Tennessee, led by QB Joe Milton, rolls over Clemson in Orange Bowl

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. − Tennessee’s best season in over 20 years ended appropriately with a 31-14 victory over Clemson in the Orange Bowl on Friday.

Quarterback Joe Milton threw touchdown passes to three different receivers to earn MVP honors.

Linebacker Aaron Beasley had 12 tackles, a career-high four tackle-for-loss and two sacks to lead a defense that bowed but did not break. Defensive end Byron Young made two timely sacks in his last Tennessee game before going to the NFL. Wesley Walker and Tamarion McDonald intercepted in the fourth quarter to seal it.

It was the Vols’ best bowl win since the 1998 national title game, when No. 1 Tennessee defeated No. 2 Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl.

This victory did not reach that height. But it wasn’t far off as No. 6 Tennessee (11-2) defeated No. 7 Clemson (11-3) in a top-10 matchup in a New Year’s Six Bowl.

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The Vols went on to record 11 wins for the first time since 2001, after recording 10 regular season wins for the first time since 2003. And it’s only coach Josh Heupel’s second season.

Here are four observations of Tennessee’s win amid a crowd of 63,912 at Hard Rock Stadium.

Vols quarterback Joe Milton III celebrates after beating the Clemson Tigers on Friday.

Joe Milton made quite an impression

Milton was steady and productive as he auditioned for the starting quarterback job in 2023, his last season of eligibility.

Milton was 19 of 28, passing for 251 yards, three TDs, and no interceptions. It was his second start since SEC Offensive Player of the Year Hendon Hooker suffered a torn ACL against South Carolina on November 19, ending his college career.

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