ARLINGTON, Texas – Second-ranked Clemson dominated No. 3 Notre Dame 30-3 and earned a bid to its third national championship in the last four seasons.
After a slow start in the first quarter that finished in a 3-3 draw, the Tigers (14-0) turned on the jets and scored 27 unanswered points to claim its first Cotton Bowl Classic victory in 78 years (1940).
Clemson dominated the course of the game on both sides of the ball. It finished with 538 yards of total offense behind a stellar performance from freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence who finished 27-of-39 for 327 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively the Tigers held the Irish to 88 yards rushing and made quarterback Ian Book a non-factor, he finished 17-for-34 for 160 yards, an interception and a fumble.
Freshman wide receiver Justyn Ross energized the Clemson offense allowing them to pull away in the second quarter with an outstanding performance that saw two touchdown receptions. He finished the day with six catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns for an average of 24.7 yards per catch.
Ross’ first reception came with 13:54 to play in the second quarter and was a 52-yard touchdown to put Clemson up 9-3. He streaked down the sideline before making a great play on the ball and escaping the grasp of the Notre Dame defender and surging into the end zone.
His second catch was a 42-yard touchdown reception on third-and-14 putting the Tigers up 16-3 with 1:44 to play in the first half. With those catches in the first half he set the Cotton Bowl record for most receiving yards in a half besting Quincy Morgan of Kansas State’s 128 yards versus Tennessee in 2001.
Prior to his two catches the Irish had surrendered just one touchdown pass of greater than 20 yards on the season.
Ross and the Tigers play the winner of tonight’s Orange Bowl on January 7that 8 p.m. in Santa Clara, Calif. for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.