Clemson Football

Kings of the Queen City, Clemson wins fourth consecutive ACC Crown, 42-10

December 1, 2018
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CHARLOTTE – Before kickoff of the 2018 ACC Championship game, Dabo Swinney mentioned playing, “championship football, one play at a time.” It was a fitting statement, and the first play, a 75-yard touchdown run by Travis Etienne set a new ACC Championship Game record for the fastest score, just 13 seconds into the game, and set the stage for Clemson as the Tigers knocked off Pitt, 42-10.

With the win, Clemson became the first team in ACC history, dating back to 1953, to win four consecutive outright conference titles.

For Clemson, it was a balanced attack as the offense and defense both made huge plays during the Tigers record-setting night. Clemson defenders got in on the action several times, including an early hit on Panther quarterback Kenny Pickett by Isaiah Simmons that set up another early touchdown.

Facing a third-and-28, Simmons blitzed and hit Pickett from behind, knocking the ball into Christian Wilkins’ hands at the twenty-one. The 315-pound defensive tackle rumbled 18 yards inside the five yard line.

Clemson Sports Talk
Travis Etienne breaks into the open field during Clemson’s ___ -___ win over Pitt in the ACC Championship Game.

Etienne capped the short drive with a three-yard touchdown run, his second of the night, giving Clemson a 14-0 lead with 9:29 left in the first quarter. Etienne finished the game rushing for 156 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns. Etienne averaged 13.0 yards per carry during the contest.

Needing a score to slow Clemson’s pace, Pitt found their first points of the game on a drive highlighted by their tough running attack. The Panthers rushed the ball eight consecutive times moving deep into Clemson territory but settled for a field goal after an incompletion on their only throw during the drive. Kicker Alex Kessman knocked through a 37-yard field goal late in the first quarter.

Later in the quarter, Pitt’s special teams gave them some much-needed help as punter Kirk Christodoulou hit a beauty, that died on the wet turf inside the one-yard line. Clemson failed to move the football and after a 33-yard punt, the Panthers took over with great field position. Pitt running back Qadree Ollison ripped through an attempted tackle by Simmons, then raced towards the end zone, before stepping out of bounds at the two-yard line. Two plays later, Ollison hit paydirt pulling the Panthers within a touchdown, 14-10.

With the rain still falling steadily, Clemson took a page out of Pitt’s playbook and took to the ground during a 75-yard scoring drive of their own. The drive, highlighted by a 45-yard, ‘peek a boo’ run from Etienne put the Tigers at Pitt’s 30-yard line. Lawrence eventually found Tee Higgins, in the end zone expanding Clemson’s lead to eleven, 21-10. Lawrence wrapped up his day 12 of 24 for 118 yards with two touchdowns.

Clemson Sports Talk
AJ Terrell returns an interception late in the first half.

Just before the half, Clemson’s defense made another big play as Pitt’s Pickett made a huge mistake, throwing into traffic. A.J. Terrell, stepped in front of an awaiting receiver at the 41-yard line, picking off the football, then racing 31 yards towards the goal line. With just twenty-nine seconds left in the half, Lawrence found Higgins, for his second touchdown reception, leaving the score 28-10 at the break, and giving Clemson their third one-play scoring drive in the contest.

The Tigers expanded their lead after a flea flicker from Lawrence to Justyn Ross left Clemson back inside the five-yard line. Lawrence handed the ball off to Tavien Feaster, who pitched it back to Lawrence and the freshman gunslinger dropped a dime, off his back leg, to Ross for a 39-yard reception. Adam Choice finished the drive with a one-yard rush, giving Clemson a commanding 35-10 lead in the fourth quarter.

Clemson tacked on a late score after big runs by Choice and backup quarterback Chase Brice. Choice nearly broke into the open field on a 31-yard run, then Brice raced 28-yards putting the Tigers back inside the five-yard line. Lyn-J Dixon became the third Tiger running back in the end zone with just 3:17 left in the game, giving Clemson a 42-10 advantage.

With Clemson’s win over Pitt, the Tigers became the first Power 5 team to win four consecutive conference championship games since Florida did it between 1993 and 1996. Earlier today, Oklahoma also won their fourth consecutive conference title today, but the Big 12 didn’t have a title game until it was reinstated two years ago.

Tomorrow at 12:30 the final standings in the College Football Playoff will be announced. Right now, we would project No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl on December 29th.

 
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