Clemson’s rocky Orange Bowl, Volunteers in Milton, Tenn. ease past Tigers

Joe Milton completed 19 of 28 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns as Tennessee’s No. 6 team beat 31-14 in the Orange Bowl on Friday night Clemson, ranked No. 10, is coming off its best season in more than two decades.

Squirrel White, Bru McCoy and Ramel Keyton scored for the Volunteers (11-2), who tied for their best record since 2001. Jaylen Wright rushed for 89 yards and Jabari Small had a touchdown for Tennessee.

Cade Klubnik, making his first start for Clemson, completed 30 of 54 passes for 320 yards with two interceptions. But Clemson (11-3) never had a chance; the Tigers went into Tennessee territory on nine of their first 10 possessions — and turned those trips into just two field goals.

Klubnik ran in from 4 yards to give Clemson a 21-14 lead with 10:01 left, but Milton matched Keyton for a 46-yard score on Tennessee’s next possession. Volunteers intercepted Klubnik in a desperate fourth sinking about a minute later, and the celebration had not yet begun – but it was imminent.

Workers began building the postgame stage, including the traditional orange toss for the winning team at the awards ceremony.

In this very orange Orange Bowl — which is used by both teams as the main color — the Tennessee hue is even better.

Orange Bowl MVP Milton opened the scoring with a 16-yard pass to McCoy late in the first quarter, and Small’s 2-yard rush extended the lead to 14-0 with 9:03 left in the half. The nation’s most prolific offense wasn’t the best Friday night — Tennessee leads the nation in yards and points per game this year — but it doesn’t have to be, either.

Clemson got the ball seven times in the first half, went into Tennessee territory seven times, and reached Vols 25 or better four times.

Somehow, this only adds up to three points.

The field goal was Clemson’s only first-half success. Six other possessions: Fake shot by Drew Swinney, son of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney; punt; BT Potter misses three field goals — most prolific kick in school history – and the brutal last-goal kick in which Klubnik was tackled by the keeper with six seconds left. Clemson didn’t have a timeout and couldn’t allow a field goal unit to enter the half, trailing 14-3.

Porter opened the second half with 40 yards for his 73rd career field goal, a Tigers school record. But White caught a 14-yard pass with five seconds left in the third to give the Vols a 21-6 lead going into the fourth.