CHARLOTTE, NC – As I expected and predicted, the ACC
Championship Game was just more of the same dominance we’ve seen from the
Tigers since their one close game of the season at UNC in late September. It
was a shaky start for the defense on the opening possession, as UVA hit a big
pass play just like UNC did on its opening possession, but Nolan Turner came up
with an interception in the back of the end zone—his second pick of the season—and
that turned the early momentum in the Tigers’ favor. It didn’t take them long
to capitalize on the turnover, either. 5 plays, 80 yards and 1:34 later, Tee Higgins
streaked into the end zone to put the Defending Champs up 7-0.
The Wahoos didn’t fold, though. With All-ACC receiver and
return weapon Joe Reed out with an injury, I knew they would rely heavily on Hasise
Dubois, and that’s exactly what they did. He made the big catch on their
opening drive and then made another for a 20-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7.
However, the Tigers’ offense was just too much for the ‘Hoos. They marched
right down the field again—this time in 4 plays for 75 yards in 1:36—to go ahead
for good. This time, it was Trevor Lawrence to Justyn Ross for a 59-yard
touchdown, which was the second-longest pass play in ACC Championship Game
It would be a record-setting night for the Tigers, as
seemingly every game has been over the last month. Tee Higgins finished with 182
yards and 4 TD’s and Trevor Lawrence threw 4 TD passes—all ACC Championship
records. The 62 points scored by the Tigers also broke the previous ACC
Championship record of 45, held by both Clemson and FSU. Higgins made three
unbelievable circus catches in the first half, and he was named MVP. He also
tied Nuk Hopkins and Sammy Watkins for most career TD catches (27) in Clemson
history. That’s some pretty lofty company at “WRU!” Higgins now has 13 TD’s on
Trevor Lawrence continued his astounding efficiency, going 16-22
for 302 yards with 4 TD’s and no interceptions. He’s now thrown 20 touchdowns
without an interception over the past several games. He extended his Clemson
record to 8 straight games with at least 3 TD passes. Trevor didn’t run much,
but he made a couple big plays with his legs, as he has done with regularity
Travis had a productive game like he normally does, rushing
for 114 yards and a touchdown, extending his ACC career record. He did have a
bad drop on a wheel route, which would have added about 50 yards to Trevor’s
pass total. That is something we haven’t seen from Travis all season—he’s been
a very reliable pass-catcher unlike his first two seasons.
The offense didn't stop in the second half when the starters came out of the game. Chase Brice made a great 57-yard pass to Frank Ladson, which set up Brices' first career rush TD. Freshman RB Chez Mellusi would also find the end zone in the waning minutes.
The only disappointment, if there was one, was that the
defense’s remarkable streak of 12 games holding the opponent to less than 300 yards
came to an end, as UVA finished with 387 total yards. Those first couple drives
were the difference. After that, the Tigers really settled in and stifled the ‘Hoos,
who had the second-best offense in the ACC behind the Tigers. UVA was 10-18 on
3rd down, which is much better than the Tigers usually allow, and
Dabo told me after the game that there will plenty on tape for the team to
learn from and improve upon. He said this game will make them better, and they
will have almost 3 weeks to prepare for their next game in the College Football
Playoff. The Tigers still have the No.1 scoring defense and No.1 pass defense,
and they created 3 turnovers without giving the ball up, making them +14 in the
turnover margin, which is by far the best Dabo’s ever had. The versatility of Butkus Award Finalist Isaiah Simmons was on full display, as he was all over the field on Saturday
night and recorded his second interception of the season. You could make the argument that he is the best defensive player in
Potter was 2-2 on field goals, including a 47-yarder, but
Dabo bailed him out with a last-second timeout call before he missed from 52.
Potter missed a second time from 52 but was bailed out again by an offsides
call. The third time was the charm, as he made it from 47 yards.
Clemson is the first school in history to win 5 consecutive
conference championship games. Oklahoma won its 5th straight Big 12 conference
title but has not won 5 straight title games like the Tigers. Clemson is now
tied with West Virginia for 14th on the all-time win list, and the
Tigers have won 8 straight games by 30 points or more, which is the longest
streak since at least WWI! The nation-long 28-game win streak is the longest
since FSU won 29 straight from 2012-2014, and the Tigers are 71-4 in their last
75 games, losing twice to Alabama in that stretch.
On Sunday, Clemson will join Alabama as the only schools to
make 5 College Football Playoff appearances, and both have made 5 consecutive trips.
