Clemson's winning play stirs memory of 'The Catch'

Clemson's winning play stirs memory of 'The Catch'

The play Dwight Clark made famous as the second man in the progression turns 35 years old on Tuesday.

On Jan. 10, 1982, Clark made “The Catch” – a leaping 6-yard touchdown reception of a Joe Montana pass along the back line of the end zone to send the 49ers to a 28-27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park.

The play propelled the 49ers to their first of five Super Bowl championships over the next decade-and-a-half.

On Monday night, Clark was in Tampa, Florida, to watch his alma mater, Clemson, win its first national championship since 1981.

And with :06 remaining, trailing by three points, the Tigers had one opportunity to beat Alabama in regulation from the 2-yard line.

Clemson calls the play, “Crush.” But in the Bill Walsh playbook it was called, “Sprint right option.” That’s right, Clemson ran the same basic concept to win the title that Walsh called in the 49ers' critical moment 35 years ago against the Cowboys.

Earlier in the NFC Championship Game, Freddie Solomon, the inside receiver on the right side, caught an 8-yard touchdown pass. But on the deciding touchdown, Solomon slipped coming out of his break, Montana waited and waited and waited before lofting a high pass. Clark, who lined up on the outside, ran toward the post, then glided back along the back of the end zone to make himself available for Montana's pass.

On Monday night, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, while sprinting to his right, went with the first option, Hunter Renfrow, for a 2-yard touchdown pass with :01 remaining for the winning points in a 35-31 upset victory over Alabama. Renfrow was wide open in the front of the end zone after the defender assigned to cover him got tied up in traffic caused by the outside receiver and cornerback.

Immediately after the game, Clark answered a text message that pointed out the similarities of the two historic plays.

“The guy running my route got pushed to the ground,” Clark responded.

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The 49ers-Cowboys NFC Championship game came be watched in its entirety here. The NFL posted the video in September.