CHARLOTTE — Clemson won its sixth consecutive ACC Championship at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday, and in the process took the hopes and dreams of Notre Dame winning a conference championship away. And the Tigers did it convincingly, too.
Behind the arm and legs of quarterback Trevor Lawrence No. 3 Clemson rolled to a 34-10 victory over the second-ranked Irish. The win clinched a record sixth consecutive College Football Playoff berth and leaves others questioning whether Notre Dame deserves to be.
“Of all the teams we have had, this deserves it the most,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said afterwards to ESPN’s Maria Taylor. “It was unbelievable, unchartered waters that we navigated this year. It was unbelievable leadership and I am super proud of them.”
The Irish (10-1) did knock off then No. 1 Clemson on Nov. 7 in double overtime, but they did it without Lawrence playing or defensive stars Tyler Davis, James Skalski and Mike Jones. However, all four of those guys were playing in Charlotte and they all made a difference in the game.
“This is what we set out to do,” Swinney said. “Notre Dame is a great team and we had a great game in South Bend, storm the field and all of that stuff. But I told the guys in the locker room, ‘Look, no trophy was handed out tonight. They are going to hand that out in Charlotte. And when we get to Charlotte, we will be on the field and we will get the trophy.’
“So, they had a great year, but tonight was all about the Clemson Tigers and all about this group right here.”
While Lawrence was tearing apart Notre Dame’s nationally ranked defense, Skalski and company were owning Ian Book and the Irish’s offense. The Tigers held Notre Dame to 70 combined yards and no points in the second and third quarters.
Lawrence finished the game 25-of-36 for 322 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 90 yards on 14 carries, including a 34-yard touchdown. His passing touchdowns were of 67 yards to Amari Rodgers and 33 to E.J. Williams.
Lawrence was named the game’s Most Valuable Player for his performance.
“Big shocker there,” Swinney said. “This is what I will say. It would be a crying shame if the Heisman did not attach its name to Trevor Lawrence. That would be a shame.
“I know that has become a stat award, but if you watch college football and you don’t know this is the best player in the country, I don’t know what you are looking at. To me, the Heisman should want their name attached to Trevor Lawrence.”
Running back Travis Etienne finished with 124 yards on 10 carries, including a 44-yard touchdown run just before halftime.
Lawrence threw an interception on Clemson’s first possession of the afternoon Saturday. Then he took over the game. He threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, while rushing for 42 yards, staking the Tigers to a 24-3 lead at halftime.
Etienne later broke off a 44-yard touchdown run with 21 seconds to play in the half to conclude a second quarter that saw the Tigers (10-1) outscore Notre Dame 17-0 and outgain them 228 to 49 yards.
Etienne gained 98 yards on eight carries in the opening 30 minutes.
While the Clemson offense was rolling under Lawrence and Etienne the defense held Notre Dame to 49 total yards in the second quarter.
The Irish had an opportunity to take a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but after getting to the Clemson 6-yard line, they were stuffed and then kicker Jonathan Doerer missed a 23-yard field goal. The Irish drove the football three times inside the Clemson 30 on three consecutive possessions to start the game but came away with just three points.
Clemson held quarterback Ian Book to minus-34 yards and sacked him six times. Overall, the Tigers held the Irish to 263 total yards. Book had 64 rushing yards in the first meeting between the two teams back in South Bend.
Notre Dame took the lead on its opening drive when Doerer connected on a 51-yard field goal with 8:16 to play in the first.
Following a Lawrence interception on Clemson’s opening drive, the quarterback got rolling. He hit Amari Rodgers for a 67-yard touchdown on the Tigers’ next possession and then when he got the ball back, he found E.J. Williams for a 33-yard score, giving the Tigers a 14-3 lead with 9:24 to go before halftime.
B.T. Potter then added a 27-yard field goal with 4:28 to play before halftime for 17-3 Clemson lead.
Lawrence added a 34-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and Potter had a 37-yard kick in the fourth quarter for the Tigers’ final points.
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