They ran onto the stage like they owned it, ran through white smoke normally reserved for Sun Life Stadium's college tenants, ran in a way Miami fans recognized and Oklahoma witnessed Thursday with equal dread.
"It's been 34 years since we won a national championship," Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said to the crowd after the game. "Let's go get that."
It was a performance so complete that by the certain end the only one smiling more than Swinney was Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff.
This playoff is working, just as advocates said it would. That's the bigger and broader story than simply Clemson advancing to the national title game Jan. 11 in Arizona.
If the first year of the college playoffs was a ratings and attendance hit, this second year confirmed it will remain so. Clemson fans filled three-quarters of Sun Life Stadium on Thursday to guarantee the game was a sell-out.
The only grand experiment left for the playoff system is a social one. Can college football and its ally, ESPN, conquer New Year's Eve? That's the curiosity as the playoff system gains traction.
Auld Lang Football?
The NFL has Thanksgiving. The NBA has Christmas. Those are days where sitting around is as much a tradition as anything
Will America readily give up New Years Eve parties? Can they time it some year so the game clock and the old year count down the final seconds together?
"Yes, New Year's Eve will be so awesome watching college football through confetti," Jimmy Kimmel and Robin Thicke harmonize in an ESPN commercial.
We'll see where this goes, especially when New Year's Eve runs into an NFL weekend. The sure thing is it will expand — and soon, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione expects.
He said there's a model for a six-team playoff in addition to a more mathematically correct eight-team playoff. That's as far as it should go, as college kids can only be asked to play so many times.
Just Thursday, Oklahoma lost four players to serious injury, including two running backs and quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was knocked out making a tackle after throwing a fourth-quarter interception.
The game was over by then, as was the season for Oklahoma, which has lost three straight bowl appearances in this stadium, including a national championship game. By comparison, Clemson must feel right at home on this field, between beating Miami by the historically lopsided margin of 58-0 in October and now winning its second Orange Bowl in three seasons.
Holding Oklahoma's vaunted offense scoreless in the second half? Having 530 yards of offense? Even throwing a pass on a fake punt to 315-pound defensive tackle Christian Wilkins for 31 yards?
"We shocked 'em, didn't we?" Swinney said. "Nobody was covering that big ol' guy."
Clemson saved the ACC, which had been 3-5 in bowl games before this win. And the Tigers reminded Miami's new coach, Mark Richt, that he didn't escape all the great teams by leaving Georgia and the Southeastern Conference.
Clemson won its fourth straight bowl game and advances to the championship game on full merit. In the regular season, it beat Florida State, beat North Carolina, beat Notre Dame and baby-seal-beat Miami in a way that got Al Golden fired.
On Thursday, the Tigers pushed Oklahoma around Sun Life Stadium in a way the Big 12 champ didn't expect.
"They ran the ball on us, and we couldn't run it on them," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "That's what it came down to."
And the national championship game?
"We're not thinking of that," Swinney said. "We're 14-0. We're going to enjoy it. We're going to bring in the New Year and have a good time. We'll think of the [national title game] later on."
For years "Clemsoning" meant to lose in the big games. Now it's taken a new meaning. Ask Miami. Ask Florida State. Ask Oklahoma. Their seasons ended, in some form, after Clemson games. And now Clemson goes on to the final game of the season.