CHARLOTTE, NC (WIS) - The Clemson seniors wanted to come back to make history.
On Saturday night, they did that. Holding Pitt scoreless in the second half, Clemson easily captured their fourth straight ACC title with a 42-10 win over the Panthers in Charlotte.
Two quick touchdowns by Travis Etienne would ultimately set the tone for the Tigers. The sophomore opened play for Clemson with a 75-yard scoring run on the first play from scrimmage, which was the earliest score in ACC Championship game history. He followed that with a 3-yard touchdown run following a strip sack by Isaiah Simmons which was recovered by Christian Wilkins and returned inside the Pitt 5-yard line.
Etienne had 12 carries for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Clemson stifled the Pitt offense throughout the first quarter. The Panthers had just 63 yards of total offense in the opening quarter and trailed the Tigers 14-3.
Pitt got their first touchdown on the board with just under eight minutes. Qadree Ollison capped off a 6-play drive that began in Clemson territory with a 1-yard touchdown run. That run cut the Clemson lead to 14-10.
Trevor Lawrence helped Clemson extend their lead. His first touchdown pass, a 5-yard toss to Tee Higgins, put the Tigers back up by double digits 21-10 with 7:56 left in the half. Higgins collected one more touchdown pass for good measure to give the Tigers a 28-10 lead at the break. Higgins had three catches for 36 yards and two scores. Lawrence was 12-of-24 passing for 118 yards and two touchdown passes.
Clemson put up 235 yards in the first half while holding Pitt to 122 in the first 30 minutes of play.
Clemson tacked on two second-half touchdowns to wrap up their fourth straight ACC title and their fourth consecutive College Football Playoff berth. As the offense piled up the points, the defense continued to keep the Pitt offense out of the end zone. The Panthers had 200 yards of total offense with just eight passing yards.
“The front four they’ve got, they’ve got at least three first-rounders, maybe four," said Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi. “They’ve been dominant up front. There’s times where someone is flying through there untouched at times. We didn’t execute. We’ll see the tape, but Kenny missed a couple shots, too. They’re some guys that were open that we didn’t hit.”
The Tigers now await the final CFP rankings reveal to determine the site of their semifinal site and their opponent.
Those rankings will be revealed at noon on ESPN.