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No. 2 Clemson Knocks Off No. 3 Notre Dame in CFP Semifinal Cotton Bowl 

ARLINGTON, Texas – The No. 2 Clemson football team advanced to its third College Football Playoff National Championship in four years by defeating the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 30-3, on Saturday afternoon in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium. With the win, Clemson remained undefeated at 13-0 overall, while Notre Dame concluded its season at 12-1. 

Trevor Lawrence completed 27 of 39 pass attempts for 327 yards and three touchdowns, including 19 of 26 for 264 yards and a pair of touchdown passes to Justyn Ross in the first half alone. Travis Etienne ran for 109 yards on 14 carries, including a 62-yard touchdown run that pushed him past Wayne Gallman’s 2015 mark for the most rushing yards in a single season. Austin Bryant’s two sacks and six total tackles were one of the main sparks of a defensive effort that only allowed three points to a Notre Dame team averaging over 33 per game this season. 

Both defenses proved stout in the first quarter, as Notre Dame held Clemson to a Greg Huegel 40-yard field goal set up by a Clelin Ferrell-forced fumble with eight and a half minutes remaining in the quarter, and the Tigers, in turn, only gave up an Irish 28-yard field goal four minutes later to leave the score knotted at 3-3 after the first 15 minutes. That Justin Yoon field goal proved to be the only scoring that the Clemson defense allowed to the Irish all game.

The Tigers first found the endzone on a 52-yard scoring connection from Lawrence to Ross that put Clemson at a 9-3 advantage with just over two minutes gone in the second quarter. Ross went on to bookend the quarter with scores, as he hauled in a 42-yard pass from Lawrence for his second touchdown of the day 11 minutes later. Tee Higgins then sealed the quarter with an acrobatic 19-yard touchdown reception that gave Clemson a 23-3 lead at the half.

The first score of the third quarter, and what would ultimately be the final score of the game, came with two minutes remaining in the quarter, when Etienne broke away for the 62-yard touchdown rush that was set up by a Nolan Turner interception three plays earlier. A scoreless fourth quarter left the final score at 30-3.

Clemson will play next in the College Football Playoff National Championship at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. on Monday, Jan. 7 against the winner of tonight’s Capital One Orange Bowl between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma. Fans wishing to secure official Clemson travel packages are encouraged to act now by visiting ClemsonSportsTravel.com to book their trips while availability lasts. Fans are also encouraged to visit the Clemson Tigers Store to get official College Football Playoff merchandise.

Elaine DayClemson Athletic CommunicationsGraduate Assistant || Men’s Soccer, RowingP: (919) 389-1147@elaine_day
CU181229.HTM

ND vs CU (Dec 29, 2018)

Scoring Summary Team Statistics Individual Statistics Drive Chart Defensive Statistics Game Participation Box Score Play-by-Play Play breakdown

  Scoring Summary  

Scoring Summary (Final)
83rd Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
#3 ND vs #2 CU (Dec 29, 2018 at Arlington, Texas)

ND (13-1) vs. CU (13-0)

Date: Dec 29, 2018 • Site: Arlington, Texas  • Stadium: AT&T Stadium  •  Attendance: 72183

Score by Quarters Score 
ND  3 
CU  20 30 
SCORING SUMMARY  ND -CU  
1st 08:35 CU  Greg Huegel 40 yd field goal 
      9 plays, 31 yards, TOP 3:15 0 – 3 
 04:31 ND  YOON, Justin 28 yd field goal 
      10 plays, 66 yards, TOP 4:04 3 – 3 
2nd 12:50 CU  Justyn Ross 52 yd pass from Trevor Lawrence (Greg Huegel kick blockd) 
      3 plays, 65 yards, TOP 1:04 3 – 9 
 01:44 CU  Justyn Ross 42 yd pass from Trevor Lawrence (Greg Huegel kick) 
      8 plays, 85 yards, TOP 3:12 3 – 16 
 00:02 CU  Tee Higgins 19 yd pass from Trevor Lawrence (Greg Huegel kick) 
      4 plays, 80 yards, TOP 0:46 3 – 23 
3rd 02:04 CU  Travis Etienne 62 yd run (Greg Huegel kick) 
      3 plays, 71 yards, TOP 1:01 3 – 30 
Kickoff time: 3:11 pm  • End of Game: 6:42 pm  • Total elapsed time: 3:31
Referee: Matt Austin  •  Umpire: Russ Pulley  •  Linesman: Johnny Crawford •  Line judge: Michael Taylor  •  Back judge: Grantis Bell  •  Field judge: J. Taylor  •  Side judge: Rob Skelton  •  Center judge: Lee Hedrick  • 
Temperature: 72  • Wind:  • Weather: indoors

  Team Statistics  

Team Statistics (Final)
83rd Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
#3 ND vs #2 CU (Dec 29, 2018 at Arlington, Texas)

