Hunter Renfrow

Associated Press

No. 3 Clemson looks like the new No. 1 in pummeling No. 24 South Carolina

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No. 1 Alabama lost on the road today. No. 2 Miami lost on the road on Friday. No. 3 Clemson went on the road… and did not come close to losing. The Tigers led throughout and dominated in-state rival No. 24 South Carolina, winning 34-10 in Columbia.

The win gives Clemson four straight victories in the season and two straight blowouts, following last season’s 56-7 beatdown in Death Valley. It was also Dabo Swinney‘s 100th win in his 129th game as Clemson’s head coach. More importantly, the win completes Clemson’s third straight regular season of at least 11 victories and sends the Tigers into next week’s ACC Championship opposite Miami in prime position to defend its national championship.

After downing a punt at the 1-yard line, Clemson’s Ryan Carter capitalized on a miscommunication by South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley as he grabbed an uncontested pass at the South Carolina 12 and waltzed into the end zone for the game’s first score.

That was the only score of the first quarter, but Clemson’s offense got in on the action in the second quarter with a 9-play, 80-yard drive that was keyed by two big Kelly Bryant passes and completed with a 1-yard Tavien Feaster run with 8:12 left in the first half.

Clemson put together a similar drive to close the half, moving 79 yards in 10 snaps, 40 of which came on a deep ball to Tee HigginsHunter Renfrow notched his second touchdown grab of the season, a 4-yarder, with 1:59 left in the half. Alex Spence‘s PAT was wide left.

The Tigers put their orange paws on South Carolina’s throat in the third quarter with a 61-yard touchdown strike from Bryant to Kelly, and then a 5-yard Travis Etienne run to push the lead to 34-0.

South Carolina (8-4) got on the board with a 40-yard Parker White field goal after a Bryant interception and then a 38-yard toss from Bentley to Bryan Edwards with 2:44 left in the game. Bentley concluded his second Cocks-Tigers game hitting 16-of-29 passes for just 126 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Bryant hit 23-of-34 passes for 272 yards with two touchdowns and a pick while rushing 10 times for 26 yards. Seven Tigers runners combined to carry 41 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns, more than doubling South Carolina’s 81 rushing yards.

Clemson in control at South Carolina

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No. 1 and No. 2 have already lost road games this week. It doesn’t appear No. 3 will be in the same danger.

Third-ranked Clemson leads No. 24 South Carolina 20-0 at the break in Columbia.

After downing a punt at the 1-yard line, Clemson’s Ryan Carter capitalized on a miscommunication by South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley as he grabbed an uncontested pass at the South Carolina 12 and waltzed into the end zone for the game’s first score.

That was the only score of the first quarter, but Clemson’s offense got in on the action in the second quarter with a 9-play, 80-yard drive that was keyed by two big Kelly Bryant passes and completed with a 1-yard Tavien Feaster run with 8:12 left in the first half.

Clemson put together a similar drive to close the half, moving 79 yards in 10 snaps, 40 of which came on a deep ball to Tee HigginsHunter Renfrow notched his second touchdown grab of the season, a 4-yarder, with 1:59 left in the half. Alex Spence‘s PAT was wide left after Dabo Swinney was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing with officials.

Bentley closed the half hitting 8-of-15 passes for 42 yards with the interception. Tyson Williams led the club with six carries for 35 yards and two grabs for 13 yards.

Bryant connected on 14-of-21 throws for 159 yards and the Tigers rushed for 67 yards on 18 carries in the half.

Clemson will receive to open the second half.

No. 4 Clemson survives road scare at No. 20 NC State

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No. 4 Clemson was forced to defend its ACC and national championships from practically the first play of its visit to Raleigh until literally the last. But defend it they did, as the Tigers survived a visit to No. 20 NC State with a 38-31 win.

NC State opened the game on fire, intercepting Kelly Bryant (191 passing yards, 88 rushing yards, three total touchdowns) inside Clemson territory, which Ryan Finley turned into a 40-yard scoring connection to Kelvin Harmon. After the Tigers pulled even on a 77-yard punt return score by Ray Ray McCloud, NC State again claimed a touchdown lead on a 12-play, 65-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard Jaylen Samuels run.

Clemson again pulled even with a long drive of its own as Bryant punctuated a 12-play, 71-yard march with a 10-yard keeper. Again, though, NC State responded, this time with a 75-yard march that ended on a 7-yard strike from Finley to Samuels with 9:29 left before halftime.

The Tigers could not hold serve on their next possession, instead ending a 68-yard drive with a 26-yard Alex Spence field goal. NC State blew a chance to take a touchdown lead before the break when Carson Wise missed 34-yard field goal. Clemson moved in position to take a halftime lead, moving to the NC State 22-yard line with under 10 seconds to go, but Bryant’s final two passes fell incomplete and NC State head coach Dave Doeren successfully froze Spence into missing a 39-yard field goal as time expired at the half.

That miss sent Clemson into a halftime in which it trailed 21-17 at halftime on the road against a ranked conference opponent, and that opponent would get the ball to open the second half.

Simply put, it was gut check time for Clemson’s ACC and national championship hopes, and Clemson responded with a check right into NC State’s gut.

The Tigers took the lead on a 12-yard strike from Bryant to Deon Cain, then closed the quarter (literally) on an 89-yard burst from Tavien Feaster, the club’s longest play from scrimmage to date this season. 

