Vols win 89th Orange Bowl game with 31-14 victory over Clemson
Tennessee finishes the season, Josh Heupel’s 2nd on Rocky Top at 11-2.
Miami Gardens, FL. (WVLT) - It was quite the scene outside the home of the Miami Dolphins Friday afternoon. Tennessee fans turned it into Hard Rocky Top Stadium with a massive turnout inside the Tennessee Tailgate pregame party. Among those on hand was UT Chancellor Donde Plowman, who took a moment to talk with WVLT Sports Director Rick Russo.
Both teams completed their pregame warmups with the bands from both schools set to take the field prior to this 89th Orange Bowl game, which is started shortly after 8:00 p.m.
Clemson won the toss and deferred to the 2nd half giving Joe Milton III and the nation’s leading offense the first crack at it.
On UT’s first possession, freshman Squirrel White was targeted four times and caught three passes for 22 yards, the longest being 14 for a first down. That would be it though as the Vols were forced to punt.
On Clemson’s first possession, freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik would be sacked on 2nd down by UT linebacker Aaron Beasley, but then he’d complete a long pass on 3rd and 14. He’d complete another 3rd down pass.
On the next series of downs, the Tigers would be stopped and lined up to attempt a 44-yard field goal, but Dabo Swinney would call for a fake punt on 4th and 4. The Vols were ready, stopping the Clemson runner and the ball was turned over on downs.
On their second possession, the Vols would embark on an adventurous 12-play, 74 yard drive. Early on, Joe Milton would connect on a 15 yard pass play to Princeton Fant. Jabari Small would rip off a 9 yard first down. Milton would end up 4 for 4 on the drive which saw the Vols pick up 7 first downs. One of the highlights of the drive, an unsportsmanlike penalty called on Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel. That would move Tennessee back, but not out. Milton’s fourth pass completion of the march would be a 16 yard pass to Bru McCoy in the end zone. The extra point by Chase McGrath would give Tennessee a 7-0 1st quarter lead.
Clemson would drive into Tennessee territory on its next possession, by the drive would stall forcing a 55 yard FG attempt, but B.T. Potter’s kick was wide right leaving the score at 7-0 Volunteers.
Not much better lick for Tennessee on its final drive of the first quarter as the Vols would go 3 and out forcing a Paxton Brooks punt, which set the Tigers back to their own 20 yard line.
Milton was 8 for 10 for 76 yards averaging 9.5 yards per completion. His counterpart Cade Klubnik was 6 for 8 for 86 yards averaging 14.6 yards per completion. Tigers with the ball in Tennessee territory to start the 2nd quarter.
Clemson would march down to the Tennessee 32 yard line, but the UT defense would rise to the occasion repeatedly pressuring Cade Klubnik who was 1 for 5 on the drive. Clemson also averaging just two yards per rushing attempt. The Tigers would attempt another field goal and once again Potter’s kick would sail wide right, this time from 49 yards out.
Tennessee would be forced into a third consecutive punt. The Tigers would drive down into Vols territory and pick up a big 15 yards on a pass interference penalty called on Tennessee’s De’Shawn Rucker. But once again the drive would stall once again and once again B. T. Potter would miss a FG attempt. This time wide left from 42 yards out.
Alter the UT TD, the Vols had two three and outs for a total of minus one yard. The Vols would start their next drive at their own 25 yard line and pick up a 13 yard first down pass from Milton to Bru McCoy. The next play would be a nice first down completion to Squirrel White, but that was just a preview of bigger things to come. A couple plays later, Milton would connect with White on a 50 yard bomb. It was Squirrel laying out to make a beautiful catch. From there, Jabari Small would take it in from two yards out for the touchdown, Small’s 13th of the season. Point after made it 14-0 Tennessee. Milton was 4-4 on a drive that covered 75 yards in 1:12.
After the touchdown, the Tigers would get a terrific kickoff return from Will Shipley, who later in the drive hurdle UT’s Daniko Slaughter to pick up a first down. However, once again, the Tiger drive would stall. This time B.T. Potter connects from 31 yards out and the Tigers are on the board. Tennessee leads 14-3 with 5:11 left in the half. Clemson averaged 7.2 yards per rush on the FG drive.
Clemson is just 2 for 8 on 3rd down through six drives, but no 3 and outs in the game.
The Tigers would get one more crack at it and drive deep into Vols territory, but at 13 and with no timeouts remaining, freshman QB Cade Klubnik chose to run and with a nice spin move on the line, UT’s Tyler Baron would make the tackle and force the clock to run out on the half and Clemson’s scoring threat.
The Vols finished the half with six tackles for loss and three sacks against the Tigers, who actually ran 17 more plays than Tennessee in that first half.
After deferring to the second half, the Tigers would once again mount a drive into Tennessee territory, but once again the Vols would keep Clemson out of the end zone forcing another Tigers field goal attempt. Once again Potter was good, this time from 40 yards out cutting the Tennessee lead to eight points at 14-to-6.
Tennessee’s offense continues to struggle in the 2nd half. Just two first downs, gaining just 21 yards and 0-for-2 on 3rd downs. After starting 13-18, Joe Milton is 2 for 5 in the 2nd half.
Clemson starts its second drive of the 2nd half at its own 21-yard line. The Tigers would drive into UT territory yet again and when faced with a 4th and 2, Clemson’s Will Shipley would be stopped short.
Dabo Swinney’s gamble would backfire as Tennessee would march and quickly down the field. A 42-yard Jalen Wright run would set up the Vols deep in Tiger land and then it was Milton hitting Squirrel White with a dart in the back of the end zone from 14 yards out. The four-play 70-yard drive makes it 21-6 Tennessee. White by the way having a night in this Orange Bowl. Eight catches for 98 yards and now 1 TD.
Tennessee closes the 3rd quarter with 9 fewer plays, but one more yard than Clemson in the frame, 91-90.
The Vol defense finally broke as the Tigers mounted a 12-play, 71-yard drive capped off by a 4-yard Cade Klubnik TD run.
After the play, UT DB Kamal Hadden was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty moved the ball to the one.
Dabo then opted to go for the two-point conversion and his Tigers converted on a Will Shipley run. The conversion made it 21-14 Vols with 10:01 remaining in the game.
Vols hit quickly with their answer: six plays covering 75 yards in 1:27. The score came on a 46-yard Milton to Ramel Keyton TD pass. Keyton now has 76 yards receiving as the Vols extended their lead to 28-14.
After the Tennessee score, the Vol defense really flexed its muscle. On 4th and 8, Byron Young would pressure Cade Klubnik and force an errant throw, which would be intercepted by UT’s Tamarion McDonald.
The Vols burned some clock and punted back to Clemson, pinning the Tigers back at their own 6-yard line.
On 4th and 10 at the six, the Tigers punted back to Tennessee. Following a Dee Williams return, the Vols took over at the Clemson 38-yard line.
Tennessee moved down to the Clemson 15-yard line. On 4th and 3, the Vols brought in Chase McGrath, who connected from 32 yards out, making the score 31-14 Tennessee.
Squirrel White had another reception on the drive and finished with 9 catches for 108 yards and 1 TD. The freshman certainly made a big play in the Orange Bowl to succeed Jalin Hyatt as UT’s big-play receiver.
Clemson’s last-ditch effort ended in disaster as UT picked up its second interception of the game as Wesley Walker picked off Klubnik in the end zone.
A crowd of 63, 912 at Hard Rock Stadium saw No. 6 Vols win the 89th Orange Bowl with a 31-14 win over No. 7 Clemson Tigers.
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