I expect LSU to jump Ohio State for No.1, unfortunately, which means the Tigers
will once again have to travel to the desert to play Ohio State instead of nearby
Atlanta, just like 2016 when the Tigers beat the Buckeyes 31-0 en route to the
Be sure to check back on Sunday evening for our Fiesta Bowl
Teleconference with Dabo and Ohio State Head Coach Ryan Day!
Clemson’s 62 points were an ACC Championship Game record, breaking the mark of 45 set by 2013 Florida State against Duke and 2015 Clemson against North Carolina. Clemson’s 62 points were aseason high and its most since scoring 77 on Louisville last season.
Clemson’s 62 points were its most all-time in postseason play, surpassing a 49-point performance against Louisiana Tech in the 2001 Humanitarian Bowl.
Clemson extended its active streak of wins by 30 or more points to eight to break the longest streak in the AP Poll era (since 1936). Per ESPN Stats & Info, Clemson had previously been tied with 2011 Houston and 1976 Michigan at seven each.
Clemson (605) has now posted the second 600-point season in school history, joining the 2018 (664) season.
Clemson (81) moved past the 2016 squad (75) for the second-most touchdowns in a season in school history, trailing 2018 (90).
Clemson recorded 619 yards, including 211 rushing yards and a season-high 408 passing yards. The team reached 600 yards of offense for a fifth time to add to its current single-season school record for 600-yard games.
Clemson’s 408 passing yards set an ACC Championship Game record, surpassing the 335 posted by Virginia Tech against Florida State in 2005.
Clemson’s 621 total yards were also an ACC Championship Game record. The combined 1,006 yards by the two teams also established a combined ACC Championship Game record.
Clemson has now exceeded 200 passing yards and 200 rushing yards 10 times this season, including seven of its last eight contests. Clemson improved to 51-0 when both passing and rushing for 200+ yards under Dabo Swinney.
Clemson reached 500 yards in an eighth straight game for the first time since an 11-game streak to end the 2015 season.
Clemson outgained Virginia in passing yards, 408-283, and has now produced more passing yards than its opponent in a 16th consecutive game, dating to last season, for the first time since an 18-game streak across the 2015-17 seasons.
Including 211 rushing yards in the contest, the 2019 squad (3,288) passed the 1986 Tigers (3,245 in 1986) for fourth-most in a season in school history.
Clemson has now held 16 consecutive opponents to 20 or fewer points for the first time since a 31-game streak across the 1937-40 seasons under Hall of Fame coaches Jess Neely and Frank Howard.
Clemson won the turnover margin, 3-0, and has now won the turnover margin in eight consecutive games for the first time under Head Coach Dabo Swinney.
Clemson won the turnover margin for a 10th time this season, surpasses the 2013 squad (nine) for Clemson's most such games in a season under Head Coach Dabo Swinney.
Clemson did not turn the ball over and has produced zero giveaways now in five out of its last six games.
Clemson has now scored in 33 consecutive quarters. Clemson was last held without a point in a quarter in the third quarter of its Sept. 28 game at North Carolina. The previous long under Head Coach Dabo Swinney had been 24 straight quarters in games 4-10 of the 2015 season.
Clemson has now thrown three or more touchdowns in eight straight games for the first time in school history.
Clemson rushed for multiple touchdowns in a 14th consecutive game for the first time since a 15-game streak across the 2016-17 seasons.
Clemson averaged 9.2 yards per play and reached 6.0 yards per play for an eighth game in a row, the program's longest since a nine-game streak in 2015.
Clemson (7,120) has now posted the fourth 7,000-yard season in Clemson history. All four 7,000-yard seasons have come in Dabo Swinney's head coaching tenure (2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019).
With 387 yards, Virginia became the first team this season to reach 300 yards of offense on Clemson, snapping Clemson’s streak of 12 consecutive games without allowing 300 yards, the longest streak to open a season in ESPN Stats & Info searchable data going back to 1996.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 16-of-22 passes for 302 yards and a career-high-tying four touchdown passes with no interceptions.
Lawrence has now thrown 169 consecutive pass attempts without an interception, dating to the first quarter at Louisville on Oct. 19. He tied his own single-season school record of 169 set last season and now sits 18 attempts shy of Tajh Boyd's multi-season record of 187 from 2012-13.
Since the start of the second quarter at Louisville on Oct. 19, Lawrence is 134-of-163 (82.2 percent) for 1,866 yards with 23 touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 224.9 in that span.
