Clemson might not have a turnover chain, but the Tigers will be adding another piece of jewelry to their collection soon.
Clemson dominated Miami from start to finish Saturday night, earning a 38-3 win against the Hurricanes in the ACC championship game in Charlotte, N.C.
The Tigers will soon get an ACC title ring for the third time in three years to go along with their bowl rings from the past three years and last year’s national title ring.
Clemson also locked up a spot in the College Football Playoff and is expected to remain No. 1 and play in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 1.
“We played our best game on the biggest stage tonight, and I’m just really proud of our team in all three phases,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s just a blessing. That’s all I can tell you. All the glory to God, it’s just a true blessing.”
Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant, who was given the tough task of replacing Deshaun Watson, was exceptional in the biggest start of his career.
The junior completed his first 15 passes, breaking Deshaun Watson’s ACC championship record of 13 consecutive completions in 2015, and finished 23 of 29 for 252 yards and a touchdown in three quarters of work.
Bryant also rushed for a score, as did running backs Travis Etienne, Tavien Feaster and Adam Choice.
“It's great to see all the work I've been putting in in the off-season just to be in this moment right now. It's special because we had a lot of questions going into the season, a lot of guys that left last year. But, you know, just having the guys around me, the coaches believe in me, just been really great to see,” Bryant said.
Clemson’s defense was dominant, shutting out the Hurricanes until Miami kicker Michael Badgley made a 22-yard field goal with 4:05 remaining in the game.
“Coach (Brent) Venables was about to rip his head off over there because they scored there at the end, but it’s awesome,” Swinney said. “Our D-line set the tempo. They’ve been a very balanced team, and we knew if they couldn’t run the ball it was going to be a tough night.”
The Tigers had six tackles for loss and four sacks, led by Christian Wilkins with 1.5 tackles for loss and half a sack. Dexter Lawrence and Sterling Johnson added a sack, while Albert Huggins, James Skalski and Justin Foster had half a sack.
Clemson jumped to a 21-0 lead 18 minutes in and cruised from that point forward. The Tigers forced three turnovers in the third quarter, leading to 14 points.
Senior cornerback Ryan Carter forced two of the turnovers, causing a fumble and intercepting a pass. Linebacker Kendall Joseph also had an interception.
“A lot of guys were just having fun tonight and enjoying the moment,” Carter said. “I feel like our offense, defense and special teams just has a lot of guys that have been here and knows what it takes to win… We had a lot of emotion and were making plays all over.”
Star of the game: Kelly Bryant: The junior put together another exceptional performance in a big game, passing for 252 yards and a touchdown and rushing for a score. He completed nearly 80 percent of his passes.
Play of the game: Clemson faced a third-and-6 on the first series of the game and Bryant found Hunter Renfrow for a 14-yard reception to set the tone for the night. The Tigers drove down and scored a touchdown and never looked back
Stat of the game: 96-3: Clemson has outscored Miami 96-3 over the past two meetings between the teams.
No ACC team is close to Clemson: The Tigers are clearly the class of the ACC after earning a third consecutive ACC title and doing so in dominant fashion.
Kelly Bryant is a star: The junior was the biggest question mark entering the season and has answered every question, including Saturday night.
Suffocating defense: The Tigers rattled Malik Rosier early and lived in the backfield all night, not allowing Miami to get its running game or passing game going.