CHARLOTTE-– The Clemson Tigers were just far too much for the Miami Hurricanes and dominated the Atlantic Coast Championship from start to finish, winning by a score of 38-3 Saturday.
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant was 23 for 29 with 252 yards passing and one touchdown and was awarded the game’s Most Valuable Player award.
Bryant added a rushing score on the ground, leading Clemson past Miami in an frustrating first effort as the Coastal Division Champions of the ACC .
“They thoroughly whipped us,” said Miami head coach Mark Richt after the game as he reflected on how his team has to rise to the level of the standard that Clemson has set in the league.
“Our guys fought, but, you know, obviously it didn’t go well at all. Early in the game they scored every time they touched it. We couldn’t get it going offensively really the entire game obviously. But you know, it just shows they’re the class of our league.”
Miami’s starting quarterback, Malik Rosier, had been the reason Miami had been so successful this season. Saturday, for the second consecutive game, he was the biggest reason the Hurricanes lost. Rosier struggled to hit down field targets that were wide open, held on to the ball too long, under threw and over threw targets all night long. He finished a paltry 14 for 29, throwing for only 110 yards and two interceptions.
The championship caliber program that Clemson is was evident in this ACC Championship game. They were bigger, faster and stronger than Miami and bullied them in the trenches where the game was really won. Clemson’s defense held Miami to just 214 yards total offense. Christian Wilkins lead the charge on the defensive line that harrased Rosier all night and got into passing lanes when they couldn’t sack the quarterback, which they did four times.
“Probably our best game of the year,” is how Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney described the effort on the night in his post game remarks. He was asked if he thought he’d be able to run all over Miami and completely dominate their defense based on what he saw on film. His response was emphatic.
What I saw on film was a great defense, but what I saw on the field tonight [from Clemson] was great execution.” –Dabo Swinney, Clemson Tiger head coach
Execution to the highest form from the nation’s best team heading back to the College Football Playoff to defend their 2016 National Championship.
“That was our goal tonight, to play championship football. Tonight, our guys were just awesome,” Swinney said.
It’s fair to say Miami over achieved this year. Coming into the season, the Hurricanes didn’t even know who the starting quarterback would be. This was a team that while they were picked to win the ACC Coastal Division, it was as weak as its been in recent memory. Miami played all their big games at home, struggled to beat inferior opponents on the road and saved their poorest performances for the final two games of the season, the most important.
For Hurricanes fans however, it’s hard not to be optimistic. After all, they were a game away from reaching the College Football Playoffs, reached a No. 2 ranking nationally and the turnover chain was the story of college football for much of the season.
This program has momentum.
The true freshmen Richt brought in, his only full recruiting class, played lights out in their first year on the field. The second year Miami head coach will hit the recruiting trail on Monday looking for the next wave of fresh faces to come to Miami.
“I think recruits will see they’re going to get an opportunity to play. There’s still a lot of jobs to be won. There’s guys like Braxton Berrios leaving, a great player, who is going to be missed. Somebody is going to get those reps.”
And Mark Richt is moving the Canes in the right direction in only his second year. The Hurricanes need to recruit better along the defensive and offensive fronts. They need more depth at the skill positions and particularly the trenches. As they were decimated by injuries, there just were not enough bodies to keep up with Clemson on a night where nothing went Miami’s way.