Tennessee tops Clemson in Orange Bowl to cap gold standard year on account that '01 - ESPN

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The handiest aspect that stopped Tennessee lovers from singing "Rocky excellent" as time become expiring Friday night became the need to serenade Joe Milton with whatever else.

"M-V-P!" they chanted, again and again. With first rate reason.

Milton, who regained the beginning job simplest after his shut friend Hendon Hooker obtained harm late within the year, led Tennessee to one in every of its finest moments in the past couple of a long time.

He accomplished 19 of 28 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns, and No. 6 Tennessee on no account trailed on its solution to a 31-14 victory over No. 10 Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

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    "I have confidence myself, I believe my teaching and i simply let it take place," Milton noted.

    The Volunteers, who hadn't had an 11-win season for the reason that 2001, finished 11-2 and capped a yr through which they beat Alabama, LSU and Clemson, courses that combined to win six of the seven fresh school football Playoff countrywide titles.

    "all the adversity this neighborhood's confronted right through their careers, what they've finished the closing 23 months, I couldn't be prouder of a gaggle of people," noted Tennessee coach Josh Heupel, who gained a national title as an Oklahoma participant within the Orange Bowl. "These avid gamers, our body of workers, Vol Nation, everyone's been along for the event."

    Squirrel White, Bru McCoy and Ramel Keyton had the scoring catches for the Volunteers. Jaylen Wright rushed for 89 yards, and Jabari Small had a touchdown run for Tennessee.

    Cade Klubnik, making his first beginning for Clemson, achieved 30 of 54 passes for 320 yards with two interceptions. but Clemson (eleven-three) simply stored coming up empty on leading scoring chances; the Tigers received into Tennessee territory on 9 of their first 10 possessions and became these journeys into simplest two box goals.

    Clemson entire with 484 yards on one zero one performs and nevertheless misplaced by 17.

    "You do not get any facets for yards," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney mentioned. "The identify of the online game's facets. ... You ought to finish and execute, and we did not do this."

    Klubnik ran in from 4 yards out to get Clemson within 21-14 with 10:01 left, but Milton linked with Keyton for a forty six-yard rating on the subsequent Tennessee possession. The Volunteers intercepted Klubnik on a desperation fourth-down heave about a minute later, nearly sealing the effect.

    "hope we might have despatched out these seniors with a win," Klubnik spoke of. "I suppose we gave all of it we had until the ultimate play."

    in this very orange Orange Bowl -- each teams have it as their primary colour -- it became the Tennessee hue that turned into sophisticated. Hooker turned into there, having flown in about every week ago to be along with his crew and assist Milton put together for the video game.

    "Blood cannot make us closer," Milton stated. "it is my brother 'til the end."

    Milton opened the scoring with a sixteen-yard pass to McCoy, and Small's 2-yard rush pushed the cause 14-0 with 9:03 left within the half. The Vols' offense, which led the nation this 12 months in yards and points per game, wasn't at its most useful, however didn't should be.

    Clemson acquired the ball seven instances in the first half, getting inner Tennessee territory all seven times and attending to the Vols' 25 on four occasions.

    by some means, that became best three aspects.

    The different six possessions: a stuffed fake container aim run via Drew Swinney, the son of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney; a punt; three ignored field dreams by using B.T. Potter, essentially the most prolific kicker in faculty historical past; and a brutal final power when Klubnik was tackled on a keeper with 6 seconds left. Clemson changed into out of timeouts, could not get the container intention unit on the container and went into halftime trailing 14-3.

    "Lot of ignored opportunities," Dabo Swinney mentioned.

    Potter opened the 2d half with a 40-yarder of the no-problem diversity, the 73rd field aim of his career, a school record for the Tigers. but White caught a 14-yard flow with 5 seconds left within the third, giving the Vols a 21-6 lead going into the fourth.

    When it become over, Milton took a knee, tucked the online game ball under his left arm and simply would now not let it go. He'll enter 2023 as Tennessee's presumed starter, and expectations may be excessive for a software that went 20-27 within the four seasons before Heupel's arrival, went 7-6 ultimate year below him and now gained an Orange Bowl.

    "it's been a fun climb," Heupel observed. "The optimum is yet to come back."

    Tennessee could climb a spot or two, depending on what happens within the faculty soccer Playoff video games. it'll be the Vols' finest finish in at the least two decades; they had been No. 4 in 2001 and No. 1 in 1998.

    Clemson might be part of the last poll for the twelfth consecutive 12 months, extending the longest such run in college heritage. The Tigers were in six straight season-ending AP polls from 1986 through 1991.

    The associated Press contributed to this file.

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