Lawrence (34) broke his single-season career high in touchdown passes, surpassing his mark of 30 set as a freshman last year.
Lawrence (34) tied Tajh Boyd (34 in 2013) for fourth-most touchdown passes in a single season in Clemson history.
Lawrence has now thrown a touchdown pass in 23 consecutive games. His 23-game streak is the longest active streak in the country. (Note: UCF's McKenzie Milton had a 24-game streak prior to suffering an injury in November 2018 that will likely preclude him from playing in 2019).
Lawrence has now thrown three touchdown passes in eight consecutive games for the first time in his career, the first in Clemson history to accomplish the feat.
Lawrence (3,172) became the third quarterback in Clemson history to post multiple 3,000-yard passing seasons, joining Tajh Boyd (three from 2011-13) and Deshaun Watson (two from 2015-16). Lawrence is the first to accomplish the feat across his freshman and sophomore seasons. The 3,000-yard season by Lawrence is the 10th by any player in school history.
During the contest, Lawrence (7,036) passed Nealon Greene (6,786) for fifth on the school's leaderboard for career total offense. Lawrence is now only the fifth player in school history to combine for 7,000 career yards of total offense.
With an opening drive touchdown pass, Lawrence passed Woodrow Dantzler (68) for third in school history in career total touchdown responsibility.
Lawrence’s three first-half touchdowns tied the single game ACC Championship game record for passing touchdowns, which had been accomplished seven times previously, including twice by Deshaun Watson (2015, 2016) and once by Tajh Boyd (2011). Lawrence later set the record when he hit Tee Higgins with an 11-yard strike in the third quarter.
With his seventh career 300-yard passing performance, Lawrence joined Tajh Boyd (18), Deshaun Watson (13) and Charlie Whitehurst (eight) as the only players in school history to record at least seven career 300-yard passing games.
Wide receiver Tee Higgins recorded nine catches to post ACC Championship Game records with 182 yards and three touchdown receptions. He was selected as the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Higgins’ 182 receiving yards were a career high, surpassing his 178 yards against The Citadel as a freshman in 2018. He tied Rod Gardner’s performance against North Carolina in 2000 for the seventh-most receiving yards in a game in school history.
With his third touchdown reception of the game,Higgins tied the school career touchdown reception record, held jointly by DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins (27 each).
Higgins’ 27 career touchdown receptions are tied for the ninth-most in ACC history, matching Hopkins, Watkins and Virginia’s Herman Moore.
Higgins recorded the ninth three-touchdown receiving performance in school history, matching Dreher Gaskin (vs. Auburn on Nov. 21, 1953), Tony Horne (vs. Texas-El Paso on Oct. 4, 1997), Rod Gardner (vs. North Carolina on Oct. 21, 2000), DeAndre Hopkins (vs. Ball State on Sept. 8, 2012, and vs. Duke on Nov. 3, 2012), Mike Williams (vs. South Carolina on Nov. 28, 2016), Diondre Overton (vs. Boston College on Oct. 26, 2019) and himself (vs. Wake Forest on Nov. 16, 2019) for the school record in single-game touchdown receptions. He and Hopkins are the only players in school history to reach three touchdowns in multiple games.
Clemson opened the scoring on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence to Higgins. With that score and the victory, Clemson improved to 50-0 when scoring first since 2015.
Higgins added his second score on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence in the second quarter.
Higgins scored his school-record-tying third touchdown reception on an 11-yard pass from Lawrence in the third quarter.
Higgins has now caught a touchdown in five straight games to tie his career long set across the final four games of the 2018 season and the 2019 season opener. It ties that streak as well as five-game streaks by Deon Cain (2015), Aaron Kelly (2007) and Derrick Hamilton (2003) for the second-longest streak in school history.
Higgins became the first player in Clemson history to catch multiple touchdowns in three consecutive games.
With his third touchdown, his 13th of the season,Higgins set a new career high in single-season touchdown receptions and passed himself (12 in 2018) and Sammy Watkins (12 in both 2011 and 2013) for the second-most in a season in Clemson history.
Higgins (1,082) has now posted the 11th 1,000-yard receiving season in Clemson history.
During the game, Higgins (1,082) broke his single-season career high in receiving yards, set as a sophomore last season (936).
Higgins (2,363) passed Jerry Butler (2,223) and Derrick Hamilton (2,312) for ninth on Clemson's career receiving yardage list.
Higgins has now recorded back-to-back 100-yard receiving games for the first time in his career.
