Both teams had averaged 42 points prior to their matchup, and the scoreboard did not reflect a close contest as the Hurricanes lost 42-17, despite some experts’ predictions.
“We just have to get better,” Miami coach Manny Diaz said. “I cannot fault our effort but I though our discipline in terms of doing things right made it very difficult for us to execute. We have to present a better version of ourselves than we did tonight.”
Miami only generated nine first downs while Clemson had 34, as the Tigers nearly doubled the ‘Canes in total yards, 550–210.
Despite entering the game with 517 yards against in-state rival Florida State on Sept. 27, the Hurricanes’ revamped, no-huddle offense ground to a halt.
“From all cylinders of offensive football, tonight was our worst football,” Hurricanes tight end Brevin Jordan said. “We had a lot of mental mistakes, some guys not getting to the right blocks, [and] just all 11 men on the offensive side today we played not our best brand of football. We gotta get back to the drawing board and just keep going.”
Allowing two early touchdowns to Clemson tight end Braden Galloway and running back Travis Etienne, Miami fell into a 14-0 hole by the beginning of the second quarter as the team failed to keep pace.
“They were very aggressive, we know that they’ve got an outstanding defense,” Diaz said. “We just struggled to get the first first down. We knew that making plays on the outside lanes of the football field was gonna be a big key tonight, and we didn’t make the plays on the outside part of the football field.”
Galloway caught an 11-yard pass from Clemson quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Trevor Lawrence, extending the Tigers’ lead to 21-3 with 1:14 remaining in the first half.
The ‘Canes did answer with their first touchdown of the game on defensive tackle Jared Harrison-Hunte’s blocked field goal attempt that led to cornerback DJ Ivey’s 48-yard return. The special teams-initiated play cut Clemson’s lead to 21-10 at halftime.
Returning focused out of the locker room, Tigers coach Dabo Swinney’s team regained control over the game. Etienne would run for a 72-yard touchdown to expand the margin to 18, as Miami was left scrambling at just under the eight-minute mark of the third quarter.
“Travis Etienne is the guy,” Diaz said. “He’s as good of a player as there is in college football and obviously the whole plan on third down is don’t let him [Lawrence] throw the ball to Etienne, and that is easier said than done.”
‘Canes safety Gilbert Frierson shared similar remarks on the reigning ACC Player of the Year’s dominant performance.
“He breaks a lot of tackles, he’s explosive, he’s just good at what he does, and that’s why he’s a top three back in the country,” Frierson said.
Even Lawrence was able to notch a rushing touchdown, as he ran for three yards on a six-play drive to further increase Clemson’s lead to 35–10.
Showing a sign of resilience, D’Eriq King was able to run for a touchdown in the middle of the fourth quarter, despite only tallying 121 yards and throwing two interceptions.
The play caller was nowhere near satisfied with his team’s lack of ability to execute, however.
“I think they just played hard,” King said. “They had a good plan, we didn’t execute well, and hats off to those guys. I gotta make better throws and we just gotta keep working. It starts with me.”
The Tigers closed out the game with one final touchdown from tight end Davis Allen, a 22-yard grab that pushed the Hurricanes’ deficit to 25.
Miami lost against their ACC foe for the first time in almost three years, after losing to the Tigers in the 2017 ACC Championship, 38–3. The program looks to rebound against a 3–2 Pittsburgh team at home on Saturday.
Clemson, who has posted nine consecutive seasons with double-digit victories, now remains the only undefeated ACC team in 2020. They will travel to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech on Saturday, who has begun the season at 2–2, and has seen success from quarterback Jeff Sims.