While the offense arguably had its worst outing in the Deshaun Watson error on Saturday, second-ranked Clemson’s defense kept things under control until Watson and company found its rhythm in the fourth quarter of a 30-24 victory over Troy.
After Troy tied the game at 10 on a 66-yard Jabir Frye touchdown run with 7:52 to play in the second quarter, the Tigers’ defense stone walled the Trojans for more than a quarter and a half in Death Valley. On the eight possessions following Frye’s touchdown, Clemson’s defense allowed just 77 total yards and three first downs on eight possessions.
On their first five possessions of the second half, the Trojans gained just 11 yards on 16 plays as the Clemson defense forced four straight three-and-outs.
“We wanted to help our offense out. They kind of struggled today, but it’s a three-way course … offense, defense and special teams. We just held them down,” Clemson cornerback Cordrea Tankersley said afterwards.
Clemson’s defense allowed the Tigers (2-0) to carry a three-point lead into the fourth quarter. That’s when the offense finally got rolling and scored 17 points on its final three possessions to close the game.
“I thought we played pretty well. We still have to clean up a lot of things, but I think we fought pretty well,” Tankersley said.
However, Clemson’s defense could not hold Troy’s offense down the rest of the way. The Trojans (1-1) had a 14-play 86-yard drive, which resulted in a touchdown, and then had an eight-play 68-yard drive for another touchdown to close the game.
Both scores came after the Tigers built a 27-10 lead with 10 minutes to play. The Trojans totaled 154 yards on its final two drives.
“We still have to finish the game. We played well for three and a half quarters, but we have to play a complete game, though,” Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said. “We allowed two touchdowns late. We can’t do that if we want to be a great defense.
“We are just going to have to make those adjustments and really have to finish next time.”
Troy finished the game with 386 total yards and was just 2-of-15 on third down. Clemson also picked off the Trojans three times as Jalen Williams, Kendall Joseph and Dorian O’Daniel all recorded interceptions.
“A win is a win and we are going to celebrate it,” Tankersley said. “Wins are hard to come by. It was a hard fought game and hats off to Troy. We are just happy to have a win and to celebrate it.”
Home sweet home. Though it was not impressive, Clemson won its 17th straight home game to extend its school record. The Tigers have now won 34 of their last 36 games in Death Valley since 2011.
And the streak continues. Clemson won its 39th consecutive game over an unranked opponent, the second-longest streak in the country behind Alabama.
Getting it done. The Tigers improved to 69-6 under head coach Dabo Swinney when outgaining the opponent in total yards. Clemson also improved to 68-4 under Swinney and 52-1 the last six years when leading heading into the fourth quarter.
Moving on up.Watson passed for 292 yards and moved ahead of Woodrow Dantzler (who had 6,037 passing yards) for third place in Clemson’s record book for career passing yards.
Watson attempted a career-high 53 passes on Saturday. His previous high for attempts was 48 last season against Syracuse. He moved to 20-2 all-time as Clemson’s starting quarterback.
Four in a row. Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow caught a touchdown pass for the fourth consecutive game, with a diving reception in the corner of the end zone in the second quarter.
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