Any control Clemson had over the game evaporated on NC State’s next possession, as the Wolfpack sliced down the field with a 6-play, 65-yard drive. Finley fired his third touchdown pass of the day, a 15-yarder to Jakobi Meyers, to pull NC State within 31-28 with 12:23 to play. The Wolfpack had a chance to force a turnover on downs and get the ball back with the chance to take the lead on a touchdown in forcing a 4th-and-5 at the NC State 22 with 8:16 to play, but Bryant found CFP Championship hero Hunter Renfrow for a 16-yard connection. Bryant danced in from one yard out three plays later, handing Clemson a 38-28 advantage with 6:31 to play.

However, NC State once again answered with a gut check of its own. The Pack moved 81 yards to set up a 22-yard Kyle Bambard field goal with 1:51 to play, then used its three timeouts to force an immediate Clemson punt, handing NC State the ball at its own 20 with 80 seconds to force overtime.

Finley (31-of-50 for 338 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, eight caries for 35 yards) moved NC State to the Clemson 28 and momentarily put the ball inside the Clemson 5-yard line, but an illegal shift penalty negated a long completion, and his final pass was intercepted.

The win all but clinches a third straight ACC Atlantic championship for Clemson (8-1, 6-1 ACC), needing only to beat Florida State to clinch the division. Should the Tigers lose, NC State (6-3, 4-1 ACC) still find itself in prime position to steal the division title.

Rematch revenge! Clemson knocks off Alabama to win the 2017 National Championship Game

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In order to be the champions, you had to beat the champions. Mission accomplished for Clemson.

A historic rematch for the ages lived up to the hype thanks to a wild and career-defining fourth quarter that saw the Tigers win the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game in dramatic fashion 35-31 over Alabama.

The two defenses dominated the game early and often as many predicted given the number of stars on that side of the ball. Neither team found much success on third down (just nine combined conversions) and the passing game was inconsistent for both teams outside of a few big plays.

The Crimson Tide jumped out to an early lead behind the strong running of tailback Bo Scarbrough, who continued to abuse opponents with his punishing running style. He found the end zone early in the first quarter by scampering off to the left side of his big offensive line and finding pay dirt after 25 yards for the game’s first points. His second touchdown was even better than the first, using a few key blocks from his tight end and left tackle to hit the edge and scamper 37 yards for the score, running over a few defenders and carrying a few more on his back into the end zone.

Unfortunately the sophomore was injured in the third quarter with a leg injury, putting all the pressure on young quarterback Jalen Hurts. While he never looked too much like a true freshman, passing the ball was a struggle most of the night until he found a wide-open O.J. Howard for a 68-yard touchdown that had plenty thinking back to last year’s title game where he had a career outing.

That wasn’t enough to contain a determined Deshaun Watson in the final quarter however, as the signal-caller marched his team 88 yards in just six plays before leaping into the end zone for the first Clemson lead of the ball game with just under five minutes left. It was a vintage performance from the college superstar (who finished 36-of-56 for 420 yards and three touchdowns), which included several key hookups with receiver Mike Williams and a few key runs that moved the chains.

The Tide didn’t seem phased however, answering right back in a wild sequence of events. They broke out of their offensive malaise with a surprising trick play that found Howard for a big gain once again to enter Clemson territory. That’s when Hurts finally used his legs to find the end zone, scampering 30 yards to the goal line as he weaved and ducked out of numerous tackles.

Watson wasn’t done yet though, and saved his best for last with the game and his legacy on the line.

Facing a defense that was operating at a historic level coming into the game, Watson sliced and diced the Tide for a nine play, 68 yard march toward the end zone. With a make or break play coming up, the game’s offensive MVP dropped back and smoothly found ever reliable target Hunter Renfrow wide open in the end zone with just one second left.

That set off a wild celebration among the Clemson faithful as the school celebrated its second national title — and first since 1981 — in the sweetest of fashions. It was a game for the ages given the ending and tense final moments but will no doubt be remembered for an incredible drive that culminated in a championship for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers.

Alabama leads Clemson with just one quarter left in the national title game

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All good things must come to an end and there is just one more quarter of college football left this season. Judging by the way the College Football Playoff National Championship Game has gone for three quarters, the end of this season is looking like it will be wrapping up the same way the last did too.

Alabama continued to control the game on both sides of the ball, grinding their way to a 24-14 lead entering the fourth quarter after a few big plays for both teams highlighted the effort coming out of halftime.

The Tide could have had a more comfortable margin had they capitalized on yet another costly Clemson turnover after tailback Wayne Gallman fumbled on the Tigers’ opening drive of the second half, which setup Alabama in red zone. The offense stagnated however, and was held to a field goal to extend their lead to double digits.

After exchanging punts later in the quarter, Clemson finally showed some life for the first time in the second half on one of the rare times they began with good field position. Following a clutch play from Watson and Deon Cain to move the offense down the field, the quarterback found reliable receiver Hunter Renfrow across the middle for a 24 yard touchdown that narrowed things on the scoreboard and seemed to ignite the Clemson faithful who made the trip down to Tampa.

Alabama never seemed to panic despite the momentum shifting a bit and tailback Bo Scarbrough (team-high 93 yards, two scores) limp off with a leg injury of unknown severity. That’s because quarterback Jalen Hurts finally was able to do something with his arm, launching a deep pass to a wide-open O.J. Howard for a 68 yard touchdown that evoked plenty of memories from last season’s game.

There’s still plenty of time for the Tigers to get back into this one with the offense in the red zone entering the fourth but, with just one quarter left in the national title game, the Crimson Tide dynasty is looking well on their way to picking up another ring for head coach Nick Saban.