No. 2 Clemson clobbers Pitt 42-10 for 4th straight ACC title

No. 2 Clemson clobbers Pitt 42-10 for 4th straight ACC title
Clemson's Travis Etienne (9) runs for a touchdown against Pittsburgh as Trevor Lawrence (16) follows in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) (Mike McCarn)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Exactly 10 years after being hired as head coach, Dabo Swinney made history with the Clemson Tigers.

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 on a rainy night to become the first team to win four straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship games.

"You can't be the best ever if you don't do things that have never been done," a triumphant Swinney said after the game.

Clemson (13-0, CFP No. 2) is expected to face third-ranked Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff on Dec. 29, though the field won't be set until Sunday.

As Swinney held up the championship trophy on the field after the game, he shouted to thousands of waterlogged fans clad in orange rain jackets: "I think we should just come back and do it again next year!"

Clemson's Travis Etienne (9) runs past Pittsburgh's Dennis Briggs (20) in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Clemson's Travis Etienne (9) runs past Pittsburgh's Dennis Briggs (20) in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (AP)

"It's incredibly difficult to have the consistency that we have had," Swinney said.

Swinney called it a "gritty, sloppy, old school, grind-it-out win" on a muddy field.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney directs his team against Pittsburgh in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney directs his team against Pittsburgh in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (AP)

Clemson turned to its running game and piled up 301 yards and four touchdowns and averaged 9 yards per carry on a night in which Lawrence was limited to 118 yards passing.

The defense 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, including two sacks.

Clemson's Travis Etienne (9) runs for a touchdown against Pittsburgh in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Clemson's Travis Etienne (9) runs for a touchdown against Pittsburgh in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) (AP)

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.

Clemson's Justyn Ross (8) catches a pass as Pittsburgh's Dane Jackson (11) defends in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Clemson's Justyn Ross (8) catches a pass as Pittsburgh's Dane Jackson (11) defends in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) (AP)

Etienne, the game's Most Outstanding Player, had 78 yards on his first two carries, surpassing Clemson's rushing total from last year's ACC title game win over Miami.

"All of that credit goes to the offensive line because they come in and grind every day of the week," Etienne said.

Clemson's Travis Etienne (9) runs for a touchdown as Pittsburgh's Dennis Briggs (20) and Chase Pine (36) defend in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Clemson's Travis Etienne (9) runs for a touchdown as Pittsburgh's Dennis Briggs (20) and Chase Pine (36) defend in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) (AP)

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 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.

Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett (8) is sacked by Clemson's Dexter Lawrence (90) and Kendall Joseph (34) in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett (8) is sacked by Clemson's Dexter Lawrence (90) and Kendall Joseph (34) in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) (AP)

CLEMSON OVER NOTRE DAME

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi has faced Clemson and Notre Dame this season and said there is "no comparison" between the two teams.

Clemson's Christian Wilkins (42) is tackled by Pittsburgh's Alex Bookser (78) after recovering a Pittsburgh fumble in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Clemson's Christian Wilkins (42) is tackled by Pittsburgh's Alex Bookser (78) after recovering a Pittsburgh fumble in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) (AP)

"Clemson is the best football team we have faced this season and they will probably win a national championship in my opinion," Narduzzi said. "That's a good football team from the front end to the back end."

ALABAMA-CLEMSON PART 4

Pittsburgh's Qadree Ollison (30) runs through the tackle of Clemson's Tanner Muse (19) in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Pittsburgh's Qadree Ollison (30) runs through the tackle of Clemson's Tanner Muse (19) in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (AP)

Swinney said if the Tigers wind up facing No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight year he would consider it a rivalry.

"I think four would make it a rivalry," Swinney said, whose team is 1-2 against the Crimson Tide the last three years. "And we need to beat them more, too. It ain't much of a rivalry when you are losing, so we gotta win more."

Pittsburgh's Qadree Ollison (30) runs as Clemson's Isaiah Simmons (11) defends in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Pittsburgh's Qadree Ollison (30) runs as Clemson's Isaiah Simmons (11) defends in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (AP)

PICKETT STAYS THE STARTER

Despite a miserable night, Pickett will remain the team's starting quarterback moving forward, Narduzzi said.

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence (16) looks to pass against Pittsburgh in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Clemson's Trevor Lawrence (16) looks to pass against Pittsburgh in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (AP)

"There is nobody other than Kenny Pickett I would want to lead our offense," Narduzzi said. "He's played unbelievable this year. ... It starts with protection and when he gets time he can be effective and when he doesn't nobody is going to be effective. When you are running for your life back there it is not easy."

Said Pickett: "It's a tough loss, but I'm not going to let this game define me."

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence (16) looks to pass under pressure from Pittsburgh's Amir Watts (34) in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Clemson's Trevor Lawrence (16) looks to pass under pressure from Pittsburgh's Amir Watts (34) in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (AP)

CLEMSON'S FRONT FOUR

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.

Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett (8) rolls out to pass against Clemson in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett (8) rolls out to pass against Clemson in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (AP)

"Clemson's front four, they have three first round (draft picks) and maybe four," Narduzzi said.

Said Pitt running back Darrin Hall: "They're the number two team in the country for a reason. They brought the energy."

Clemson's Tee Higgins (5) catches a touchdown pass as Pittsburgh's Jason Pinnock (15) defends in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Clemson's Tee Higgins (5) catches a touchdown pass as Pittsburgh's Jason Pinnock (15) defends in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) (AP)

THE TAKEAWAY

Pitt: The Panthers need to make major strides in the passing game to take the next step in the ACC. But the Panthers did run for nearly 200 yards and Ollison and Hall became the first Panthers tandem ever to both surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a season. They will need more balance moving forward.

Clemson's Tee Higgins (5) catches a touchdown pass as Pittsburgh's Jason Pinnock (15) defends in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Clemson's Tee Higgins (5) catches a touchdown pass as Pittsburgh's Jason Pinnock (15) defends in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) (AP)

Clemson: The Tigers won their 13th game for the third time in four seasons, continuing a remarkable run under Swinney. Their offense struggled at times and Lawrence wasn't particularly sharp, which could be a concern moving forward against better competition. The weather didn't help either team in the passing game.

UP NEXT

Pitt: The Panthers will wait to see where they are headed for a bowl game.

Clemson: The Tigers advanced to the playoff for the fourth straight season. At least one more game is coming this season. Clemson is hoping for two.

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