ANOTHER CLEMSON CHAMPIONSHIP: NO.2 TIGERS RUN AWAY FROM PITT, PUNCH TICKET TO 4TH STRAIGHT PLAYOFF
- 2018-12-02 10:23:20
CHARLOTTE, NC – No.2 Clemson continued on its collision course with No.1 Alabama for a fourth consecutive College Football Playoff showdown as it annihilated Pitt 42-10 for the Tigers’ unprecedented fourth consecutive outright ACC Title. Clemson joined Florida as the only Power Five programs to win four consecutive conference championship games, and Dabo coached against a couple of those Steve Spurrier-coached Florida teams when he was on the Alabama staff in the 1990’s.
The weather conditions were just what Pittsburgh was hoping for—it steadily rained all day and throughout the game, somewhat diminishing the wide disparity in talent and athleticism that favored the Tigers. However, ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne made a statement on the very first play from scrimmage, bursting into the open field for a 75-yard touchdown run. It was the fastest score and longest play from scrimmage in ACC Championship Game history.
The defense also made a statement early, forcing a three-and-out on Pitt’s first possession and creating a big turnover on the second. Isaiah Simmons forced a fumble recovered in the air by Christian Wilkins and returned to the Pitt 3-yard line. Etienne quickly paid it off with his second touchdown of the quarter to put the Tigers up 14-0, and it was all the points they would need. The defense was anxious all week to redeem itself for its worst performance since the Texas A&M game in week 2, allowing 600 yards and 35 points against the Gamecocks last week. All night long, they demonstrated how anomalous that game was by dominating the Panthers’ offense. They allowed just 10 points, 200 yards of total offense and 8 passing yards after giving up 510 last week. They forced 8 three-and-outs and a turnover on downs. After forcing just one turnover in the previous three games, the Tigers forced two in the first half, and both led set up the offense inside the 10-yard line for touchdowns. In addition to the fumble return by Wilkins, A.J. Terrell collected his second interception of the season and returned it to the Pitt 10. LB Tre Lamar missed the South Carolina game with an ankle injury and had a huge night. He led the Tigers with 9 tackles, including one of their two sacks and another tackle-for-loss. The Tigers finished with 9 TFL’s.
Travis Etienne is arguably the most efficient running back in the nation, and Saturday night was no exception. He rushed for 156 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 12 carries, averaging 13 yards per. He extended his Clemson single-season rushing touchdown record to 21 and still leads the Power Five in that category. He has just one fewer touchdowns than the two players who lead the nation but has 85 less carries than one of them and 38 less carries than the other. After the game, Etienne thanked God, his family, his offensive line and his fellow running backs. It is impressive how humbly the true sophomore carries himself. He is a true superstar and will be one of the favorites to win the Heisman neat year, but as the Clemson coaches have said, he doesn’t seem to know how good he really is.
As usual, Trevor Lawrence played like a fifth-year senior rather than a true freshman. Despite the inclement weather, he made a few incredibly accurate touch passes down the field. One of them was unfortunately dropped by Tee Higgins on the sideline in the first quarter, and that led to a three-and-out. He made another magnificent throw to Justyn Ross for 32 yards in the first quarter and connected again with his fellow true freshman in the second half for 38 yards, the longest pass play of the game, on a flea flicker that went to the one-yard line and set up a touchdown. Lawrence also delivered a perfect ball on a fade route to Higgins for one of his two touchdowns. Trevor was 12-24 for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions. He also had a couple nice runs, including a 16-yard scramble for a 3rd down conversion, in which he juked a defender out of his shoes. For the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about how Trevor’s running ability is gradually becoming a bigger part of the offense. He rushed for his first career touchdown at Boston College, followed that up with his longest rush against Duke and then topped it again with a 32-yard run last week and a 3rd and 3 conversion. Trevor won’t run the ball a ton, but his ability to make a couple big run plays per game is the last piece of the puzzle for this explosive offense.
The Tigers only totaled 419 yards of offense, but they only had to run 59 plays thanks to the explosive plays and two turnovers inside the red zone. In fact, they had three one-play scoring drives that consumed 4 seconds, 5 seconds and 13 seconds! The 28 points scored by the Tigers in the first half matched the ACC Championship Game record set by FSU in 2014. At one point, the Tigers had 14 scoring plays of over 70 yards in their last 14 quarters played in ACC Championship Games.
Chase Brice got into the game late and posted a career-long 28-yard run. True freshman Lyn-J Dixon, who led the nation last week with 10.21 yards per carry, bounced a nice run outside for a touchdown to put an exclamation point on the game and make the final 42-10. It was the Tigers’ 8th straight win by 20 points or more, as school record, and 13th straight game scoring 27 points or more, also a school record. The Tigers have now won 29 straight Saturday games, which is a school record and the longest active streak in the nation. Incidentally, the College Football Playoff Semifinal will be on a Saturday this year!
