Clemson clinches Atlantic Division

Tigers run past Virginia to earn matchup with Georgia Tech for ACC title

November 22, 2009|By From Sun News services

C.J. Spiller scored a touchdown Saturday in his final game at Death Valley and No. 18 Clemson beat Virginia, 34-21, on the day the Tigers clinched their first trip to the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.

The Tigers (8-3, 6-2 ACC) won their sixth straight game but had the Atlantic Division wrapped up as they kicked off, thanks to North Carolina's 31-13 victory against Boston College.

Clemson will face Coastal Division winner Georgia Tech in two weeks in Tampa, Fla.

Spiller had a 4-yard touchdown run and set the ACC's single-season all-purpose yardage mark, surpassing the 2,059 of Virginia's Thomas Jones in 1999.

Virginia (3-8, 2-5) kept things close in the first half, its 21 points more than it had put up in any of its previous five games. However, the Cavaliers were shut out the final 30 minutes and lost their fifth straight.

It's Clemson first visit to the title game after years of near misses. In 2006, Clemson lost four of its last five after starting 7-1 to fall from contention. A year after that, the Tigers were beaten by Boston College, 20-17, in a division showdown.

This time, Spiller got to hold his hand up in triumph as he jogged off the field to the adoring calls at Death Valley.

Fans spilled onto the field as the game ended and the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to coach Dabo Swinney, who turned 40 on Friday.

Swinney had banned the Boston College game from the team's locker room area and told managers to keep news of the contest away from the players.

It turned out to be quite a profitable day for Swinney. Reaching the ACC title game kicked in a contractual bonus that will raise Swinney's salary from the league bottom at $800,000 to the median of all ACC coaches - around $1.8 million annually.

Spiller had been on a Heisman-type tear in Clemson's win streak, posting record-setting performances of 310 and 312 all-purpose yards in victories over Miami and Florida State.

But Virginia had Spiller's number - again. After allowing him just 18 yards rushing a season ago, the Cavaliers never let Spiller break free for one of his highlight reel romps. He finished with 58 yards rushing and 114 all-purpose.

No. 21 Miami 34, Duke 16: Jacory Harris threw for 348 yards and two touchdowns, Darryl Sharpton capped his final home game with a 73-yard interception return for a score, and the Hurricanes staved off a Blue Devils challenge for the fourth straight year.

Damien Berry's 2-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter opened the floodgates for Miami (8-3, 5-3 ACC). Leonard Hankerson had career bests of eight catches and 143 yards - including a 44-yard score - for the Hurricanes, who scored the final 24 points to keep hope alive for their first 10-win season since 2003.

Thaddeus Lewis finished 20 of 37 for 303 yards for Duke (5-6, 3-4), taking over the school's all-time lead in passing yardage with 9,678. Donovan Varner caught eight passes for a career-high 165 yards and a touchdown for the Blue Devils, who have now lost 55 straight away from home against ranked opponents, dating to October 1971.

Duke took a 16-10 lead on Will Snyderwine's third field goal of the game, a 26-yarder early in the third quarter.

After that, it was all Miami.

Duke was eliminated from bowl contention. The Blue Devils were seeking their first postseason appearance since 1994.

No. 16 Virginia Tech 38, North Carolina State 10: Ryan Williams ran for 120 yards and four touchdowns and helped make sure the Hokies would send their 21 seniors out of Lane Stadium with a win one last time as they defeated the Wolfpack.

The Hokies (8-3, 5-2 ACC) also got a career-best day from wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, who caught six passes for 164 yards and a touchdown, and from linebacker Cody Grimm, who forced two fumbles in his final home game.

N.C. State (4-7, 1-6) lost its second straight and for the sixth time in seven games. The Wolfpack allowed at least 30 points for the eighth game in a row, and struggled on offense, turning the ball over four times and allowing five sacks of Russell Wilson.

The victory was Virginia Tech's third in a row, keeping them on pace for a sixth consecutive 10-win season provided they also win at Virginia next Saturday and then in a bowl game.

Williams, who carried 32 times, came up with the play of the day in the third quarter. On a second-and-6 from the N.C. State 19, he went around the left side and was grabbed from behind by safety Earl Wolff at about the 12. Wolff seemed to maintain a hold on Williams' jersey the rest of the way, but the tailback dragged him all the way into the end zone.

North Carolina 31, Boston College 13: Cam Thomas and Kendric Burney each had defensive touchdowns as the visiting Tar Heels scored three times in a span of 2 minutes, 19 seconds to open a 21-point lead and hold on to beat the Eagles.

North Carolina (8-3, 4-3 ACC) forced six turnovers to win its fourth consecutive game.

Deunta Williams had three interceptions, returning one 39 yards to the BC 6-inch-line with 4:42 left in the game. Ryan Houston ran it in from there for his second touchdown of the game to make it 28-13.

Boston College (7-4, 4-3) had an outside shot at winning the ACC division title, but that disappeared with a flurry of first-quarter turnovers by quarterback Dave Shinskie that helped spot the Tar Heels to a 21-0 lead. The Eagles would have needed to win their last two games and hope Clemson lost to Virginia, which is in last place in the ACC Coastal Division.

Shinskie fumbled away one ball that Thomas returned 20 yards for a touchdown and then, two plays later, threw an interception that Burney ran in from 30 yards out. Shinskie had four interceptions in all; he also fumbled twice more when BC recovered, and another interception was negated by a pass interference call.

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