The 100-yard receiving game was Higgins’ fourth of the season and his eighth of his career. His eight career 100-yard receiving games now tie Perry Tuttle and Mike Williams (eight each) for the fourth-most in school history.
Wide receiver Justyn Ross gained 94 yards on three receptions with a touchdown.
Ross scored on a 59-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence in the second quarter. It was his 17th career receiving touchdown, tying him with Perry Tuttle (17 from 1878-81) for 10th-most career receiving touchdowns in school history.
The 59-yard reception was Ross’ longest of the season, surpassing a 48-yard reception at Syracuse. It represented the second-longest scoring pass in ACC Championship Game history.
Running back Travis Etienne rushed 14 times for 114 yards with a rushing touchdown.
Etienne reached exactly 1,500 rushing yards on the season to become the first player in school history to record multiple 1,500-yard rushing seasons.
Etienne scored Clemson’s third touchdown of the game on a 26-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, adding to his career ACC records in rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns.
Etienne has now rushed for a touchdown in seven straight games to tie his career-long streak set across the first seven games of the 2018 season. It tied that streak and Kenny Flowers' seven-game streak in 1985 for the fifth-longest in school history.
Etienne recorded his 17th career 100-yard rushing game to tie Wayne Gallman (17 from 2014-16) for the school record for career 100-yard rushing games.
Etienne posted an eighth 100-yard rushing game this season to tie his 2018 campaign for the second-most 100-yard rushing games in a season in school history.
Etienne (3,924) passed James Davis (3,881) for second on Clemson's career rushing yardage leaderboard during the game.
Etienne is now tied for the second-most rushing touchdowns in a season in school history (17). Lester Brown (1978), James Davis (2006) and Wayne Gallman (2016) all had 17 each, behind Etienne's record 24 rushing touchdowns in 2018.
Running back Lyn-J Dixon scored his single-season career high sixth rushing touchdown of the season on a 23-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
Quarterback Chase Brice scored his first career rushing touchdown on a four-yard run in the fourth quarter. Brice was the 19th different player to score a touchdown for Clemson this season; last year, Clemson set a school record with 22 different players scoring touchdowns in 2018.
Running back Chez Mellusi scored his third touchdown of the season on a four-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Clemson scored on each of its first five drives prior to its final drive of the first half, when Clemson received the ball with only 16 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Clemson’s 31 points in the first half set an ACC Championship Game record for points scored in a first half, breaking the previous mark of 28 first set by Florida State versus Georgia Tech in 2014 and matched by the Tigers versus Pitt last year.
Clemson scored on its first five drives of a game for the third time this season, joining such performances against Charlotte and Boston College.
Safety Nolan Turner recorded his first interception of the season on Virginia’s opening drive. The interception was the second of his career and his first since last year’s Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame. The interception came on Turner’s first snap of the contest.
Turner’s interception was Clemson’s third opening-drive takeaway of the season, and its second in as many weeks. Safety K’Von Wallace posted an opening-drive interception at Louisville on Oct. 19 and cornerback Derion Kendrick had a first-possession interception at South Carolina last week.
Turner’s pick gave Clemson a takeaway in an eighth consecutive game and for the 16th time in 17 games, dating to 2018.
Safety K’Von Wallace, a native of Richmond, Va., recorded nine tackles and two pass breakups. His nine tackles were one shy of his career high of 10, set earlier this season against Texas A&M.
Defensive tackle Tyler Davis recorded his fourth sack of his freshman season in the second quarter. He added another half sack in the third quarter, splitting a sack with linebacker Chad Smith.
Linebacker Isaiah Simmons recorded his second interception of the season —the third of his career — in the fourth quarter.
Linebacker Keith Maguire recorded Clemson’s third interception of the game in the fourth quarter. It was Maguire’s first career pick.
Clemson surrendered a touchdown with 6:22remaining in the first quarter, snapping a streak of having not allowed a touchdown in its nine previous quarters. Clemson's last touchdown surrendered had been in the third quarter at NC State on Nov. 9. The touchdown-free streak had been Clemson's longest since a nine-quarter streak in games 10-12 of 2005 (two quarters vs. Florida State, four quarters vs. South Carolina, three quarters vs. Colorado).
Clemson faced a fifth different Coastal Division champion during its current five-year run of ACC Championship berths (2015: North Carolina; 2016: Virginia Tech; 2017: Miami; 2018: Pitt; 2019: Virginia).
