“We played a top West Coast passing offense. We had never seen it and we had no idea how to defend it, but at the same time they had not seen a big, physical run game like we had,” said Clements. “So it was two polar opposites that were slugging it out, and both teams were very good at what they did. I distinctly remember the coaches saying, 'This is going to be a shootout. It is going to come down to who guts it out and gets it done at the end of the game.’”
After trading the first eight touchdowns, the Tigers took control of the game with 2:16 left in the third quarter, when Tyler Jack scored his third of four touchdowns for the day on a 1-yard run. Richard Peoples put ECU up 42-28 at 5:59 in the fourth, and Jack added the game-securing TD on a 20-yard run with 3:32 remaining on the clock.
While GSC added one more score with less than a minute left, the lead that the Tigers built was strong enough to earn the first national title for ECU.
“The biggest moment is always looking up at the clock, seeing the seconds tick down and realizing that it (winning the national title) is actually happening,” Clements said. “You reflect back through all the hard work that everyone put in, you are seeing it pay off and that is very rewarding.”
While winning the national championship was exciting for the team, they took more than just a ring from that season.
“What really sticks out to me is that when I looked around the locker room, I truly knew every one of the players,” said Clements. “We had so many players from that team that had come up with each other and we knew each other, and that made a huge difference.”