Clemson secures 11th straight 10-win season with Cheez-It Bowl victory over Iowa State

ORLANDO, Fla. — Super Mario for the win.

Clemson cornerback Mario Goodrich had an interception and returned it 18 yards in the third quarter for the eventual winning touchdown Wednesday night as the Tigers beat Iowa State, 20-13, in the Cheez-It Bowl at Camping Word Stadium.

It was a signature play for new co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn as they teamed up in their first game after replacing Brent Venables, who is now coach at Oklahoma. The victory was also the debut for offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter after replacing Tony Elliott, who is now coach at Virginia.

Clemson (10-3) finished the season with six straight victories. Iowa State dropped to 7-6.

Goodrich, a senior, also officially ended the game as he forced a fumble on the final snap by Iowa State in the closing seconds.

“How about that defense?” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said during an on-field postgame interview on ESPN. “I know Brent Venables is somewhere smiling, and he’s saying, ‘I told you my defense didn’t go with me to Oklahoma! I told you!’ “

After a sluggish first half and a 6-3 lead for Clemson on a pair of field goals by B.T. Potter, things picked up in the second half. The Tigers marched 79 yards on 16 plays for a touchdown and a 13-3 lead, Will Shipley scoring on a 12-yard run.

Here are some immediate takeaways:

Tony Elliott wasn’t to blame for Clemson’s offense

Maybe Elliott deserves an apology.

Fans were tough this season on Elliott, who left before this bowl game to become coach at Virginia. But the Tigers were much better in the second half of the campaign. In the first six games against FBS opponents, they failed to reach 20 points in regulation. After that, however, they averaged 36.4 points and never were under 30 until Wednesday night.

With quarterbacks coach Streeter promoted, there was hope that he would find…


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