CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Following top-ranked Clemson’s complete 38-3 domination over seventh-ranked Miami in Charlotte Saturday night in the ACC Championship Game, the Tigers took home their third straight ACC title under a sellout crowd at Bank of America Stadium.
With the win, Clemson is likely headed to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans as part of the College Football Playoff.
Following the Tigers’ victory, head coach Dabo Swinney, quarterback Kelly Bryant, defensive coordinator Brent Venables, and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins spoke to the media about their execution and success in all three phases on Saturday night.
Here is what we heard:
Swinney now has one prong of the triple crown checked off after his team won the ACC for a third time. His team’s will to win, focus, and maturity in championship caliber football continues to propel this team to greatness.
“What an amazing performance by our guys,” Swinney said. “Probably our best game of the year. That was our goal, was to play our best four quarters tonight, championship football. When you’re a part of championship football, you got to be at your best.
“This team, to win the third ACC title in a row, that’s the first time in 29 years at Clemson, our seniors get their 50th win, which is an ACC record, it’s just a special moment, it really is. The credit goes to these players, our staff, the good Lord for just blessing us with great unity and vision.”
Clemson’s offense was clicking on all cylinders from, basically, start to finish. The Tigers scored the first three times they possessed the football while also converting their first seven third downs of the game.
That success was led by the game’s MVP, Kelly Bryant, who completed an ACC record 15 straight passes to start the game. At the end of the night, the South Carolina native was 23-of-29 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown, adding another score on the ground.
Five different Tigers scored on Saturday night, nonetheless showing Clemson’s offensive depth.
“I just think that everybody was just having fun out there,” Bryant said. “Offense was clicking. Defense was playing really well. Special teams. Flying around, making plays. It was just great to see everybody was playing, everybody on the same page, everybody in a rhythm.
“It just really shows the type of team we have, a bunch of guys that have bought in, go out there to finish the way we want to finish, never satisfied. We still working to finish the way we want to finish.”
Clemson’s defense followed the offense’s performance with a relentless one of their own. The Tigers held the Hurricanes to 214 total yards, while forcing three turnovers. Miami’s quarterback Malik Rosier was just 14-of-29 for 110 yards with two interceptions and was also sacked four times.
Venables’ top-10 defense played a near to perfect game, and that’s exactly what he expects to see this time of year.
“Our guys were very focused tonight, very well prepared and just had a hunger, focus, and toughness to them that’s hard to overcome,” Venables said. “I think that when you are so locked in and understanding of the guy next to you and defensively overall, you just play with such discipline.
“We couldn’t coach them hard enough. They were coaching themselves pretty good out there. There was a hunger and a focus that no matter what happened, they weren’t going to be satisfied.”
Wilkins efforts in the trenches led the Clemson defense all night. He finished with 0.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss and a pair of pass breakups to go along with seven tackles.
From the get-go, the defensive attitude was to discard complacency, which in turn hindered Miami’s attempt to get comfortable.
“We just had the mentality that we never were satisfied really,” Wilkins said. “Just had to finish the whole time. Tried to stay locked in. Even when we were rotating guys, putting the younger guys in, just kept encouraging them. Those are all meaningful snaps to them and everything. We stayed locked in all the way throughout.”