Area Tiger fans are elated with ACC title, Orange Bowl

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By Robert Howey

Lancaster area Clemson University  football fans are sporting smiles as bright as Tiger orange after a milestone victory Saturday night in Charlotte.

The Tigers, with their dominating 38-10 win over Virginia Tech, are kings of Atlantic Coast Conference football for 2011 after their dominating win over the Hokies in the Carolinas’ Queen City.

The Clemson win, after a 1-3 effort in the previous month, gave the Tigers their first ACC football title in 20 years. The title-clinching win also earned Clemson a trip to the Orange Bowl to face Big East champion West Virginia on Jan. 4.

Given the Tigers’ latest showings, avid Clemson fan Mike Barnes said he was somewhat stunned with the ace performance.

“I was very pleased and very surprised,” said Barnes, who attended the game. “I don’t know what was said or done, but I wish we could bottle it.”

Barnes noted the Tigers, the Atlantic Champion, had Coastal champ VPI’s number this season.

Virginia Tech, ranked No. 5, suffered its only losses to the Tigers, who thumped the Hokies 23-3 in Blacksburg earlier in the season.

In two games, Clemson outscored the Hokies, 61-13.

“I was glad to see the offense and defense playing the way they did earlier in the season,” Barnes said. “The win Saturday night puts them back in national prominence. It’s a big step for the program to go to a BCS bowl.”

Fred Hicklin,  a 45-year member of IPTAY, the Clemson athletic booster organization, said Clemson halted its “sleep walking” and played like an aroused Tiger.

“I was proud of the way they came back,” Hicklin said. “The key was their defense. The Clemson defense played well. They plugged up the middle and didn’t allow their quarterback to make big runs.

“On offense, they ran the ball well and that opened up the passing game,” Hicklin said.

Clemson ran for 217 yards, with tough-running Andre Ellington rushing for 125 yards in 20 carries.

The Tigers’ defense limited ACC Player of the Year David Wilson to 32 yards in 11 carries.

“The Tigers’ defense was flying to the football and making plays,” said Kevin Sims, a 16-year IPTAY member. “Given the last few weeks, it was baffling.

“It looked like they were more prepared and focused,” Sims said. “We matched up well with Virginia Tech and played well against them this season.”

Sims said the win helps Clemson “get over the hump.”

“We’ve been trying to win the conference championship and we finally broke down that wall,” Sims said. “That’s big for our program and it will help our program because of the recognition.”

 “We staggered a little at the end of the season, but we were able to regain our swagger,” Barnes said. “It helps recruiting and that’s the biggest thing because that’s the future of your football program.”