Hurricanes rocked by Clemson in ACC Championship

Written by Erik Slaby
Charlotte, NC – On a cool, cloudy evening here at Bank of America Stadium, the Miami Hurricanes lost in embarrassing fashion to the Clemson Tigers by a score of 38-3 in the 2017 ACC Championship Game. This was Miami’s first appearance in the ACC Championship game since joining the conference. From the start, it was apparent that Clemson far outclassed Miami in every phase of the game.

Miami head coach Mark Richt spoke after the game about his team’s performance.

“Well, congratulations to Clemson,” said Richt. “They thoroughly whipped us. Their coaches did a great job. Players did a great job. Our guys fought, but, you know, obviously, it didn’t go well at all.”

The opening drive was a sign of things to come for the game, though most people did not know it at the time. On Clemson’s opening drive, the Tigers went ten plays for 68 yards and churned 4:24 off the clock. The drive was highlighted by two completions from Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow for 14 and 23 yards. The drive was capped off by a four-yard touchdown run by running back Travis Etienne. It was a bit surprising to see an offense move the ball that easily on a Miami defense that had been one of the better defenses in the country all season.

On Miami’s first offensive drive, it became quickly apparent that the offense was going to struggle against a physical, dominant Clemson defense. On the second play of the drive, faced up against an intimidating Clemson defensive line, the Miami offensive line false started, negating a four-yard gain from the previous play. Immediately after the penalty was called several members of the Clemson defensive line celebrated and made it clear that the Miami offense was in for a rough day. And boy were they.

By halftime, the game was already over. Clemson led 21-0 and had 231 yards of total offense compared to 64 yards of total offense for Miami. Bryant completed his first 15 passes, which was an ACC Championship Game record, passing former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson’s record of 13 set back in 2015. Bryant also did not throw an incomplete pass until midway through the second quarter. Bryant was named the Most Valuable Player of the game, completing 23 of 29 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a touchdown.

Richt spoke about Clemson’s offense in the first half saying, “early in the game they scored every time they touched it. We couldn’t get it going offensively really the entire game obviously.”

The biggest problem for Miami, however, was their inability to stay on the field on third downs, as well as get off the field on third downs defensively. They were two for eight on third down attempts by halftime and conversely, Clemson was seven for ten on third downs. By the end of the game, the Miami defense had tightened up a bit as Clemson finished nine for eighteen on third downs. The Miami offense, however, did not improve on third downs as they finished three for sixteen.

Miami was led offensively by quarterback Malik Rosier who completed 14 of 29 passes for 110 yards passing and had two interceptions. The receiving corps was led by wide receiver Braxton Berrios, who finished with seven catches for 51 yards. Miami finished with 214 yards of total offense, which was the lowest offensive output they’ve had this season. Previously, their lowest offensive output was against the Pittsburgh Panthers last week, in which they had 232 yards of total offense.

Defensively, Miami finished with four sacks, making it the ninth time this season they have registered three or more sacks in a game. Linebacker Shaq Quarterman led the team with 7.5 total tackles and defensive back Sheldrick Redwine and defensive lineman RJ McIntosh also each forced a fumble.

With this loss, Miami’s hopes of getting into the College Football Playoff are dashed. They still have a chance of going to a New Year’s Six Bowl though. The most likely destination at this point is the Capital One Orange Bowl, which is played in Miami at Hard Rock Stadium. Richt spoke about the possibility of getting into the Orange Bowl after the game.

“I’ll be excited” said Richt. “It’s a wonderful opportunity. I mean, before the year started, you said we’re going to play for the championship and get a chance to play in the Orange Bowl, I mean, we would not have been too happy about not winning the championship, but dang sure excited about the opportunity to play in the Orange Bowl, one of the classic bowl games in America. If that’s where we land, we’ll be excited about it.”

Wide receiver Braxton Berrios also spoke about the Orange Bowl and was in agreement with Richt. “I completely agree. The Orange Bowl, at the time when there was a BCS, was one of the big BCS games. Still it is one of the premier games in the country. Obviously, we got a shot to do something more, we came up short. But the Orange Bowl, it’s a home game. I think that will be really exciting for the team.”

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