ACC CHAMPIONSHIP : FIRST HALF RECAP
By Al Curtiss
So much for the rain slowing down Clemson, as Travis Etienne ripped off a 75-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead just 13-seconds into the game. The defense followed up by holding Pitt to negative 10 yards on their first possession.
After both teams traded punts, the Pitt offense imploded with 4 straight penalties, leading to a strip-sack and forced fumble that was returned 18 yards to the Pitt 3. Etienne scored immediately, leading him to tally 2 scores on two carries.
Up 14-0 and facing a 4th & 3 at the Pitt 19 yard line, Head Coach Dabo Sweeney decided to go for the jugular rather an kick the field goal. Pitt stopped them, breaking up a slant pass and then went on nice 9-play 62 yard drive that ended with a 37 yard field goal by Alex Kessman.
The first quarter ended with Clemson on top 14-3.
Pitt started the 2nd quarter moving the ball on the ground and through the air but the drive stalled just over the 50. A great punt by Pitt that was downed at the one put Clemson in an uncomfortable position.
On first down Entienne ran behind his pads for a 5-yard gain straight up the gut, but Pitt held the Tigers on the next two plays forcing a punt from the 6 yard line. Pitt took over at the Clemson 39 yard line, looking to get a touchdown.. and they did, as running back Quadree Ollison broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and went around right end for a 26 yard gain down to the Clemson 2 yard line. He then carried it over 2 plays later, making the score 14-10 in the 2nd quarter.
At this point in the game it is clear that Pitt has pulled the tiger’s tail and got their attention, the question now is this: Will it anger Clemson and have them put it on Pitt, or do the Panthers belief that they can go toe-to-toe with the Tigers?
Etienne provided the Tiger’s answer immediately, breaking tackles and scampering for 45 yards down to the Pitt 30 on the first play from scrimmage following the Pitt score. Clemson followed with 6 straight running plays that brought the ball to the Pitt 5 yard line, where Lawrence hit widout Tee Higgins on a back shoulder fade in the right corner of the end-zone to put the Tigers up 21-10.
The Pitt D held the Tigers again, and after a 63 yard punt Pitt took over the ball on their 20 with just over one minute left. Rather than being satisfied and going in down 21-10, Pitt got aggressive and it cost them when Clemson’s A.J. Terrell picked off a pass in the hook area and returned it to the Pitt 10 yard line with 30 seconds left in the half. On the first play Lawrence hit Higgins again on a slant to make the score 28-10 at half. It was the Tiger’s 3rd one-play scoring drive of the half.
One telling statistic from the first half, and the reason Pitt was hanging in the game was that the defense held Clemson to 2 of 7 on 3rd down conversions.