If Clemson fans considered last week’s win over Auburn a bad one, then they are really going to hate Saturday’s win over Troy.
To say the 30-24 victory by the nation’s second-ranked team was an ugly win is an understatement. Clemson receivers dropped seven passes, quarterback Deshaun Watson threw two interceptions, Ray Ray McCloud let go of the ball at the one-yard line on what would have been a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown.
The defense even had its moments as it allowed a 66-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-one play. It just wasn’t pretty, but despite all the mistakes, the Tigers still found a way to win.
Watson bounced back from one of his worst performances to throw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, one to defensive lineman Christian Wilkins from one-yard out, and the second one, a 23-yard pass to Deon Cain.
Watson finished the game with three touchdown passes overall, while completing 27 of 53 passes for 292 yards.
With Clemson clinging to a three-point lead early in the fourth quarter, the Tigers brought in its jumbo package on third-and-goal from the one-yard line. Watson faked the handoff to running back Wayne Gallman and then threw it to a wide open Wilkins in the end zone for a 20-10 lead with 13:50 to play in the game.
Watson threw is third touchdown pass when he found Cain for a 23-yard strike with 10:00 to go.
The first half was a comedy of errors for the Tigers. McCloud’s 75-yard punt return for a touchdown with 1:38 to play was overturned when it was determined the sophomore let the ball go before crossing the goal line.
Replay ruled the ball was a fumble and Troy recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback. Troy kicker Ryan Kay missed a 48-yard attempt with two seconds left as the second-ranked Tigers took a 13-10 lead into the locker room.
It was an ugly 30 minutes for the Tigers. McCloud’s fumbled highlighted a first-half in which the offense dropped passes, missed blocks and threw an interception.
Clemson totaled 200 yards in the opening half, but were 2-for-9 on third down conversions. Cain dropped one touchdown pass and might have had another when he dropped a long pass down the sideline in the first quarter.
The Clemson defense was not much better. The Tigers allowed Troy to gain 243 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown run by Jabir Frye that tied the game with 7:52 to play in the second quarter. That came on a fourth-and-one play.
Clemson did get two Greg Huegel field goals and Hunter Renfrow made an incredible 35-yard grab on the left side of the end zone that gave the Tigers a 10-3 lead with 10:06 to go in the second quarter.
However, the Tigers could have been up two scores, but Cain dropped a 36-yard touchdown pass and then McCloud, who made a spectacular punt return in which he made several guys miss and broke one tackle, let go of the football just as he was about to cross the goal line.
Jalen Williams, Kendall Joseph and Dorian O’Daniel had interceptions for the Tigers.
Clemson will host S.C. State next Saturday in Death Valley at 12:30 p.m.