 Team Totals ND CU 
FIRST DOWNS 17 26 
   Rushing 
   Passing 15 
   Penalty 
NET YARDS RUSHING 88 211 
   Rushing Attempts 35 37 
   Average Per Rush 2.5 5.7 
   Rushing Touchdowns 
   Yards Gained Rushing 127 236 
   Yards Lost Rushing 39 25 
NET YARDS PASSING 160 327 
   Completions-Attempts-Int 17-34-1 27-41-0 
   Average Per Attempt 4.7 8.0 
   Average Per Completion 9.4 12.1 
   Passing Touchdowns 
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS 248 538 
   Total offense plays 69 78 
   Average Gain Per Play 3.6 6.9 
Fumbles: Number-Lost 2-1 2-1 
Penalties: Number-Yards 7-50 6-65 
PUNTS-YARDS 8-367 5-199 
   Average Yards Per Punt 45.9 39.8 
   Net Yards Per Punt 39.6 39.6 
   Inside 20 
   50+ Yards 
   Touchbacks 
   Fair catch 
KICKOFFS-YARDS 2-130 6-356 
   Average Yards Per Kickoff 65.0 59.3 
   Net Yards Per Kickoff 46.0 38.5 
   Touchbacks 
   Fair Catch Yards 
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD 1-1-0 2-10-0 
   Average Per Return 1.0 5.0 
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD 0-0-0 1-13-0 
   Average Per Return 0.0 13.0 
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD 0-0-0 1-24-0 
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD 1-4-0 0-0-0 
Miscellaneous Yards 
Possession Time 27:06 32:54 
   1st Quarter  8:22  6:38 
   2nd Quarter  5:25  9:35 
   3rd Quarter  9:29  5:31 
   4th Quarter  3:50 11:10 
Third-Down Conversions 5 of 17 9 of 18 
Fourth-Down Conversions 1 of 2 1 of 1 
Red-Zone Scores-Chances 1-1 1-3 
   Touchdowns 0-1 1-3 
   Field goals 1-1 0-3 
Sacks By: Number-Yards 3-19 6-26 
PAT Kicks 0-0 3-4 
Field Goals 1-1 1-2 
Points off turnovers 10 

12/29: Quick Reaction: Clemson Clobbers ND in Cotton Bowl 30-3

Dallas, TX – The phrase “a game of two halves” is commonly said, but the Cotton Bowl was a game of two quarters. 

The first quarter was a defensive slugfest – neither team could take control despite the numerous opportunities. Clelin Ferrell’s early tackle, forced fumble, and fumble recovery of Ian Book near midfield was the first big play of the game. 

Clemson scored three points off the turnover (40-yd Huegel field goal), and Notre Dame responded by marching to the nine-yard line before settling for a 28-yard Justin Yoon field goal. 

Derion Kendrick returned Yoon’s subsequent kickoff to the fifteen-yard line, where he fumbled the ball. The original ruling was that Notre Dame recovered the ball, but the booth and the big screen in “Jerry’s World” overturned the call and stated that the fumble was out of bounds before Notre Dame recovered the football. 

The call was made by the thinnest of margins – no one knows if it was indisputably out of bounds or not. It was the first in a series of lucky events for the Tigers. Notre Dame suffered various injuries on defense, 

With star cornerback Julian Love absent, Lawrence threw a 52-yard sideline touchdown to fellow freshman Justyn Ross early in the second quarter. The extra point was blocked, and the score was an easily surmountable 9-3 lead for Clemson. When the Tigers next drive ended in a missed 49-yard field goal by Greg Huegel, questions still lingered. 

Clemson’s defense held on long enough to let the offense gain momentum, or Notre Dame buckled under the weight of injuries. Either way you spin it, Trevor Lawrence took control of the game, erased the questions, and never looked back. 

Notre Dame was exposed in the middle of the field by Lawrence’s second touchdown throw to Ross – a 42-yard throw to put Clemson up 16-3 with less than two minutes in the half.

Despite the star power of Lawrence and the passing attack, the ferocious Tiger defense kept Notre Dame in check throughout the first half. For one last time, they stymied the Irish’s scoring hopes and gave Clemson 48 seconds to score. 

When Renfrow’s 32-yard catch had a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty attached to it, the Tigers took their final time-out. They had nineteen yards and nine seconds to work with. 

Tee Higgins dropped a wide open touchdown pass earlier in the game, but he redeemed himself with an incredible catch of a spinning tipped ball in the back of the end zone. 

What was a 9-3 lead with 4:56 left in the first half was now a 23-3 lead entering halftime. Originally a slugfest, the Cotton Bowl was close to becoming a blowout. 

The third quarter was similar to the first – the main difference was the scoreboard. 

The first four drives of the half were fruitless, as Clemson couldn’t extend their lead and Ian Book couldn’t put the offense on his shoulders and come back from the deficit. 

As Notre Dame neared the red zone, Ian Book’s third-and-22 pass was snatched by Nolan Turner, with the sideline erupting for the lightly recruited safety. Three plays later, Etienne broke Wayne Gallman’s Clemson single-season rushing record with a 62-yard rushing touchdown to give Clemson a 30-3 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter.

