CHARLOTTE, N.C. — No. 1 Clemson defeated No. 7 Miami, 38-3, on Saturday night in the ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. The Tigers claimed their third consecutive conference title and clinched a spot in the College Football Playoff for the third straight year.
Clemson improved to 12-1 on the season, while the Hurricanes fell to 10-2.
Here is a look back at how the Tigers put on the rout:
Clemson got the ball rolling early and never looked back in a dominant performance.
The Tigers took the opening drive 68 yards on 10 plays, capped by a 4-yard Travis Etienne touchdown that gave Clemson a 7-0 lead with 10:36 to play in first quarter.
Kelly Bryant ran it in from 11 yards out on the Tigers’ second possession, putting the bow on a 71-yard scoring march that took 3:07 off the clock for a 14-0 lead with 3:02 to play in the first.
Adam Choice made the score 21-0 with 12:49 to play in the first half. Choice rumbled in from a yard out after a 16-yard punt by Zach Feagles gave Clemson the ball at the Miami 41.
Clemson kept piling on after intermission, starting with a 46-yard field goal by Alex Spence less than five minutes into the third period. It was a career-long three-pointer for Spence, who has made six of his last seven field goal attempts.
Back-to-back forced turnovers by the Tigers in the third period helped blow the game wide open.
Clemson turned a Ryan Carter interception into a touchdown when Tavien Feaster rumbled in from 11 yards out, extending the Tigers’ lead to 31-0 with 3:17 left in the third frame. Following another interception — this time by Kendall Joseph — Clemson took over at Miami’s 37-yard line and took a 38-point lead via a 27-yard touchdown reception by Deon Cain with under a minute left in the third.
Miami finally scratched the scoreboard late in the fourth quarter against Clemson’s second-team defense. Michael Badgley hit a 22-yard field goal with 4:05 remaining in the game to provide the final margin.
What went right?
Bryant highlighted the night for Clemson with an efficient performance passing. He completed 23-of-29 throws for 252 yards and one touchdown while also rushing for a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Clemson limited Miami quarterback Malik Rosier to 110 yards passing and picked him off twice.
Overall, the Tigers totaled 331 yards of offense to Miami’s 214. Clemson went 9-of-18 on third down, while Miami was able to covert only three of its 16 third-down attempts. The Tigers recorded 18 first downs and went 5-of-5 in the red zone.
Defensively, Clemson allowed only 10 first downs, forced three turnovers and posted four sacks.
What went wrong?
Not much at all went wrong on Clemson’s side with the small exception of three fumbles including one lost. Ray-Ray McCloud fumbled on a punt return in the first quarter after being tripped accidentally by a fellow Tiger, though Miami was unable to capitalize on its turnover, as Badgley missed a 46-yard field goal on the Hurricanes’ ensuing possession.
Also, Miami head coach Mark Richt’s decision to kick a field goal with his team down by 38 points with under five minutes to play cost Clemson a shutout.
The game-changing moment happened before the game even started — when Miami won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. The Hurricanes were hoping to lean on their strength, which is defense, to begin the game. However, the decision backfired when Clemson took the ball and marched down the field for a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead less than five minutes in.
It was a 10-play, 68-yard drive that Etienne concluded with a 4-yard touchdown. Clemson converted a couple of third downs, the first of which was due to a 14-yard reception by Hunter Renfrow. Miami attempted to confuse Bryant by disguising coverages, but the junior made the right reads and decisions as he led his team down the field.