When the Patriots and Eagles had punched their tickets to this year’s Super Bowl two weeks ago, the stage was set for two former Badgers running backs to compete against each other in the game that matters most. James White had been there before, having won with New England the year before in a game many believe White should have been named MVP. For Corey Clement on the other hand, this was unfamiliar territory.
Following a successful senior season at Wisconsin in 2016, Clement hoped to hear his name called on draft day and continue his football career professionally. After years of nagging injuries, he managed to stay healthy enough to play 13 games in which he rushed for nearly 1,400 yards and had 15 touchdowns — but it was not enough to the NFL scouts.
Clement went undrafted in the spring, and signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent shortly later. After showing his worth during the preseason, Clement made the final roster and slowly carved out an important role in one of the NFL’s best offenses.
By the end of the regular season, Clement amassed 321 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground as well as 123 yards and 2 touchdowns receiving. As Nick Foles and company took care of business against the Falcons and Vikings to secure their place in the Super Bowl, Clement had locked in his role as a change of pace back while running mates Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount shouldered the larger portion of the carries.
Ahead of kickoff, Clement was seen as a part of the Eagles offense, but James White was looked at as a key to the Patriots success. NBC’s Tony Dungy even predicted White to play a significant part in the Super Bowl because he was unsure the Eagles defense could keep up with him in the passing game.
When the game started, with the whole country watching, the products of Wisconsin’s “Running Back University” did not disappoint.
Clement fielded the opening kick and had a 16 yard reception taking the ball to the Patriots 5 yard line, setting up an opening drive field goal for Philadelphia. In New England’s first possession White would make both of his two receptions, helping the Patriots into field goal range to tie the game at three.
There was not much defense being played in what would turn out to be the most combined total yards in an NFL game in the league’s history, and late in the second quarter James White found his way into the end zone. On first down just outside of the red zone, White took the handoff and bursted into the secondary of the defense, broke tackles and scampered his way in for a 26 yard score.
On the following possession, Clement would make a dynamic play for the Eagles. Facing third and three with under two minutes to go until halftime, Clement caught a short pass and turned it up field with room to run. One giant stiff arm and 55 yards later, he was brought down at the New England 8 yard line putting Philadelphia in prime position to score before halftime.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson went into his bag of tricks shortly later on fourth and goal from the one, using a direct snap to Corey Clement, a quick pitch to the tight end and a simple toss to wide open Nick Foles for what will surely be one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history for years to come.
With the score 22 to 12 at halftime, the Wisconsin alumni were not done yet. A quick Patriots touchdown to open the third quarter put the pressure right back on Philadelphia, and the Eagles were up for the challenge. After moving the ball to the Patriots 22 yard line, Foles unleashed a 22 yard bomb to the back of the end zone on third and long. Clement was tightly covered by two Patriot defenders but managed to secure the ball and get two feet down before sliding out of bounds as he was tackled.
The touchdown put the Eagles back ahead by two scores, and proved to be important in keeping the offense hot after the halftime break. With both quarterbacks playing nearly perfect football, the offenses continued to duel back and forth in a wild second half. After briefly falling behind in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia managed a late score on a Zach Ertz touchdown and eventually came out on top 41 to 33.
Clement finished the game with 100 receiving yards and a touchdown while White led the Patriots with 45 rush yards and a touchdown. The two friends now both boast a Super Bowl ring early into their NFL careers, and have done all of Badger nation proud in the biggest game in American sports.