In an odd and controversial occurance on the last play of the third quarter, Isaiah Simmons’ strip and scoop for a touchdown was ruled ineligible for review because it was labeled forward progress. While the outcome of the game was virtually decided, it was an interesting sequence of events that elicited cheers and boos throughout the stadium.

The fourth quarter was mostly uneventful as the Tigers finished the last fifteen minutes of football to ensure that they would play in the national championship for the third time in four years. 

12/29: Cotton Bowl Halftime Report

Score: Clemson 23 Notre Dame 3

Key Events:

Derion Kendrick’s kickoff return was initially ruled a fumble inside the ten, but it was overturned by a sliver (out of bounds) and thus Notre Dame lost a chance to make a 3-3 tie a 10-3 lead.

The game was a defensive slugfest until Julian Love left the game with an injury – Trevor Lawrence took advantage of his absence and threw a 52-yard touchdown to Justyn Ross, the first of three first-half touchdown throws. Clemson’s last touchdown with two seconds remaining may have been the dagger for the Irish.

Positives:

Trevor Lawrence has moved within the pocket well, evading defenders multiple times to fire off a pass. Justyn Ross has played exceptionally well as his current favorite target, with five catches, 137 yards, and two scores at the half.

Clemson’s defense held on while Clemson’s offense established a rhythm and built a lead – now the Tigers can play with their ears pinned back and even more aggressively.

Areas for Improvement:

Clemson’s pass protection is not doing Trevor Lawrence any favors. Despite his two scoring touchdowns, he has taken major hits that could impact his play in the second half.

The Tigers have made several poor plays on special teams: a barely overturned fumble on a kickoff return, a missed 49-yard field goal, a blocked extra point, and a punting average of 38 yards per punt make for a discouraging special teams performance.

What to Watch:

Clemson’s last touchdown with two seconds left in the half gave the Tigers a major boost into halftime. If Notre Dame wants to close the 20-point lead, they will need to have Julian Love and others healthy, and gain offensive momentum fast.

12/27: Cotton Bowl Preview

Unless Oklahoma wins the national championship, an undefeated team will win the national championship for the first time in the CFP’s five-year history. Furthermore, if Clemson or Alabama wins the champion will be the first 15-0 FBS National Champion. Two of the three undefeated teams will face off in the infamous stadium known as “Jerry’s World” as the Cotton Bowl hosts Clemson and Notre Dame. 

Each team has faced adversity throughout the year, but this will be each team’s toughest test. Notre Dame has the signature win against a highly ranked opponent that Clemson does not have – a 24-17 win against Michigan in the season opener. On the other hand, Clemson played an extra game when they defeated Pittsburgh in the ACC Championship game.

To get the elephant out of the way – it is unlikely that Dexter Lawrence, Braden Galloway, or Zach Giella will play in the Cotton Bowl. Coach Swinney expressed his support for the trio as they tested positive for trace amounts of a banned substance likely found in dietary supplements (unmarked). Losing junior draft prospect Dexter Lawrence will hurt Clemson significantly in the Cotton Bowl, while losing current role players Giella and Galloway will hurt in 2019 as they will likely face a one-year suspension. While the suspensions are unfortunate, Clemson has depth at the defensive tackle position to handle the loss of Lawrence.

Both teams changed quarterbacks midstream from more run-centric players to more pass-centric players and subsequently transformed their offenses into complete threats. Both of senior quarterbacks lead their teams to signature wins (Notre Dame vs Michigan, Clemson at Texas A&M). Notre Dame’s junior Ian Book replaced Brandon Wimbush while Clemson’s true freshman Trevor Lawrence replaced Kelly Bryant. 

Notre Dame runs the ball slightly more than Clemson, and they tend to rely on one running back. Dexter Williams is Notre Dame’s starting running back, and he has averaged almost eighteen attempts per game in his eight games. Clemson utilizes more running backs than Notre Dame, as Etienne only carries the ball 13.5 times per game. 

 In the passing game, both teams are formidable but the storyline is flipped. Clemson passes more than Notre Dame and uses more receivers (eight WRs with ten or more catches), whereas Notre Dame relies on their three main wide receivers more often. What Notre Dame has that Clemson lacks is a true threat from the tight end in the passing game – Alize Mack has 34 catches on the year, which is almost double the seventeen catches Clemson’s tight ends have combined in 2018.

While both defensive and offensive lines for both teams are quality, Clemson holds the advantage in the trenches. Clemson’s incredibly deep defensive line will cause problems for any offensive line, especially one that is good but not elite like Notre Dame’s. 

The Irish have an excellent passing defense, but in order to take advantage of it they will have to make Trevor Lawrence uncomfortable in the pocket (see the first half of the Boston College game). While the Irish have two excellent defensive ends in Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem, it takes more than two linemen to generate a pass rush for sixty minutes. 

