MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Clemson looked very much like a national title contender.
Miami looked like a team that hit rock bottom.
Deshaun Watson threw for one touchdown and ran for another before sitting out most of the second half and No. 6 Clemson rolled to a 42-0 lead by halftime on the way to embarrassing Miami 58-0 on Saturday — the worst loss in the 90-year history of Hurricanes football.
“An awesome win for our guys. A complete performance all three phases,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said after the Tigers enjoyed their biggest road victory margin in 100 years. “It was one of those games where it just kind of all went our way. Our guys were ready to play. They were dialed in.”
Wayne Gallman rushed for 118 yards and another touchdown for the unbeaten Tigers (7-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have won 35 consecutive games against unranked opponents. The Tigers scored touchdowns on five of their first six drives, knocked Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya out in the second quarter with what was believed to be a concussion and outgained the Hurricanes 567-146.
“Got beat from top to bottom,” embattled Miami coach Al Golden said. “They outplayed us. They outcoached us. I just told the team it’s completely my responsibility for not getting them ready to play. They just beat us soundly in every facet of the game, period.”
Stacy Coley had eight catches for 54 yards for Miami (4-3, 1-2), in a game that could doom whatever chance Golden had of keeping his job much longer. There was booing and a “Fire Golden” chant from the sparse crowd even before the first quarter ended, and the stands — where some fights broke out — were largely empty by the midpoint of the third quarter.
Swinney kept his team on the field briefly at halftime, doing so to avoid the potential for any confrontations since Miami was exiting the field in roughly the same area. Television cameras captured Swinney telling the Tigers in a highly animated speech that “you win with class, you lose with class. … This is Clemson!”
This is Clemson, now: A team that’s rolling and will face Florida State in two weeks with a chance to take control of the ACC race.
This is Miami, now: A team that seems like it’s heading toward another mediocre season, with a fan base that gets angrier by the week. And there wasn’t even any assurance postgame that Kaaya will be ready to go next week when the Hurricanes visit Duke.
“Gotta move on,” linebacker Tyriq McCord said.
Until Saturday, the worst loss in Miami history was a 70-14 defeat to Texas A&M on Dec. 8, 1944. It was Clemson’s largest win over an FBS opponent since an 82-24 win over Wake Forest on Oct. 31, 1981. The Tigers had 33 first downs to Miami’s six, and held the Hurricanes to 91 yards — total — on their last 14 possessions.
Clemson marched 82 yards in eight plays for a touchdown to open the game, Kaaya had a pass intercepted near the end zone on Miami’s ensuing drive, and whatever hope the Hurricanes had was soon gone. It was 21-0 after the first quarter, two touchdowns in the final minute of the second quarter — 8 seconds apart, the second being a 36-yard interception return by Cordrea Tankersley — made it 42-0, and the Tigers substituted liberally in the second half.
“I know I hit him pretty hard,” Clemson’s Shaq Lawson said of the hit that knocked Kaaya from the game. “I think it was probably the best hit I’ve had since I’ve started playing football.”
And the hits just kept on coming.
A horrible day for Miami could have gotten even worse in the fourth quarter, when receiver Rashawn Scott was down and appeared to be not moving for several moments in a scene that had players from both teams kneeling in prayer.
Scott eventually got to his feet, but Miami backup quarterback Malik Rosier threw an interception on the first play after the game resumed.
Clemson scored on that drive to make it 58-0, and that prompted a U.S. Congressman to even announce his dismay in a tweet.
“A new low for @CanesFootball - an absolute embarrassment for what was once a great program,” wrote Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami graduate. “Anyone at @univmiami care to try to save it?”