College football: No. 3 Clemson routs No. 2 Notre Dame in ACC title game
Trevor Lawrence had 412 yards of offense and three touchdowns, Travis Etienne ran for 124 yards and a score, and Clemson dominated Notre Dame 34-10 on Saturday to win its sixth straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
Lawrence threw long scoring passes to Amari Rodgers and E.J Williams in the first half to help the Tigers (10-1), No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, avenge a 47-40 double-overtime loss at No. 2 Notre Dame on Nov. 7 — with Lawrence sidelined because of the coronavirus — to lock up a spot in the CFP for the sixth consecutive season.
“All we had to do was take care of business after that,” Lawrence said about the loss in South Bend. “We remember fans running off the field and getting in our face. You remember those images and keep those things in your head.”
Lawrence, the game most valuable player and presumptive No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, overcame an early interception on a tipped ball to complete 25 of 36 passes for 322 yards. He ran 14 times for 90 yards, with a 34-yard touchdown scamper.
“His ability to run really stresses your coverage calls,” Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “ So what you try to do is bring some pressures that eliminate those runs. It just opens up some one-on-one matchups that are not favorable.”
The College Football Playoff semifinal game at the Rose Bowl has been relocated to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, because of coronavirus restrictions.
The junior quarterback did it all, even throwing a block to spring Etienne for a 15-yard gain on a third-down run late in the second quarter leading to a touchdown and a 24-3 halftime lead.
Rodgers had eight catches for 121 yards, and Williams added four for 80 yards, including a dynamic one-handed grab in which he reached behind his head to snag the ball.
Clemson has won all nine games Lawrence has started by at least 18 points, and the Tigers’ average margin of victory in those games is 33.6 points.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney called Lawrence the best player in the country.
“It would be a crying shame if the Heisman didn’t attach their name to Trevor Lawrence,“ Swinney said. “I know that has become a stat award, but if you watch and you don’t know this is the best player in the country, I don’t what you’re looking at.”
Clemson allowed Notre Dame to pile up 518 yards in the previous meeting but limited the Fighting Irish (10-1) to 263 yards Saturday and sacked quarterback Ian Book six times. Book spent most of the game under duress, regularly flushed from the pocket and forced to make plays on the run.
Clemson’s secondary put the clamps on Notre Dame’s wide receivers, and running back Tyren Williams was limited to 49 yards rushing after finishing with 140 yards on the ground and three TDs in the first game. Book was held to 219 yards passing and no touchdowns.
The momentum changed late in the first quarter when Notre Dame kicker Jonathan Doerer, who had converted an ACC title-game record 51-yard field goal on the game’s opening drive, clanked a 21-yard attempt off the right upright.
Trey Sermon ran for a school-record 331 yards and two second-half touchdowns to lead No. 4 Ohio State to a 22-10 victory over No. 14 Northwestern.
The Tigers quickly capitalized when Rodgers got cornerback Shaun Crawford to bite on a double move and hauled in a perfectly thrown pass from Lawrence for a 67-yard strike, the first of four straight scoring drives to close the first half.
After Clemson stopped Notre Dame on a key fourth and three, Lawrence moved the Tigers 72 yards in six plays, showing his pocket awareness by stepping up to avoid pressure and buy enough time to find Williams on a crossing route for a 33-yard score and a 14-3 lead — Notre Dame’s largest deficit of the season.
Etienne broke it open when he took a handoff, slipped an ankle tackle and raced 44 yards for a touchdown on fourth and one for a 24-3 lead with 21 seconds left in the first half. Lawrence essentially put it away with 3:43 left in the third quarter when he raced up the middle for a 34-yard touchdown run.
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