Notre Dame’s back seven is among the best in the nation, with Julian Love as an elite corner and Jerry Tillery as an elite linebacker. Their linebackers are capable of containing Clemson’s run game, and their secondary is a big reason why they boast an elite passing defense. This will be the Tigers’ toughest test on defense, as there is no weak link to exploit.

The pundits and bookies think that Clemson should win this game easily, and on paper it looks as if they should. Championship football is usually close though, and in that case special teams plays a vital role. The Tigers have been up and down on special teams this year, and they need an elite performance on special teams to win if the game is close.  

Oddshark’s projected score is Clemson 45.8 – Notre Dame 31, and Clemson is favored by 12.5 points. The over/under is 56.5, and sixty percent of the bets have been placed on the over. 

Prediction: Clemson 31 Notre Dame 17

Tigers Turn Up the Intensity in Wednesday Workout

ARLINGTON, Texas – Clemson went through its customary Working Man Wednesday practice with a lively, two-plus hour workout at AT&T Stadium.

The severe weather outside did not squelch the Tigers’ intensity inside on the turf as the team went through its most physical practice of the week.

“You can tell the guys are getting eager to play,” said head coach Dabo Swinney. “Today was our last day of good on good. We cranked the music up and created some noise. I thought the guys were very focused and into it.”

With the matchup against the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-0) just three days away, Swinney said he is pleased in how his second-seeded Tigers have gone about their business in a workmanlike way to be in the proper physical and mental mindset for success on Saturday.

“We’re very fortunate that we have a defense to practice against like we do. And then our defense has an offense to practice against because it’s hard to simulate what you’re going to see on game day,” added Swinney. “But for us, we can do that. So it was a very intense day from that standpoint. We got done what we needed to do.”

A couple of former Dallas Cowboys standouts were on hand for Clemson’s third practice in North Texas. Charlie Waters, a three-time letterwinner for the Tigers, played all 12 of his NFL seasons with the Cowboys. George Teague, a college teammate of Swinney at Alabama, played five of his nine NFL seasons for Dallas.

After practice, the team is set to enjoy some NBA action between the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans at American Airlines Center. Thursday, Clemson is back at practice in the afternoon following a visit to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital.

The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic celebrates its 83rd anniversary on Saturday, Dec. 29. Live coverage on ESPN is set for 3 p.m. CST, with kickoff slated for 3:10 p.m.

This marks the fifth consecutive year for the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic to be a part of the ESPN bowl lineup. Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge are set to provide the call from the booth with Holly Rowe and Tom Rinaldi reporting from the sidelines.

ESPN Radio returns as the Classic’s national radio partner for the seventh consecutive year. Bill Rosinski teams with David Norrie in the booth and Ian Fitzsimmons on the sidelines to describe all the action from AT&T Stadium.

Clemson Celebrates the Holiday with Family, Football

ARLINGTON, Texas – Clemson enjoyed the holiday with a day mixed with Christmas cheer and spirited work on the practice field as the Tigers went through a second full day of preparation for the 83rd Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

The day began with a festive brunch at the team’s headquarters hotel complete with an appearance by Santa Claus, performances by the coaches and their families and the musical stylings of several student-athletes capped off by head coach Dabo Swinney singing a rousing rendition of Silent Night.

“For the great majority of the team, this is the first time they’ve ever been away from home for Christmas,” said Swinney. “It’s a different experience so we just tried to embrace it and enjoy this family, the Clemson family. It was a lot of fun. All the guys got into it.”

The Tigers (13-0, 8-0 ACC) kept the holiday vibes going for their afternoon practice at AT&T Stadium, opening with some Christmas music over the sound system before going to work in full pads for a two-plus hour workout. Swinney said he was pleased with his squad’s attention to detail for their customary TANOGA (Takeaways No Giveaways) Tuesday practice.

“If I walked in on a Tuesday and didn’t talk about ball security, they’d all look at me like I’m crazy,” said Swinney. “It’s a big part of the game. It creates field position for you or against you. So we pride ourselves that we are plus in the turnover margin this year. I know that will be a big part of the game Saturday night.”

Clemson returned to its hotel after practice for another Cotton Bowl Classic tradition. The team will gather for their Sign and Dine event, a private meal where the players receive autograph footballs to have their teammates and coaches sign to create personalized keepsakes from their bowl experience.

On Wednesday, the Tigers are back on the practice field in the afternoon following selected coaches and student-athletes participating in a College Football Playoff media availability in the morning.

The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic celebrates its 83rd anniversary on Saturday, Dec. 29. Live coverage on ESPN is set for 3 p.m. CST, with kickoff slated for 3:10 p.m.

This marks the fifth consecutive year for the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic to be a part of the ESPN bowl lineup. Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge are set to provide the call from the booth with Holly Rowe and Tom Rinaldi reporting from the sidelines.

ESPN Radio returns as the Classic’s national radio partner for the seventh consecutive year. Bill Rosinski teams with David Norrie in the booth and Ian Fitzsimmons on the sidelines to describe all the action from AT&T Stadium.

