CHARLOTTE (CBSMiami) – The Miami Hurricanes’ first ever trip to the ACC Championship Game ended in heartbreak.
The top ranked Clemson Tigers, behind the steady hands and legs of quarterback Kelly Bryant, dismantled Miami 38-3 to win their third-straight ACC Championship. And with the victory, the defending national champions have punched their ticket to a third straight College Football Playoff.
Bryant, a junior, threw for 252 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for an 11 yard score during Clemson’s picture-perfect first quarter. The Tigers scored touchdowns on each of their first 3 drives, as Bryant completed his first 15 passes of the game. Clemson began the contest 7 for 7 on third downs, successfully wearing down Miami’s defense with sustained possessions.
The Tigers out-gained the Hurricanes 164-22 in the first half, taking a 21-0 lead into the intermission.
Miami barely avoided the shutout when senior kicker Michael Badgley converted a 22-yard fourth quarter field goal to bring the score to 38-3. By that point, the Canes’ fate had been sealed.
The Hurricanes’ offense never found a rhythm. Junior quarterback Malik Rosier was intercepted twice, the Canes punted 9 times, and lost a fumble. Miami, who led the nation in turnover margin (plus-15) during the regular season, lost the turnover battle to Clemson, 3 to 1.
And to make matters worse, Miami couldn’t turn their one takeaway into any points. Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, defensive end Trent Harris recovered a fumble on special teams after a botched Clemson punt return. The Hurricanes took over at the Tigers’ 37 yard line, but the possession ended in a missed 45 yard field goal try by Badgley.
Clemson, on the other hand, scored 14 points off three takeaways.
It was another tough day at the office for Malik Rosier, who completed 14 of his 29 attempts for 110 yards. For the first time in 13 career starts, Rosier didn’t throw a touchdown pass.
Miami’s offense was behind the eight ball before the game even started. During the week, the Hurricanes lost their second and third leading receivers to season-ending injuries. Starting tight end Christopher Herndon (MCL) and wide receiver Ahmmon Richards (meniscus) were both glaringly absent. Miami’s leading receiver, senior Braxton Berrios caught 7 passes for 51 yards, but 5 other receivers combined for just 59 additional yards.
Clemson’s vaunted defensive front sacked Rosier 4 times and pressured him on countless other occasions. The Tigers looked in championship form.
Despite two tough losses in a row, Miami can take pride in their first 10-win season since 2003, and first ever ACC Coastal Division title. Plus, the Canes have a chance to end the season on a high note in their bowl game.
Bowl selections will be announced on Sunday, with Miami expected to land in the Orange Bowl.