CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Travis Etienne ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns, Trevor Lawrence threw two short scoring passes to Tee Higgins and No. 2 Clemson beat Pitt 42-10 on Saturday night to become the first team to win four straight Atlantic Coast Conference championships.
Clemson (13-0, CFP No. 2) is expected to face third-ranked Notre Dame, which was idle Saturday, in the College Football Playoffs on Dec. 29.
The Tigers ran for 301 yards and four touchdowns and averaged 9 yards per carry on a dreary, rain-soaked night in which Lawrence was limited to 118 yards passing.
Clemson forced three turnovers, including two in the first half that gave the offense the ball inside the Pitt 10 and led to 14 points. The Tigers limited Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett to 8 yards passing and had nine tackles for a loss.
The Tigers joined the Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators (1993-96) as the only Power Five teams to win four straight conference titles. The historic win comes exactly 10 years after Dabo Swinney was hired as Clemson head coach.
The Tigers entered the game as a 27 1/2-point favorite and Swinney’s team looked as if it would put Pitt away early after Etienne scored on his first two carries.
The ACC player of the year took a handoff on the first play from scrimmage, ran to the right, cutback and raced 75 yards for his 20th touchdown of the season — the quickest TD in the conference championship history. He added a second scoring run a few minutes later after Isaiah Simmons stripped Pickett of the ball and Christian Wilkins return it to the Pitt 3.
Etienne had 78 yards on his first two carries, equaling Clemson’s rushing total from last year’s ACC title game win over Miami.
Pitt (7-6) would show signs of life though, scoring 10 straight points behind a 1-yard TD run by Qadree Ollison to cut the lead to 14-10.
But the Panthers, which had a knack for upsetting No. 2-ranked teams under coach Pat Narduzzi — they upset Clemson in 2016 and Miami in the 2017 regular season finale — ran out of magic.
Lawrence found his fellow freshman Higgins on TD passes of 5 and 10 in the second quarter, the latter coming after a 38-yard interception return by A.J. Terrell, to take a 28-10 lead at halftime. Adam Choice and Lyn-J Dixon added fourth quarter touchdown runs for the Tigers.
Pitt: The Panthers need some major upgrades in the passing game to take the next step in the ACC. The Tigers experienced and heralded defensive front of ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant and tackles Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence dominated the line of scrimmage. However, Pitt ran for nearly 200 yards on Clemson and Ollison and Darrin Hall became the first Panthers tandem to both surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a season,
Clemson: The Tigers won their 13th game for the third time in four seasons, continuing a remarkable run under Dabo Swinney. Their offense struggled at times and Lawrence wasn’t particularly sharp, which could be a concern moving forward against better competition.
Pitt: The Panthers will wait to see where they are headed for a bowl game.
Clemson: The Tigers advanced to the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight season. They’re expected to play Notre Dame.