Clemson Arrival Quotes

Clemson players and head coach Dabo Swinney take part in a press conference at AT&T Stadium on December 24, 2018, one of the events leading up to the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. The Clemson Tigers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish will face off on December 29, 2018. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

Coach, the Tigers arrived last night. We noticed a lot of your student‑athletes are wearing cowboy hats. Looks like they’re getting into that spirit of Texas.

COACH SWINNEY: We’re excited to be here. We really are. It was a long day yesterday. But we actually got everybody back, had a little practice at Clemson, some meetings. And then had a great trip out. And guys were in great spirits. I think all the specialists wore their Christmas suits. And we had several guys wear their hats. And it was pretty fitting because, last night, they were able to ‑‑ I think all the staff ended up getting boots.

So we’re happy to be here. It’s an amazing hotel that we’re staying at. And just all the Cotton Bowl folks. This is a bowl I’ve always wanted to be a part of for a long time. So to actually have the opportunity to experience it firsthand and for our players to get such a wonderful experience ‑‑ these guys have been in Orange Bowls, Fiesta Bowls, Sugar Bowls, national championships. They’ve had some amazing experiences. And these two, in particular, because they’re both fifth‑year seniors, were also in the Russell Athletic Bowl. So they’ve had some great experiences, but this going to be amazing.

I mean, just this press conference. Usually, we show up to practice and we just gather up outside a fence or something, but everything is bigger in Texas, I guess. So here we go. We’re excited. I can’t wait to get out on the field and check this place out.

MODERATOR: Coach, if you would, please introduce your two student‑athletes and tell us a little bit about them.

COACH SWINNEY: We’ve got Kendall Joseph. This is our starting middle linebacker, number 34. He’s an unbelievable leader for us. He’s a captain of our football team. He’s a fifth‑year senior, and has been a three‑year starter, a very, very talented and dynamic young man. He’s a graduate. Hopefully, he’ll have opportunity to play some ball in the NFL, but he’s got a really, really nice job waiting on him if he chooses to do that. He’s from Belton, BHP High School, in South Carolina. And, again, just a great leader and has been a very productive player.

And then Hunter Renfrow ‑‑ yep, that’s Hunter Renfrow, for those of you who don’t know him. He’s a fifth‑year receiver as well. He’s from down in Myrtle Beach, Socastee area, in South Carolina.  Same thing, a graduate. He’s a captain, just an amazing young man, both from great families, and one of the most productive receivers we’ve ever had at Clemson.  He’s got the most starts ever for a receiver, the most catches consecutively in the history of Clemson, just a very productive football player.

And, again, two great leaders and representatives of our program.

Q. Hunter, how much more dynamic do you think this offense is this year compared to a year ago when you guys were entered in the semifinal?

WR HUNTER RENFROW: Yeah, just a little different, a little more experience, I would say. We still have Justin [Mascoll] outside that’s a freshman, and a few more freshman pieces. But I would say, just the experience we have and just being on that team last year and not finishing the way we wanted to, I think it’s definitely going to help us as we finish, hopefully well, this year.

Q. When you went through the quarterback switch, what was that like? And what has Trevor [Lawrence] brought to the offense as a freshman? And does he play like a freshman now, or could you describe him to us?

WR HUNTER RENFROW: That quarterback switch seemed like three years ago. I mean, it seems like so much time has passed. But I would say that, yeah, I mean, Trevor has had 13 games under his belt. And so he’s a freshman, I guess, still, but he plays like a sophomore.

He’s had a whole year under his belt. And he’s really just gotten better every week. And that’s the thing I would say about Trevor is, every week, he’s come and he’s gotten better. And just seeing his preparation from week to week. I got to spend some time with him in the quarterback room. And so just seeing from the third week to the fourth week to the fifth week, just how he slowed everything down, how he was able to process everything and really just command the attention of the team.

I think, after Kelly [Bryant] left, it was just a big improvement from that standpoint, Trevor kind of getting all the guys together and leading the charge.

Q. Dabo, is everybody on the roster here present and accounted for academically, eligible otherwise?

COACH SWINNEY: Yes, everybody is here. We’ve got ‑‑ we do have an issue that we’re dealing with. And, you know, I think that the best thing is to just be transparent in that. This time of year, they obviously do ‑‑ I mean, we test all year long. But, on Thursday, Dan Radakovich was notified by the NCAA we had three guys that, you know, had a ‑‑ there was an issue with their drug testing. And so been dealing with that since Thursday.

And just ‑‑ I think that the biggest thing is to make sure that, you know, everybody understands. Because I’ve had guys fail drug tests before. And, usually, when you say a guy fails a drug test, people write their own stories. And they have their own innuendoes and their own narratives, and those type of things. And, a lot of times, those things are accurate.

But, in this case, I think it’s important, very important, that the message is accurate and that the truth is told because these are three great young men, three great young men, that I believe in and that I know, without a doubt, have not intentionally done anything to jeopardize their opportunity or this team. And I want to make that real clear before I even give you their names, because I know that’s the story.

