Cover, Football, Sports

Miami falls short of ACC title in crushing 38-3 loss to Clemson

ACC Championship Game

UM senior receiver Braxton Berrios gets warmed up before the No. 7 Hurricanes face off against the No. 1 Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 2 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Miami would lose 38-3 in a dominating performance by Clemson. Photo credit: Josh White

It seemed like a nightmare for Miami, or just a horrific flashback.

No, it was real.

Just over two years after falling 58-0 to the Clemson Tigers in the worst loss in program history, the Hurricanes were demoralized in a similar fashion on Saturday night in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Quarterback Kelly Bryant completed his first 15 passes and four different Clemson runners scored, leading the No.1-ranked Tigers to a 38-3 win over No. 7 Miami, spoiling the Hurricanes’ first ever appearance in the ACC title game.

UM (10-2, 7-2 ACC) simply had no answer for Clemson (12-1, 8-1 ACC) on either side of the ball as the Tigers won their third consecutive conference championship.

On offense, UM quarterback Malik Rosier was sacked four times and threw two interceptions. And on defense, the Canes let the Tigers go 5-5 in the red zone and 9-18 on third down completions.

Rosier finished completing just 14 of his 29 pass attempts for an anemic 110 yards passing, no scores and two interceptions. Just like against Pittsburgh a week ago, he struggled to pin point his throws both short and long. He missed a handful of receivers, such as Braxton Berrios and Jeff Thomas, on plays where they were wide open.

Miami went just 3-16 on third down.

Things got so bad for the Hurricanes, that even when their receivers were given prime opportunities, something went wrong.

On back-to-back plays in the third quarter, Miami, a team that had only committed 12 turnovers coming into the matchup, coughed up the football. Thomas caught what was then the longest pass completion of the game for 20 yards and made a move to get more. Then, he was stripped of the ball.

Clemson recovered.

The very next possession, a pass that was thrown perfectly by Rosier went right through the hands of receiver Darrell Langham and into those of a Clemson defensive back.

These mistakes sealed Miami’s fate.

Bryant finished 23-29 for 252 passing yards and two total touchdowns in an efficient performance in which he controlled the pace the entire night. Receiver Ray-Ray McCloud reeled in six catches for 100 yards to lead the Tigers.

Clemson dominated the time of possession by just over eight minutes and took advantage of almost every Miami defensive breakdown.

From the start, coach Mark Richt’s Canes could not keep up physically with coach Dabo Swinney’s Tigers. Clemson scored 21 points in the game’s first 19 minutes – what seemed like a blink of an eye.

Odds makers had Miami as 12-point underdogs going into the game.

The Hurricanes, who led the FBS in turnover margin and forced 29 turnovers on the season before facing the Tigers, lost the turnover battle for the first time in nine games, 3-1.

Despite racking up 10 tackles for loss and four sacks, UM’s defense was held in check by Clemson’s offensive line. Even when Miami forced fumbles, its players struggled to recover them, something it had not had an issue with all year.

It was just not meant to be for the Canes.

Miami, who was without its best running back, receiver and tight end against Clemson, could not run the ball effectively against arguably the best defensive line in the country. Despite totaling 104 rushing yards, UM gained the majority of them with the game’s result already decided.

Miami will have time to regroup before it likely plays in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve at Hard Rock Stadium. Its opponent will either be Alabama, Auburn, Wisconsin or Notre Dame. The time of kickoff is to be decided.

December 2, 2017

Reporters

Isaiah Kim-Martinez

Isaiah Kim-Martinez can be reached on Twitter at @isaiah_km.


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