No. 3 Clemson tops No. 22 Virginia 62-17 for ACC title
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Trevor Lawrence threw four touchdown passes, three to Tee Higgins, and No. 3 Clemson won its fifth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference title with a 62-17 victory over No. 22 Virginia on Saturday night.
The defending national champion Tigers (13-0; No. 3 CFP) have won 28 games in a row and head to the College Football Playoff with chance for a third crown in four years.
And while Virginia (9-4; No. 23 CFP) and quarterback Bryce Perkins put forth a game plan that caused the Tigers to sweat early on, there was no stopping Clemson’s dazzling set of experienced playmakers led by Lawrence and Higgins on the way to ACC championship game records for points and yards (619).
“These guys have been so resilient all year, to do something that’s never been done” in winning the past five championship games, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
Lawrence set an ACC title-game record with his four touchdown throws and had 302 yards passing, his second best total this season, and completed 16 of 22 passes before coming out in the third quarter.
Higgins finished with 182 yards receiving yards and the three TDs, both bests in ACC Championship game play.
Travis Etienne had 114 yards, his eighth game over 100 yards this season.
Virginia and Perkins appeared to have a game plan to compete with the Tigers, even without leading receiver Joe Reed out due to injury.
Perkins threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Hasise Dubois to tie it 7, just the second TD pass allowed by Clemson in its past seven games.
Virginia’s defense sacked Lawrence twice in the opening half (Clemson had allowed only 11 sacks in the regular season) and Perkins accounted for 177 yards the first 30 minutes — nearly as many as the 194 yards the Tigers allowed in a 38-3 win last week over South Carolina.
But it was impossible to contain Clemson’s offense.
“We didn’t make enough plays, we couldn’t make enough plays,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
Higgins had scoring catches of 19 and 7 yards, Justyn Ross went 59-yards for another touchdown (the second longest in ACC Championship game history) and Etienne broke free for a 26-yard touchdown run as Clemson opened a 31-7 lead by halftime.
Perkins, the ACC’s leader in total offense, had 324 of the Cavaliers’ 387 yards, which were a season high allowed by Clemson’s defense this season.
The Cavaliers played without leading receiver and the ACC’s top kick returner in Joe Reed due to injury.
Virginia: The Cavaliers showed creativity and ability in devising and executing a game plan designed to make Clemson sweat. But the gap between Virginia and the Tigers — as it is for most everyone else in the ACC — was too wide to overcome without perfection on nearly every snap.
Clemson: The Tigers showed once more they had no equals this season in the ACC. The challenge now grows more difficult with Clemson likely facing off against LSU or Ohio State in the national semifinals.
Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins had his moments against Clemson. He threw two touchdown passes, something the Tigers’ No. 1 pass defense had allowed just once in a 21-20 victory over North Carolina in September. Perkins also set the Cavaliers’ single-season record with 3,215 yards.
Virginia awaits its bowl assignment, most likely the Orange Bowl.
Clemson will head to the College Football Playoff with its matchup announced Sunday.