But the letter that came from the NCAA said that these three young men had a slither, a trace of some substance called Ostarine. I have no idea what Ostarine is, O‑s‑t‑a‑r‑i‑n‑e. But I have become almost an expert in it in the last three days. There’s plenty of stuff y’all can look at. But I would be willing to bet that there’s a likelihood that, if they tested all of us right now, we might all ‑‑ or some of us have something in our system that we have no idea how it got there ‑‑ a slither, a trace, a fraction.  All right?

This particular substance can come from anything. And these three players have no clue ‑‑ in fact, they thought it was a joke when I called them. They have no clue how this has gotten in their system. It could come from hair products. It could come from a cream. It could come from protein. It could come from a product that you order or buy online that you think there’s nothing wrong with it. It could be anything.  Literally, it could be a drink ‑‑ something in a drink. It literally could be anything, as I have come to learn.

And, in fact, I think there’s been 40 or so athletes over the past year or so that have had to deal with this same exact thing. And several have later come back to be vindicated. They had no idea. Then they found out where it came from.

So that’s what we’re in the process of doing. We’re trying ‑‑ we’re going to do everything we can to figure out if it is in the system. Heck, I don’t know. I mean, who’s to say that it is there? I mean, that’s what we’re being told, but there’s ‑‑ they all will have legal representation, and there will be a process to go through to find out.

But where we are right now is we got the three letters. And they have the ‑‑ this trace. And so the next step is there’s a B sample. And the B sample, they will test that. And we probably won’t know until Wednesday or Thursday on that. So we’re just kind of at the mercy of the process. And then there’s an appeal after that, but that doesn’t really help with this game. Maybe it helps for next week or, you know, next year, whatever. But that’s what we’re dealing with right now.

But I want to be very clear that these guys, this is not street drugs. This is nothing like that. But the players are Braden Galloway, Zach Giella, and Dexter Lawrence.

Obviously, Dexter is a starter and a very, very significant player on our team. Even though Zach hasn’t played as much and Braden is a freshman, they’re still missing out on an opportunity that they have worked extremely hard for.

And, again, I don’t know how ‑‑ if it even is in their system, how it got there. But I do know that these three young men have not intentionally done anything. And there’s, again, plenty of precedent where the same thing has happened across the country with other people. So, you know, there’s a process in place. And we’ll work through that.

But, from a team standpoint, we have to get our team ready to play football. We got to get our team ready to play our best four quarters of the season. That’s our goal. So we have to prepare as if it’s an injury and get the next guy ready. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do. So that’s ‑‑ I think it’s just best, again, to be transparent and honest. Because I don’t want there to be any speculation at all on what we’re dealing with.

That’s exactly what we’re dealing with. And I don’t really know what else I can say about it other than I love all three of these guys. They’re three special young people. And, again, I know they’ve not intentionally done anything. And, again, this is a hair of a trace of whatever this substance is.

And so we’ll deal with it accordingly, hope for the best, hope that the B sample will come back and they’ll be cleared to play.  But, if not, we treat it as an injury. We’ve got to get ready to move forward. And our goal has not changed, just to play the best four quarters of the season.

Q. Just to be clear so we understand that, are you expecting to get some clarity on the B sample before the Cotton Bowl?

COACH SWINNEY: Yes. Probably Wednesday or Thursday.

Q. And then I know it’s something you’ve discussed about at length during the course of the season. I don’t want to belabor it. But both teams made quarterback switches, and both teams made the Playoffs. In your case, you had a veteran starter coming back. How difficult was that decision, and what were the factors that played into it, in your mind?

COACH SWINNEY: Yeah, it was a very difficult decision, for sure, because, you know, you’ve got a guy that has won for you and all that. But, at the same time, you know, your team changes every year. And, at the end of the day, my job is to play the best guys.

After four games, we felt like Trevor [Lawrence] deserved the opportunity to start the next game. I didn’t know where it would go from there, but our quarterback decided that he wanted to move on. And so that changed the dynamics for our team.

But, really, just performance, really nothing more than that. Just how he had played after four games. And, in particular, the game at Georgia Tech that we had just witnessed because it was close going into the season. And then, after four games, we just felt like that he deserved the opportunity to run out there first. And it’s not that Kelly [Bryant] would not have played. He would have definitely played and may have ended up going back. Who knows? But that’s just where we were at that time. And so really nothing more than that went into the decision.

Q. Coach, Charlie Waters played at Clemson and played here and also played for Coach [Gene] Stallings here. And he said that you remind him a lot of Coach Stallings. Giving admiration for Coach Stallings, what does it mean to hear someone say that about you?

COACH SWINNEY: Well, that’s kind of surreal for me to just even hear you say that because, in my seven years with Coach Stallings ‑‑ and y’all have heard me tell Stallings stories a lot.

His favorite all‑time player was Charlie Waters. He used to talk about Charlie Waters all the time. I didn’t have a clue who ‑‑ I mean, I knew Charlie Waters when he was a Cowboy, but I didn’t know much more about Charlie Waters than that other than Coach Stallings every year would talk about Charlie Waters.

