Clemson Shuts Down, Runs Over Pitt for ACC Title

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (EYT) – Behind a stout defense and a strong running game, Clemson became just the second FBS team to win four straight conference championship games when the Tigers beat Pitt, 42-10, Saturday night at a wet and muddy Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

(Photo of Pitt’s Darrin Hall. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

Clemson (13-0), who all but secured a berth in its fourth straight College Football Playoff, limited the Panthers (7-6) to 200 yards of total offense including only eight passing yards.

Meanwhile, the Tigers racked up 419 yards of total offense including 301 and four touchdowns on the ground, where Clemson averaged nearly nine yards per carry (8.6).

Travis Etienne led the way running for 156 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries with Adam Choice (51 yards) and Lyn-J Dixon (5 yards) also adding touchdowns.

Etienne set the tone early when he took the game’s first offensive play 75 yards for a touchdown, and the Tigers led 14-0 just over five minutes into the game.

The second touchdown was a 3-yard Etienne run that was set up when Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett fumbled at his own 21 after a hit by Isaiah Simmons. Christian Wilkins recovered the fumble and returned it to the Panthers 3.

That was one of three turnovers forced by the Tigers defense and one of two that gave Clemson the ball inside the Pitt 10-yard line.

The other came late in the first half and was probably the backbreaker.

After getting down by the 14 points early, Pitt had stabilized some and trailed by four, 14-10, following a 1-yard Qadree Ollison touchdown run with 7:56 left in the first half.

But Clemson answered with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that finished with a 5-yard Trevor Lawrence to Tee Higgins touchdown pass with 4:57 left in the half.

After the teams traded punts, Pitt got the ball back at its own 20 with just under a minute to play knowing it was getting the ball out of halftime.

But the Panthers went to the air, and the results, as they were all night, weren’t good.

A.J. Terrell picked off a Pickett pass at the Pitt 41 and returned it 31 yards to the Panthers 10 with 29 seconds left.

Lawrence then hit Higgins on the next play to push the Tigers lead to 28-10 at halftime.

The second half didn’t start out much better for Pitt, as the Panthers were forced to use a timeout before the first offensive play of the half with the clock reading 15:00 when the play clock was about to run out.

Pitt finished the second half with just 77 yards with 29 of those coming on one Darrin Hall fourth-quarter run.

Two plays that summed up the futility on offense for Pitt in the second half where on fourth-down plays.

Down 28-10, Pitt faced fourth-and-3 from the Clemson 37 halfway through the third quarter.

Pickett completed a first-down pass to Rafael Araujo-Lopes, but an illegal shift penalty negated the play and the Panthers punted.

Then, down 35-10, with about six minutes to play in the fourth quarter Pitt faced a fourth-and-5 at the Clemson 30 after a third-and-5 run from Hall gained nothing.

The fourth down play was even worse, as Pickett couldn’t get a handle on the snap, and Chad Smith recovered the loose ball for the Tigers, not that it would have mattered since it was fourth down.

One bright spot for Pitt was Hall gaining a team-high 86 yards on the ground putting him over 1,000 yards on the season. Ollison had previously gone over 1,000 yards giving Pitt two 1,000-yard rushers for the first time in program history.

Despite the loss, Pitt will move into a bowl game. The Panthers will find out which one Sunday.

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