The Clemson Tigers defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday in the ACC Championship 42-10. This marked the Tigers' fourth straight ACC Championship and 24th overall.
Travis Etienne began the game in the best way possible. On the first play of the game, he took a handoff from Trevor Lawrence and carried it 75 yards for a touchdown. The play was the longest in ACC Championship history and gave the Tigers an early 7-0 lead.
On the defensive side of the ball, Isaiah Simmons was a huge factor early on. He forced a Pitt fumble which was recovered by Christian Wilkins and returned to the three-yard line. Etienne capitalized on the field position with a three-yard touchdown, putting the Tigers up 14-0.
Pitt then mounted a small comeback, playing with pride and toughness on both sides of the ball. After forcing the Tigers to turn the ball over on downs, the Panthers made their way down field thanks to a tremendous effort on the ground. The drive stalled out on 19-yard line, where Pitt chipped in a 37-yard field goal to get on the board with the score 14-3.
After an outstanding special teams play pinned the Tigers at the one-yard line, the Panthers forced Clemson to punt from poor field position. More domination on the ground thanks to Pitt running back Qadree Ollison placed the Panther offense in scoring position with a 26-yard rush and was the one who scored a one-yard touchdown rush to shrink the scoring gap to 14-10.
As the game wore on, though, Pitt's persistent penalties began to add up. By the end of the first half, the Panthers had committed five penalties for 30 total yards. By the end of the game the Panthers had committed eight penalties for 54 yards.
Clemson ramped up the intensity on both sides of the ball after Pitt's touchdown. On offense, Etienne continued to thrive. He had a sensational run when he appeared to have been bottled up, but emerged from the pile and sprinted his way downfield for a 45-yard gain. Trevor Lawrence then connected with Tee Higgins in the endzone for a five-yard touchdown to put the Tigers up 21-10.
On defense, The Tigers held the Panthers to just nine yards of total offense after the Pitt touchdown, thanks to overwhelming quarterback pressure and outstanding play from the secondary. Cornerback A.J. Tyrrell intercepted Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett near the end of the first half, setting up the Tigers for another one-play touchdown after a defensive takeaway to make the score 28-10.
The second half was pretty stagnant for both offenses, with no points being scored in the third quarter, though a flea-flicker trick play set up Tee Higgins for a 39-yard reception and position on the 2-yard line as the third quarter expired, which Adam Choice scored on with a one-yard touchdown rush to make the score 35-10.
Lyn-J Dixon also contributed a touchdown near the end of the fourth quarter to cap off a 65-yard drive.
By then end of the game, Lawrence had thrown for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Travis Etienne rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns with a ridiculous 13 yards-per-carry. The defense held the Panthers to just 200 yard of offense, including just eight passing yards.
With the win, the Tigers clinch a playoff spot for the fourth year in a row.
The Clemson Tigers will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Cotton Bowl as a part of the College Football Playoff Semifinals. The game will be played on December 29th at 4:00pm EST.