“Brother, hey, he couldn’t run, he couldn’t do ‑‑ I tried to cut him every year, but we couldn’t cut Charlie Waters because he was smarter than everybody else, he played faster than everybody else, he saw it, he anticipated.” And he would brag on Charlie Waters and his knowledge as a player.

I didn’t know until I got to Clemson that Charlie Waters came from Clemson. So, really, kind of neat. And I’ve had a chance to meet him once or twice. So really special. That’s another great thing for me personally that we’re here in Dallas is I know Coach Stallings will be able to come and be at the game and, hopefully, maybe can make it to practice. He’s just down the road there in Paris. So that’s kind of neat, too. Coach Stallings’ grandson is with us. And it was actually in the Cotton Bowl that Coach Stallings, his Texas A&M team, beat Alabama and Coach [Bear] Bryant early in his career. So it’s pretty neat to be in this bowl.        

— College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic —

Head Coach Dabo Swinney’s comments on today’s news regarding TE Braden Galloway, OL Zach Giella and DL Dexter Lawrence

“We do have an issue that we’re dealing with. And, you know, I think that the best thing is to just be transparent in that. This time of year, they obviously do — I mean, we test all year long. But, on Thursday, Dan Radakovich was notified by the NCAA we had three guys that, you know, had a — there was an issue with their drug testing. And so been dealing with that since Thursday.

And just — I think that the biggest thing is to make sure that, you know, everybody understands. Because I’ve had guys fail drug tests before. And, usually, when you say a guy fails a drug test, people write their own stories. And they have their own innuendoes and their own narratives, and those type of things. And, a lot of times, those things are accurate.

But, in this case, I think it’s important, very important, that the message is accurate and that the truth is told because these are three great young men, three great young men, that I believe in and that I know, without a doubt, have not intentionally done anything to jeopardize their opportunity or this team. And I want to make that real clear before I even give you their names, because I know that’s the story.

But the letter that came from the NCAA said that these three young men had a

, a trace of some substance called Ostarine. I have no idea what Ostarine is. O-s-t-a-r-i-n-e. But I have become almost an expert in it in the last three days. There’s plenty of stuff y’all can look at. But I would be willing to bet that there’s a likelihood that, if they tested all of us right now, we might all    or some of us have something in our system that we have no idea how it got there — a slither, a trace, a fraction. All right?

This particular substance can come from anything. And these three players have no clue — in fact, they thought it was a joke when I called them. They have no clue how this has gotten in their system. It could come from hair products. It could come from a cream. It could come from protein. It could come from a product that you order or buy online that you think there’s nothing wrong with it. It could be anything. Literally, it could be a drink — something in a drink. It literally could be anything, as I have come to learn.

And, in fact, I think there’s been 40 or so athletes over the past year or so that have had to deal with this same exact thing. And several have later come back to be vindicated. They had no idea. Then they found out where it came from.

So that’s what we’re in the process of doing. We’re trying — we’re going to do everything we can to figure out if it is in the system. Heck, I don’t know. I mean, who’s to say that it is there? I mean, that’s what we’re being told, but there’s — they all will have legal representation, and there will be a process to go through to find out.

But where we are right now is we got the three letters. And they have the — this trace. And so the next step is there’s a B sample. And the B sample, they will test that. And we probably won’t know until Wednesday or Thursday on that. So we’re just kind of at the mercy of the process. And then there’s an appeal after that, but that doesn’t really help with this game. Maybe it helps for next week or, you know, next year, whatever. But that’s what we’re dealing with right now.

But I want to be very clear that these guys, this is not street drugs. This is nothing like that. But the players are Braden Galloway, Zach Giella, and Dexter Lawrence.

Obviously, Dexter is a starter and a very, very significant player on our team. Even though Zach hasn’t played as much and Braden is a freshman, they’re still missing out on an opportunity that they have worked extremely hard for.

And, again, I don’t know how — if it even is in their system — how it got there. But I do know that these three young men have not intentionally done anything. And there’s, again, plenty of precedent where the same thing has happened across the country with other people. So, you know, there’s a process in place. And we’ll work through that.

But, from a team standpoint, we have to get our team ready to play football. We got to get our team ready to play our best four quarters of the season. That’s our goal. So we have to prepare as if it’s an injury and get the next guy ready. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do. So that’s — I think it’s just best, again, to be transparent and honest. Because I don’t want there to be any speculation at all on what we’re dealing with.

That’s exactly what we’re dealing with. And I don’t really know what else I can say about it other than I love all three of these guys. They’re three special young people. And, again, I know they’ve not intentionally done anything. And, again, this is a hair of a trace of whatever this substance is.

And so we’ll deal with it accordingly, hope for the best, hope that the B sample will come back and they’ll be cleared to play.  But, if not, we treat it as an injury. We’ve got to get ready to move forward. And our goal has not changed, just to play the best four quarters of the season.”

