As soon as his foot struck the ball, Chandler Catanzaro knew that ninth-ranked Clemson was on its way to the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.
Catanzaro rebounded from missing a 30-yard field goal a minute earlier to kick a 43-yarder as time expired yesterday and lift the Tigers (9-1, 6-1) to a 31-28 victory over visiting Wake Forest and their second Atlantic Division title in three seasons.
“That was the best kick of my career,’’ Catanzaro said. “I was just so proud of myself for that.’’
As were his teammates and most of the 80,000 at Death Valley. Players and fans streamed on to the field when it was over, swarming Clemson’s sophomore placekicker.
“I felt like someone had me around the neck there for a while,’’ Catanzaro said with a laugh.
Tajh Boyd overcame an awful start and two interceptions to throw for 343 yards and two touchdowns after the Tigers had fallen behind, 28-14, in the third quarter. Andre Ellington had 98 yards and a pair of touchdown runs as Clemson finished 7-0 at home, its first perfect season at Memorial Stadium since 1990.
There’s more left to play for, said Tigers coach Dabo Swinney.
“We’re always trying to be the best and today we’re the best in the division,’’ Swinney said. “But we’ve got other goals.’’
Next up is a 10th win, something Clemson hasn’t accomplished in 21 years. The Tigers get their first chance at North Carolina State next Saturday.
Wake Forest (5-5, 4-3) would’ve controlled the Atlantic with a victory. The Demon Deacons stunned the Tigers with 21 points in the third quarter to take a 28-14 lead.
That’s when Boyd took over. He was 5 of 5 on a 68-yard drive that ended with Brandon Ford’s 7-yard scoring catch.
The Tigers tied it with 5:27 to go on Jaron Brown’s 10-yard grab, a series on which Boyd completed six passes for 64 yards.
Florida St. 23, Miami 19 - Greg Reid scored on an 83-yard punt return and Dustin Hopkins kicked three field goals to lead the host Seminoles over the Hurricanes. Florida State (7-3, 5-2) led, 17-7, at the half and held Miami to its lowest scoring total of the season.
Miami (5-5, 3-4) couldn’t overcome three early turnovers, but made it interesting late in the game with a pair of 80-yard scoring drives capped by 1-yard runs by Mike James.
Virginia 31, Duke 21 - Michael Rocco threw two touchdown passes and Chase Minnifield returned an interception for a TD, helping the host Cavaliers (7-3, 4-2) end a three-game losing streak against the Blue Devils (3-7, 1-5).
Virginia (7-3, 4-2) moved one victory closer to a possible Coastal Division championship. If the Cavaliers beat Florida State next weekend or if Virginia Tech loses to North Carolina Thursday night, Virginia would be the Coastal representative in the ACC title game against Clemson.
Notre Dame 45, Maryland 21 - Jonas Gary ran for a career-high 136 yards and two touchdowns, Tommy Rees passed for 296 yards and two scores, and the Fighting Irish (7-3) rolled in the nonconference matchup in Landover, Md.
The Terrapins (2-8) dropped their sixth straight game and also lost starting quarterback Danny O’Brien to a left arm injury.