TAMPA, Fla.- Ken Hatfield and John Mackovic were only half right about the Hall of Fame Bowl. The defensive struggle the coaches anticipated never materialized Tuesday. Clemson held up its end of the proposition, but Illinois wasn't equal to the task.
DeChane Cameron ran an efficient ball-control offense and Clemson's defense scored a touchdown and set up another as the 14th-rankcd Tigers shut out the Big Ten co-champions, 30-0, in Tampa Stadium.
Cameron threw for 141 yards and 2 TDs and also rushed for 76 yards on 17 attempts to help the runners-up from the Atlantic Coast Conference finish 10-2 for the fourth consecutive season.
"I couldn't be prouder of this team, and especially the senior leadership that we received," said Hatfield, the Tigers' first-year coach.
"It was Clemson's first bowl shutout and these seniors have won 40 games, which is an ACC record."
Illinois (8-1) averaged 26.6 points during the season but was no match for the nation's top-ranked defense. The 16th-ranked Illini finished with 247 yards total offense but couldn't score on three possessions that ended inside the Clemson 35 in the second half.
Chris Gardocki kicked field goals of 18, 26 and 43 yards for Clemson and Cameron threw for touchdowns of 14 and 17 yards to Doug Thomas and Howard Hall- the latter only the third TD reception by a Clemson fullback in 18 years.
John Johnson recovered Howard Griffith's fumble on the Illinois 14 to set up Clemson's first touchdown. Arlington Nunn intercepted Jason Verduczo's pass and returned it 34 yards for a second-quarter TD that gave the Tigers a 24-0 halftime lead.
"Your defense has to be able to control the tempo of the game, and theirs was able to do a much better job than ours," said Mackovic, 1-2 in bowl games at Illinois.
"Our biggest problem was that we had little or no pressure on their quarterback. When he sprinted out, we had nobody in his face."
Cameron completed 14 of 20 passes and was voted the game's most valuable player. His 217 yards in total offense was a career high and the 14 completions were a season high for the redshirt junior.
"We didn't expect the number of passes they threw. They hit a lot of those dropoff passes and got a lot of mileage out of them," said Illinois linebacker Darrick Brownlow, who was ejected after a third-quarter scuffle that ended with Clemson's James Trapp also being thrown out of the game.
"I tried to grab him and stop him from hitting me," Brownlow added.
"It was one of those things where I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's a bad call, but you have to live with it."
Cameron sat out the fourth quarter, but Clemson's defense never took a rest.
The Tigers stopped Illinois on downs at the Clemson 20 with six minutes remaining, then survived Steve Feagin's 21-yard run to the 29 to preserve the shutout in the closing seconds.
Clemson set the tone on its opening possession, driving 71 yards in 16 plays take a 3-0 lead on Gardocki's 18-yard field goal. Terry Smith had third-down receptions of 11 and 17 yards, and Cameron ran for 6 yards on third-and-four from the Illinois 10 to keep the march alive.
The Illinois offense never recovered from Griffith's fumble, forced by Clemson's Chester McGlockton. Cameron threw his TD pass to Thomas six seconds later, putting Clemson ahead 10-0.
Verduczo, who led the Big Ten in passing yardage and efficiency, completed 13 of 25 passes for 121 yards. He threw 2 interceptions, one killing a possession in Clemson territory, and was sacked four times.