Tigers Win ACC Championship
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#20 Clemson 38, #5 Virginia Tech 10. In a roller-coaster of a season, the Tigers of Clemson are back on a roll. After playing dismal football the last four weeks, Clemson showed up in major fashion at Bank of America Stadium Saturday night, whipping the Hokies for the ACC crown. A trip to the Orange Bowl now awaits Clemson - their first appearance in that event in exactly 30 years. This championship is the Tigers' first ACC title in exactly 20 years.
Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney was involved in a mid-week verbal battle with the folks at South Carolina. Many thought this distraction was the worst thing that could have happened for CU, and that a massacre was on the way for an unfocused Clemson program. As it turns out, the vocal rant sparked his team, who rallied behind their coach for one of their best performances of the season.
But the play of the Tiger defense and that of Tajh Boyd at quarterback were more of a factor than Dabo's rant. Clemson held VT star running back David Wilson to just 32 yards. I predicted wrongly that Wilson would run all through the Clemson defense. QB Logan Thomas had 274 yards through the air for the Hokies, but was intercepted twice and had just one TD pass.
Clemson quarterback Boyd, who had come under heat of late (by fans and opposing defensive fronts alike), looked comfortable running the offense. He was not intercepted on the night while throwing three TD passes and 240 yards on 20 of 29. He looked like the Boyd of the first eight weeks of the season.
Tight end Dwayne Allen - a player who will no doubt be playing in the NFL one day - had another big game for CU. He had two TD catches, with the first seing him shake two Tech defenders and then power into the end zone. The second was a diving catch on a short pass.
WR Sammy Watkins - the ACC rookie of the year - also had a big night, catching five passes for 80 yards and a 53-yard bomb for a crucial third-quarter score. His counterpart, Nuke Hopkins, grabbed eight passes for 92 yards.
At running back, Andre Ellington had 125 yards on 20 carries, with an electrifying 32-yard score to put Clemson up 31-10 in the third quarter.
For the ACC Champs, a trip to Miami and the Orange Bowl awaits January 4th at Sun Life Stadium. The opponent will be an at-large team, possibly TCU or West Virginia.
Clemson's season saw them get to 8-0 and a #5 national ranking. At the time, I was afraid that the ranking was a bit too lofty for a team so young. As it turns out, I was right. CU played horribly in a 1-3 stretch to close the regular season and a blow-out loss to rival USC had folks ready to give up on a team once being whispered in the national title talks.
But this team did not throw in the towel. Instead, they bounced back from that embarassing loss and destroyed a team that many thought would run them off of the field.
For Clemson, the BCS is no longer just an illusion up in the sky that cannot be grabbed. It is no longer resereved for other teams only. We have finally put our hands around it and pulled it in!
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