Clem­son wins ACC At­lantic Di­vi­sion ti­tle

The Standard Journal - - NATIONAL SPORTS - By Pete Ia­co­belli As­so­ci­ated Press Sports Writer

CLEM­SON, S.C. — Travis Eti­enne al­ways dreamed of help­ing his team win a ti­tle. It didn’t take very long for the fresh­man to turn that dream into re­al­ity at Clem­son.

Eti­enne ran for 97 yards and two touch­downs to lead the fourth-ranked Tigers to a 31-14 vic­tory over Florida State that clinched the team’s third straight ACC At­lantic Di­vi­sion ti­tle and a trip to the league cham­pi­onship game.

“We get a chance to go to Charlotte and play for the ACC cham­pi­onship,” Eti­enne said. “To win a ring, when the stakes are the high­est, is great.”

Clem­son might have missed out on that op­por­tu­nity with­out Eti­enne, a gan­gly look­ing, 5-foot-10 back who picked the school late in last win­ter’s re­cruit­ing cy­cle when most fig­ured the Louisiana na­tive was headed for LSU.

He has nine touch­downs this sea­son, sec­ond be­hind quar­ter­back Kelly Bryant’s 10. Against the Semi­noles’ staunch de­fense, Eti­enne made his big­gest runs fol­low­ing Van Smith’s key fourthquar­ter in­ter­cep­tion.

Eti­enne had a 25-yard run to the FSU 5. Two plays later, he burst through for a 1-yard score that made it 24-14 with 3:05 left.

“Look, my guy is smil­ing,” Bryant shouted across the room as Eti­enne took ques­tions.

There could be a lot more smil­ing ahead as the Tigers (9-1, 7-1, No. 4 CFP) try for a third straight berth in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off. Their op­po­nent in the ACC fi­nal will be No. 7 Mi­ami, which wrapped up the Coastal Di­vi­sion with Vir­ginia’s 38-21 loss to Louisville.

Clem­son ap­peared to be in con­trol against Florida State with a 17-0 lead late in the third quar­ter. But the Semi­noles ral­lied on Jac­ques Pa­trick’s 3-yard TD run and a dou­ble-pitch back, fleaflicker pass from James Blackman that went for a 60-yard score to Ryan Izzo.

Florida State was in po­si­tion to spoil the cel­e­bra­tion at chilly Death Val­ley when it re­cov­ered Bryant’s fum­ble on the Clem­son 40 with less than seven min­utes left.

But Blackman’s pass over the mid­dle was in­ter­cepted by Smith on the next play, set­ting up the Tigers’ clinch­ing drive.

“The story of the night was def­i­nitely the de­fense and the turnovers,” Clem­son coach Dabo Swin­ney said. “Es­pe­cially that one by Van Smith. And we fi­nally got that drive that we needed” in Eti­enne’s sec­ond TD.

Cor­ner­back Trayvon Mullen knocked away Blackman’s fourth-down pass with 2:13 left to end the Semi­noles’ come­back hopes.

It’s the fifth time in Swin­ney’s nine full sea­sons that he has taken the Tigers to the con­fer­ence ti­tle game.

For Florida State (3-6, 3-5), it marked its first los­ing ACC record since 2006. And the Semi­noles’ land­mark streak of 35 straight bowl games is in jeop­ardy, too — they have three games left against Delaware State, ri­val Florida and Louisiana-Mon­roe.

Bryant fin­ished with 151 yards pass­ing. He also rushed for 60 yards and a touch­down. Adam Choice had a 10-yard TD run with 35 sec­onds left for Clem­son’s fi­nal score.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said his team will re­group and pre­pare to build on its sec­ond half.

Florida State’s Cam Ak­ers (front) is tack­led by Clem­son safety Tan­ner Muse (19) dur­ing the first half of Satur­day’s game.

Rainier Ehrhardt / AP

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