Fourteen Football Players Earn Degrees Thursday

CLEMSON, S.C. — Fourteen members of the College Football Playoff-bound Clemson football team earned degrees on Thursday, as 12 members of the squad were honored with undergraduate degrees at Littlejohn Coliseum, while an additional two student-athletes from the team received postgraduate degrees.

The full list of today’s graduates from the program is included below:

POSITION FIRST NAME LAST NAME DEGREE MAJOR
DE Austin Bryant BS Management
OL Gage Cervenka BS Criminal Justice
C Justin Falcinelli MBA Business Administration
DE Clelin Ferrell BA Sports Communication
OL Zach Giella BS Health Science
PK Greg Huegel BS Construction Science & Management
DT Albert Huggins BS Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management
OT Mitch Hyatt BS Economics
S Tanner Muse BS Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management
CB Cameron Scott BS Biological Sciences
TE Cannon Smith BA History
RB Ty Thomason BS Management
DT Christian Wilkins MS Athletic Leadership
TE Garrett Williams BS Economics

On Wednesday, the group was honored at a celebration brunch hosted by Nieri Family Student-Athlete Enrichment Center staff in the West End Zone at Memorial Stadium. Head Coach Dabo Swinney was in attendance to place student-athlete stoles on each of the football players in attendance. Ferrell and Williams also received honor cords signifying their participation in the Tiger Leadership Academy.

Swinney’s second-ranked Tigers will enter the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic with 26 players who have already earned at least one degree, the most of any bowl-bound program this season. Baylor ranks second among bowl teams with 24, and Alabama, Mississippi State and Penn State are tied for third with 22 each.

In addition to Thursday’s graduates, additional graduates on Clemson’s current roster include Adam Choice, Kyle Cote, J.D. Davis, Judah Davis, Kendall Joseph, Chris Register, Hunter Renfrow, Milan Richard, Chad Smith, Alex Spence, Trevion Thompson and Jalen Williams.

Additional Notes: Clemson Football Adds 26 In Early Signing Period On Wednesday

Included below are additional notes on the 26 student-athletes signed by Clemson on Wednesday:

  • Clemson’s 26 future student-athletes announced on Wednesday represent 14 states, the most for a Clemson signing class since 1989, Danny Ford’s last class. That ties for the most different states in a class on record. The previous high for Clemson under Head Coach Dabo Swinney was 10 different states represented in the classes of 2016 and 2017.
  • Swinney has now signed student-athletes from 24 states in his Clemson career as a head coach. This year, he signed players from California, Michigan, Connecticut and Pennsylvania for the first time.
  • Since 1972, Clemson has signed student-athletes to football scholarships from 34 states and the District of Columbia.
  • This signing class includes six from the state of Florida, the most representatives from the Sunshine State since 2008 when a school-record nine Floridians came to Clemson. This marks just the fifth time Clemson has signed as many as six from Florida in the same signing class.
  • Clemson signed eight from the state of Georgia, the most from that state since 1998 when Tommy West’s last class featured nine players from Georgia. The record for signees from Georgia in a single class is 11 in 1985.
  • Wide receiver Joseph Ngata (Folsom, Calif.) will be first signee from the state of California to come to Clemson since 1991 when Bobby Forbes signed with the Tigers. In 1995, Dave Coggin signed with Clemson from Covina, Calif., but he never came to school, instead opting to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies, for whom he played three years. Coggin’s father was a 1965 Clemson graduate.
  • Linebacker Keith McGuire (Media, Pa.) is the first student-athlete from Pennsylvania to sign with Clemson since 1995 when current Clemson quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator Brandon Streeter signed with the Tigers out of Gettysburg.
  • Quarterback Taisun Phommachanh is the first resident of Connecticut to sign with the Tigers since 1996 when Jason Martinelli and Idris Price signed with West and the Clemson program. Current Clemson All-American Christian Wilkins played his high school football in Connecticut at Suffield, Conn., but lived in Springfield, Mass.
  • After not previously signing anyone from Louisiana in 13 years, Clemson has now had a signee from that state in two of the last three years (Travis Etienne in the Class of 2017, Bryton Constantin in the Class of 2019).
  • Defensive lineman Ruke Orhorhoro is the first Clemson signee to play his high school football in Michigan since 1975 (Joe Carolan).
  • Thirteen of Clemson’s 26 signees in this class are ranked among the nation to 300 by at least one of the five major recruiting services. The highest ranking for any of the signess is held by cornerback Andrew Booth, Jr., who is ranked eighth in the nation regardless of position by Rivals.com. Booth and Frank Ladson are ranked in the top 51 in the nation by all five services. Ngata is ranked in the top 50 in four of the five. Booth is the highest-ranked Clemson signee by ESPN.com (30th) and Tom Lemming (27), and Ladson is the highest-ranked by Prep Stars (22) and 247Sports (33)
  • As far as team rankings are concerned, as of midday on Dec. 19, Clemson ranked fifth by Rivals, sixth by 247Sports and seventh by ESPN.com. Final rankings will be announced in February after the second signing period.