CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Trevor Lawrence had 412 yards of offense and three touchdowns, Travis Etienne ran for 124 yards and a score and No. 4 Clemson dominated No. 2 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) avenge a 47-40 double-overtime loss at Norte Dame – with Lawrence sidelined because of the coronavirus – to lock up a spot in the College Football Playoff for the sixth straight season.
Lawrence, the game MVP 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.
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 where he reached behind his head to snag the ball.
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.
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-3, 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-1 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.
Clemson: The return of linebacker James Skalski and defensive tackle Tyler Davis, both of who missed the first game, proved to be a major difference for the Clemson defense this time around.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish could get nothing going in the passing game. Book was under pressure almost every time he tried to throw the ball and Notre Dame’s wide receivers couldn’t shake Clemson’s defensive backs.
Clemson safety Nolan Turner will have to sit out the first half of the first-round playoff game after being ejected in the fourth quarter for targeting on tight end Michael Mayer.
Clemson: No two-loss team had ever qualified for the College Football Playoff, so it was imperative the Tigers won to get a spot – and that’s exactly what they did.
Notre Dame: Notre Dame hopes to edge No. 5 Texas A&M for the final playoff spot.