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ORLANDO, FL – Leading up to Wednesday night at Camping World Stadium, the Cheez-It Bowl promised a game that would deliver a crunch between the #19 Clemson Tigers (10-3) and the Iowa State Cyclones (7-6). And the Clemson defense delivered as the Tigers chowed down on the Cyclones, 20-13, in a defensive struggle.
The victory is head coach Dabo Swinney’s 150th win. They managed this with 30 scholarship players unavailable and defensive coordinator Brent Venables and offensive coordinator Tony Elliot leaving to take head coaching jobs in Oklahoma and Virginia, respectively. Their successors Wes Goodwin, Mickey Conn (defense) and Brandon Streeter (offense) took over their duties on the field over the past couple of weeks.
Going into the locker room, the game was 6-3 in favor of Clemson. While both teams moved the ball moderately well, they were unable to crack the endzone early on. Iowa State was a missed 36-yard field goal attempt away from keeping the contest tied.
In the 3rd quarter, the dam broke and a flood of points came in. After the Tigers converted a 4th down on the Cyclone 28 with 6:20 left in the 3rd quarter, the first touchdown of the game was scored. Clemson’s Will Shipley concluded the drive with a 12-yard run. Shipley finished with 61 yards on 18 carries as well as five catches for 53 yards in the air.
On the following drive, disaster struck for Iowa State as Brock Purdy threw a pick-six to Mario Goodrich that was returned 18 yards to the house to make it 20-3.
Goodrich was named the Player of the Game. He mentioned postgame what it represents for the Clemson defense that a corner won the MVP honors: “It means a lot about our defense. Everyone counted our defense out because coach [Venables] was gone. We got Wes [Goodwin] and coach [Mickey] Conn and they know what they do and they do it well. And everybody just had faith in them. To just go out there and play for them; it means a lot to us.”
The Cyclones had a chance to strike back two drives later but were held to a 45-yard Andrew Mevis field goal to make it 20-6.
During the 4th quarter, Iowa State fought to recover. On a double pass play with a 2nd and five on the Tiger 43, Purdy tossed back to Jaylin Noel who threw an interception to Clemson’s Keith McGuire. McGuire then fumbled on the return that the Cyclones recovered coincidently at the same yard marker where the whole play started. Not only did they keep the ball after throwing the pick, but Noel was hit after the throw to draw a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty.
Shortly after the 15-yard gain with a fresh set of downs, Purdy found Charlie Kolar for a six-yard touchdown to close the gap to 20-13. Purdy finished with 23-of-39 passing for 204 yards and a touchdown as well as an interception.
The Cyclones did have an opportunity in the contest’s closing minutes thanks to the Iowa State’s defense. They made it so that the Tiger’s highest-scoring player was their kicker, B.T. Potter. Unfortunately for them, the Clemson defense was able to come up with the game’s final stop. ISU Head coach Matt Campbell paid his squad tribute after the game.
“Our defense really gave us every opportunity to be who we wanted to be when we wanted to be there in the football game,” said Campbell. “Hats off to our kids on that side of the ball and really hats off to all our kids because we played the style of football we needed to play to be able to win the game.”