CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The third-ranked Clemson Tigers (10-1, 8-1) avenged an earlier season double overtime loss to the second-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-1, 9-0), and put together a decisive 34-10 win to capture their sixth straight Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) title at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the championship game MVP, was the architect of a structured offensive execution that caught the Irish defense flat-footed on many drives.
Lawrence’s numbers included 25-of-36 completions for 322 yards and two TDs as well as rushing for a touchdown on 14 carries for 90 yards.
“He made a lot of checks tonight and some great plays,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of Lawrence.
“We empower him, because he can handle it. And he made some great decisions. You know, they didn’t fool him; he just didn’t hold it quite long enough on that one interception. But then he made some big time plays, and that’s just who he is.”
Tigers running back Travis Etienne carried the load as well, rushing for just over 12 yards per carry on 10 rushes to post a touchdown.
While Notre Dame took an early lead on a Jonathan Doerer 51-yard, championship game-record field goal with 8:16 remaining in the first quarter, Clemson posted the next 24 points and carried a 21-point lead at halftime.
Lawrence rushed for the lone score of the third quarter to further deepen the hole Notre Dame tried to climb out of despite a fourth quarter TD from running back Chris Tyree.
The 21-yard carry was all the scoring the Irish offense could muster in the second half as quarterback Ian Book (20-28, 219 yards) struggled to shake the Clemson defense, eventually sacked six times.
“It was just great execution on their part tonight on both sides of the line. That guy’s a really good player man, and he is a nightmare,” Swinney said of Book.
“To sack him six times, and really had a couple more opportunities, but to sack him six times, just relentless effort and pursuit.”
When asked which of the now six ACC championships his team has won in successive years was ‘the best’, the Clemson coach did not single one out for game execution, but rather for accomplishment under trying circumstances.
“They’re all special – they’re all unique and different challenges,” Swinney said.
“I will say this, I’ve never had a team deserve it more than this group. They deserve it. There’s no doubt about it. I mean, I’ve never had a team obviously that’s been challenged with the things that this team has had to face this year. I mean, it’s just been incredible.”
Notables: Clemson joins Oklahoma as the first teams among active conferences to win six league titles outright…The Tigers earned their league-leading 20th overall ACC football championship. Florida State ranks second with 15…The Tigers are now 7-1 all-time in ACC Football Championship Games…Lawrence, already the winningest starting quarterback in Clemson history prior to Saturday’s game, improved his career mark to 34-1. That includes his 3-0 mark in ACC Football Championship Games and a 6-1 mark in all postseason play.