Clemson cruised past Virginia Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., winning the ACC Championship Game 62-17.
“I’m proud of my football team,” Coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “I love them and thought their preparation was strong. Their execution didn’t hold at this level consistently enough to have a chance to win the football game.”
The No. 3 Tigers (13-0, 8-0 ACC) beat the No. 23 Cavaliers (9-4, 6-2 ACC) to win their fifth consecutive ACC Championship. Clemson sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence passed for 302 yards and 4 touchdowns, and junior wide receiver Tee Higgins caught 9 passes for 182 yards and 3 touchdowns.
For Virginia, senior quarterback Bryce Perkins passed for 266 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, in addition to picking up 58 rushing yards.
Senior wide receiver Hasise Dubois had a career-high 10 receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown.
“[Dubois] is a competitor,” Perkins said. “He probably has the best hands in America.”
On the first drive of the game, Virginia appeared to be headed for a score. Perkins connected with Dubois on a 46-yard pass to have the Cavaliers in the red zone. Perkins, however, threw an interception in the back of the end zone on the next series.
Clemson took the subsequent drive to the house. Lawrence passed it to Higgins for the 19-yard touchdown.
Virginia responded resoundingly. Perkins engineered another long drive, and this time he finished it off with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Dubois.
But Lawrence could not be stopped. On the following drive, he connected with sophomore wide receiver Justyn Ross on a 59-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-7 Clemson.
Clemson extended its lead on a 47-yard field goal on the Tigers’ next possession. The Cavaliers got pressure on Lawrence for the first time all game to stop Clemson from getting into the end zone.
Clemson junior running back Travis Etienne — the ACC Player of the Year — got going on the Tigers’ next drive. He had 44 rushing yards on the drive, including a 26-yard touchdown run in which he dragged All-ACC senior linebacker Jordan Mack into the end zone.
Lawrence passed it to Higgins for his second touchdown of the day to give the Tigers a 31-7 lead going into halftime.
Virginia came out of halftime strong. The Cavaliers forced Clemson into its first punt of the evening and took their first drive all the way. Perkins passed it to junior wide receiver Terrell Jana for the touchdown.
Lawrence, however, had the response again. He passed it 54 yards to Higgins to get in the red zone, and Higgins scored his third touchdown of the night on a pass from Lawrence two plays later.
Clemson went up 45-14 next on a 23-yard run by sophomore running back Lyn-J Dixon, and junior kicker Brian Delaney made it 45-17 with a 35-yard field goal on Virginia’s next drive.
Clemson, however, wasn’t done. Sophomore kicker B.T. Potter made a 24-yard field goal, and sophomore quarterback Chase Brice scored a touchdown on a sneak following a Perkins interception to make it 55-17. Freshman running back Chez Mellusi added another touchdown late.
Virginia will next face No. 6 Florida in the 2019 Capital One Orange Bowl — one of the New Year’s Six bowls. The Cavaliers and the Gators will meet in Miami Gardens, Fla., Dec. 30. The game will kick off from Hard Rock Stadium at 8 p.m.
“We look forward to learning everything we possibly can from this game, playing one more and hopefully achieving a tenth win, which would mean a lot to this football program,” Mendenhall said.