The College Football Playoff Selection Show begins at noon ET on ESPN. It will almost certainly be Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma in that order. The only question is who will play where. Contrary to popular belief, the CFP Selection Committee makes that determination, and although Alabama and Oklahoma are closer to the Cotton Bowl than the Orange Bowl, they may put Clemson in the Cotton Bowl in order to avoid giving Oklahoma a virtual home game. I’ll have the media teleconference with CFP Selection Chair Rob Mullens posted for you around 4:30. I’ll also have our teleconference with Dabo and (presumably) Brian Kelly posted at about 6:00, so keep it right here all day!
- Including the 42 points against Pitt, Clemson has now scored 590 points, breaking the school record for points in season, held previously by the 2016 Tigers (588).
- Clemson scored 40 points in a ninth game this season, breaking a tie with the 2012 and 2013 Tigers (eight each) for the most 40-point games in a season in school history.
- Clemson set an ACC Championship Game record by limiting Pitt to 200 total yards. Clemson surpassed its own previous championship game record for fewest yards allowed in the title game (214 vs. Miami in 2017).
- Clemson allowed only eight passing yards, breaking the ACC Championship Game record of 84 allowed by Boston College against Virginia Tech in 2008.
- Clemson allowed 510 passing yards to South Carolina last week before allowing only eight passing yards to Pitt on Saturday. The 502-yard week-to-week improvement in passing yardage allowed is the most in Clemson history, surpassing a 370-yard week-to-week improvement earlier this season in games against Texas A&M and Georgia Southern.
- Clemson extended its existing school record by winning an eighth consecutive game by 20 or more points for the first time in school history.
- Clemson has now scored 27 or more points in 13 straight games for the first time in school history, extending its existing record.
- Clemson rushed for 301 yards. It was the team’s fifth 300-yard rushing game of the season, tying the school record set by the 1978 squad.
- Including a 351-yard rushing effort against South Carolina a week ago, Clemson has now rushed for 300 yards in back-to-back games for the first time since 2015 against North Carolina and Oklahoma.
- Clemson pushed its season rushing yardage total to 3,377, the second-best mark in school history. The 2018 Tigers trail only the 1978 Tigers (3,469, first) on the school's all-time leaderboard for rushing yards in a season.
- Clemson recorded a season-high-tying three one-play scoring drives in the game, with all three coming in the first half. Clemson posted three one-play scoring drives against Wake Forest in October.
- Including 13 first downs gained against Pitt, Clemson has now recorded the eighth season in school history with at least 300 first downs (311).
- Clemson outrushed Pitt, 301-192, and outrushed an opponent for the 12th time this season. The Tigers have outrushed opponents in 23 of their 27 games since 2017 and are 23-0 when outrushing opponents in that time frame.
- Running back Travis Etienne amassed 156 yards with a pair of touchdowns on 12 carries, earning MVP honors for his performance.
- By virtue of adding his two touchdowns to his career total, Etienne tied Wayne Gallman (34 from 2014-16) for third on the school's leaderboard for career rushing touchdowns.
- Including his 156 yards against Pitt, Etienne has now recorded only the second 1,400-yard rushing season in school history (Wayne Gallman in 2015).
- Etienne became the fifth Clemson player to rush for 100 yards in an ACC Championship Game, joining C.J. Spiller (223 in 2009), Andre Ellington (125 in 2011), Wayne Gallman (187 in 2015) and Deshaun Watson (131 in 2015).
- With 12 points in the contest, Etienne pushed his season point total to 132, breaking C.J. Spiller’s mark for the most by a non-kicker in school history (128 in 2009).
- Clemson opened the scoring with a 75-yard touchdown run by Etienne. At 13 seconds into the game, the touchdown was the fastest in ACC Championship Game history.
- The 13 seconds represented Clemson’s shortest time of possession prior to its first score of a game since the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl, when Clemson needed only 12 seconds to score on its first offensive possession.
- Clemson scored with 14:47 remaining in the first quarter. The 13 seconds of elapsed game time marks Clemson’s fastest score in a game since Joe Woods scored on a 80-yard touchdown pass from Nealon Greene 13 seconds into Clemson’s game against Wake Forest on Sept. 28, 1996.
- The touchdown was Etienne’s 20th rushing touchdown of the season, adding to Etienne’s existing school record and making him the first in school history to record 20 rushing touchdowns in a season.
- The 75-yard run by Etienne was longest allowed by Pitt all season.
- Etienne’s 75-yard run also represented the longest play from scrimmage in ACC Championship Game history.
- Etienne added his second touchdown of the evening on a three-yard run in the first quarter.
- Etienne’s second touchdown of the game was Clemson’s 76th of the season, passing the 2016 Tigers (75 in 15 games) for the most total touchdowns in a season in school history.
- Etienne’s second touchdown of the game was also his 22nd total touchdown of the season (including one via reception), breaking Spiller’s single-season school record of 21 from 2009.
- Quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 12 of 24 pass attempts for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
- During the contest, Lawrence broke Kyle Parker's record for passing yards by a freshman (2,526 in 2009). Lawrence already owned the school record for passing yards by a true freshman.
- Lawrence pushed his season passing yardage total to 2,606, moving past Cullen Harper (2,601 in 2008) for ninth on the school's leaderboard for passing yards in a single season in school history.