Safeties K'Von Wallace and Tanner Muse each appeared in their 57th career game to tie fullback Chad Diehl (57 from 2007-11) for fifth-most career games in school history.
Captains for the contest were running back Travis Etienne, wide receiver Tee Higgins,linebacker Isaiah Simmons and safety K’Von Wallace.
WITH THE WIN…
Clemson secured its 19th all-time ACC championship. Clemson's 19 ACC titles are the most in conference history, ahead of the 15 earned by Florida State.
Clemson won its 25th conference championship in school history, including four SIAA championships, two Southern Conference championships and 19 ACC championships to their credit. Clemson’s 25 total conference championships are the most among the ACC's current membership.
Clemson became the first team in ACC history to win five 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.
Prior to Saturday, the 1971-75 Alabama Crimson Tide has been the most recent member of any current FBS conference to win five straight outright conference titles. Clemson and Oklahoma both accomplished the feat with wins on Saturday.
Clemson surpassed the 1993-96 Florida Gators (previously the first Power Five team to win four straight) to become the first team to win five consecutive conference championship games.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney won his sixth ACC title, tying Frank Howard’s school record and matching Howard and Duke’s Bill Murray for the second-most in ACC history.
Clemson improved to 13-0 for only the third time in school history, joining the 2015 and 2018 squads that both went on to play for national championships.
With its third 13-0 start (2015, 2018 and 2019), Clemson tied Alabama (three) for the most 13-0 starts to a season since 2000.
With a 13th victory, the 2019 Tigers moved into sole possession of fourth place for the most wins in a season in school history, trailing only a 15-win season in 2018 and 14-win seasons in 2015 and 2016.
The 2019 Clemson seniors won their 54th game to pass the 2017 Alabama seniors for sole possession of the third-most in FBS history in a four-year span. Clemson matched the 2018 Alabama seniors as the fastest to 54 wins (57 games).
Clemson won its 28th consecutive game, dating to the start of the 2018 season, to extend the longest winning streak in school history and second-longest winning streak in ACC history. The 28-game winning streak ties the 15th-longest streak in major college football history and pulls Clemson within one game of the ACC record of 29 (2012-14 Florida State).
The victory represented Clemson’s national-best 11th win against a Power Five opponent this season.
Clemson improved to 39-8-1 against Virginia all-time.
Clemson won a fourth consecutive game against Virginia for the first time since opening its all-time series against the Cavaliers with a 29-game winning streak across the 1955-89 seasons. That previous 29-game winning streak is tied for the sixth-longest winning streak in FBS history for one team over another, trailing Notre Dame over Navy (43), Nebraska over Kansas (36), Oklahoma over Kansas State (32), Florida over Kentucky (31), Penn State over Temple (31) and matching Nebraska over Kansas State (29).
Clemson improved to 28-8 against ACC Coastal Division opponents, including postseason play, under Head Coach Dabo Swinney. Clemson has now won 14 of its last 15 games against the Coastal Division since 2015.
Clemson pushed its streak of consecutive victories in ACC interdivisional matchups to 10 games, dating back to the 2016 ACC Championship Game.
Clemson defeated its 22nd consecutive ACC opponent, including postseason play, dating to October 2017 against Georgia Tech. The 22nd consecutive victory against a conference opponent (including postseason play) is the longest such streak in school history. That streak includes 19 straight in regular season play, one shy of the school-record 20-game ACC regular season streak posted by the 1981-84 Tigers.
Clemson earned its 21st victory in its last 23 games against top-25 teams since the start of the 2015 season.
Clemson won its fourth consecutive neutral site contest to push Clemson to 8-1 at neutral sites since 2016.
Clemson earned its 38th victory in its last 41 games away from home.
Clemson has now won 78 of its last 80 games when leading at halftime.
Clemson is now 99-2 since 2011 when leading after three quarters.
Clemson now has a 99-2 record when totaling more first downs than its opponent since 2011.
Clemson is now 48-2 when having a 100-yard rusher since 2011.
Clemson has now won 81 straight games when holding teams under 23 points (dates to 2010).
Clemson now has a 57-3 record when winning the turnover margin since 2011.
Clemson is now 65-1 when rushing for 200+ yards under Dabo Swinney.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney improved to 16-6 in games played in NFL stadiums.
Clemson pushed its winning streak in Saturday games to 42 to extend the longest Saturday winning streak in school history. Clemson's 42-game run of consecutive Saturday victories is the longest active streak in the country.
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