Clemson scored a touchdown on each of its first three drives and never looked back, sprinting to a 38-3 victory over Miami in Saturday's ACC Championship Game. The win notched the Tigers their third straight conference championship, just one year after winning the national championship.
Miami's defense stiffened in the second half, but not before the damage was done as three different rushers -- Bryant, Tavien Feaster, and Adam Choice — scored a touchdown for Clemson.
The Hurricanes, coming off their first loss of the season last week in a stunning defeat to Pitt, couldn't muster much offense, failing to capitalize on key opportunities in the first quarter as they tried to keep pace with Clemson. Instead, Miami missed a field goal en route to a scoreless first half and turned the ball over three times in the second half.
The Canes' storied defense only broke out its much-talked-about Turnover Chain just once in the team's first-ever trip to the ACC Championship game, recovering a fumbled punt in the first quarter. Instead it was Clemson's defense which reigned supreme, holding Miami to 64 yards in the first half and Miami quarterback Malik Rosier to just 3.8 yards per pass attempt.
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson is relishing another chance to play in a big game.
It's nothing new for the accomplished Tigers.
Clemson, No. 1 in The Associated Press poll and the latest College Football Playoff rankings, is 39-3 the past three seasons, including 13-1 against ranked opponents. Next up is No. 7 Miami (10-1) for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
The Hurricanes fell from second in the CFP to seventh after losing 24-14 at Pitt last Friday.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is grateful his players understand what it takes to succeed in the biggest games. But he thinks this year's challenges have molded the current team more than past triumphs.
Clemson (11-1) had a September that forged its championship dreams, defeating Auburn (14-6), Louisville (47-21) and Virginia Tech (31-17), the latter two on the road.
"That's where this team's confidence comes from," Swinney said.
Still, players who have gone through it before know how to prepare and compete when the stakes are the highest, linebacker Dorian O'Daniel said.
"As far as been there, done that, we've been there and we know what it takes," he said.
That was particularly critical for a team that lost 11 starters from its national title season in 2016, seven of those coming on offense, including first-round NFL draft picks in quarterback Deshaun Watson and receiver Mike Williams.
Miami coach Mark Richt accepts that Clemson has the clear edge in recent postseason experience. He believes, however, the Hurricanes have had several crucial games this season that have given them enough moxie to compete with the defending national champs.
Richt said the Hurricanes' 41-8 home win over Notre Dame was a raucous atmosphere that his team handled well.
"That was about as big as it gets," Richt said. "It was good to have that experience."
Clemson cornerback Ryan Carter is happy for any edge the Tigers might bring to the title game — and experience is a major one.
"That's big for us," Carter said.
This article was written by Pete Iacobelli from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.