our players a chance to have success.”

On losing Bo Scarbrough to injury: 

“Bo has really come on and played extremely well the last three or four games of the season. He’s certainly been a bell cow for us, and he has certainly, because of his size and durability, he makes it difficult when the defense gets worn down a little bit. Not to have him was probably a little bit of a disadvantage for us, but I was pleased with the way the other backs that had an opportunity in the game, Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris played. We always miss a guy that’s Bo Scarbrough, size, especially when you want to run the ball and take some time off the clock.”

On if this was his toughest loss:

“Well, I think every loss is very painful, and my loss is really for the bad feeling that I have for the players who have worked so hard to create this opportunity for themselves and not to be able to finish this is very disappointing for me. But because of them. And what I would, as a coach, love to see this team have been able to accomplish and achieve, which was a goal they worked very hard for.

“That’s the part that makes it difficult. But every loss, if you’re a competitor, is never good. But these kind, when you had a great season and the players had done so much to create an opportunity, it’s tough to lose this way. But I will say this: That you have to give a lot of credit to Clemson, because they made some really good plays down the stretch. They made some great catches, and we never got the ball down and we never got done what we needed to do. We had our chances, and there’s nobody that we can blame but ourselves.”