- Wide receiver Tee Higgins scored on touchdown receptions of five yards and 10 yards in the second quarter.
- With his second touchdown of the game, his 10th touchdown reception of the season, Higgins broke Deon Cain's school record for receiving touchdowns by a sophomore (nine in 2016).
- Higgins became only the seventh player in school history to record 10 receiving touchdowns in a single season. He is now tied with Derrick Hamilton (10 in 2003) for sixth-most in a season in school history.
- Running back Adam Choice scored his career-high seventh rushing touchdown of the season on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter. His seven rushing touchdowns this season surpassed his previous mark of six, set in 2017.
- Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow added to his school records for career starts by a wide receiver (45) and consecutive games with a reception (41).
- Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence pushed his season sack total to 1.5 and his career sack total to 11.0, recording a third-down sack to force a three-and-out on Pitt’s first possession.
- In the first quarter, linebacker Isaiah Simmons his third forced fumble of the season, the fourth of his career. The fumble was recovered by defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, his fourth career fumble recovery.
- Cornerback A.J. Terrell recorded his team-lead-tying second interception of the season in the second quarter, his first since Sept. 29 against Syracuse.
- Linebacker Tre Lamar added his third sack of the season in the third quarter, pulling him one sack shy of his career high from 2017 (4.0).
- Linebacker Chad Smith recorded his first career fumble recovery on a fourth-down stop in the fourth quarter.
- Defensive end Clelin Ferrell made his 42nd career start to pull within one of Levon Kirkland's school record for starts by a defensive end/outside linebacker (43 from 1988-91).
- On his first PAT of the game, kicker Greg Huegel broke the school record for PATs held previously by Chandler Catanzaro (203).
- Huegel made his 46th career start at kicker to tie Nelson Welch for third-most starts by a Clemson kicker all-time (52, Chandler Catanzaro; 47, Aaron Hunt; 46, Nelson Welch).
- Punter Will Spiers recorded a season-long and ACC Championship Game record 63-yard punt in the second quarter, one-yard shy of his career long of 64 yards set at Louisville in 2017.
- Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins played his 57th career game to tie fullback Chad Diehl's school record of 57 career games played from 2007-11.
- Captains for the contest were defensive end Austin Bryant, defensive end Clelin Ferrell, tackle Mitch Hyatt and tight end Milan Richard.
WITH THE WIN…
- Clemson won its 24th conference championship in school history. The Tigers now boast four SIAA championships, two Southern Conference championships and 18 ACC championships to their credit, and their 24 total conference championships are the most among the ACC's current membership.
- Clemson secured its conference-leading 18th all-time ACC championship, three ahead of the 15 earned by Florida State.
- Clemson became the first team in ACC history to win four consecutive ACC titles outright. Florida State earned at least a share of nine consecutive ACC titles from 1992-2000 but never earned more than three consecutive titles outright.
- Clemson joined the 1993-96 Florida Gators as the only Power Five conference teams to win four consecutive conference championship games. (Note: Earlier in the day, the Oklahoma Sooners won their fourth consecutive Big 12 championship, only two of which included a Big 12 Championship Game victory after the conference reinstituted the championship game in 2017).
- Clemson won its 53rd game in the last four years to add to existing school and ACC records for wins held by Clemson's 2018 senior class. It tied the 2014-17 Alabama Crimson Tide for the second-most wins by a senior class in FBS history. (Note: The 2015-18 Alabama class pushed its record to 54 wins with a victory on Saturday).
- Clemson improved to 13-0 for only the second time in school history, joining the 2015 Tigers, who started 13-0 en route to a 14-1 finish.
- The 2018 Tigers won their 13th game to take sole possession of third place for the most wins in a season in school history. It brings the 2018 team one win shy of the team record of 14 wins, set by the 2015 and 2016 Tigers.
- Clemson earned its first all-time win against Pittsburgh. The Tigers entered the week 0-2 all-time against Pittsburgh.
- With the win over Pittsburgh, Tigers have now won their most recent meeting against all 13 ACC institutions.
- Clemson won its 13th straight game, which ties streaks from the 1939-40 and 1980-82 seasons for the third-longest winning streak in school history.
- Clemson's 2018 senior class improved upon its current winning percentage since 2015 to .930, which far outpaces the school record set by the 2017 seniors (.877, 50-7). The class can now finish with a winning percentage of no worse than .914, which makes the 2018 senior class the first in school history to field a winning percentage of .900 or better.
- The victory was Clemson’s 101st of the decade.
- Clemson won its ninth straight game in the month of December, a streak that dates back to the 2011 ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech. Prior to the current streak, Clemson had never won more than three consecutive December games.
- Clemson improved to 37-0 when scoring first since 2015.
- Head coach Dabo Swinney earned his 114th career victory to pass Frank Beamer (113) for third-most career wins as head coach of an ACC program. (Note: Beamer's figure reflects his 113 wins after Virginia Tech joined the ACC as a member institution, excluding his victories as an independent or as a member of other conferences).
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