Jalen Williams gets it. He knows being part of the third-ranked team in the country means they are supposed to beat up on FCS teams like S.C. State.
However, he also feels that when they do it, like No. 3 Clemson did in its 59-0 victory on Saturday in Death Valley, they deserve to get credit for it.
The Tigers not only shut out S.C. State, but they did it in a way that made many of the 79,590 fans in attendance feel sorry for the visitors.
“That’s the ultimate goal every day, stop everything they do. We did that today with a shutout,” Williams said afterwards.
Clemson (3-0) held the Bulldogs to 102 yards, nine first downs and 1.9 yards per play. S.C. State averaged just 1.5 yards per rush, were sacked five times and 10 times were tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
The Tigers treated their FCS visitors just the way they should have – they dominated them.
“We prepare the same way. We don’t care if it is Auburn or if it is S.C. State. It is the same practice schedule,” said Williams, who started for the injured Ben Boulware on Saturday. “We still watch film on them. We practice just as hard. We are in full pads and we don’t treat them any different just because of who they are.
“We don’t care if it is Florida State or the Blackville Bengals out there, my old high school. We are going to prepare the same way. It does not matter.”
That’s what makes Saturday’s shutout so special. It’s not something the defense takes for granted.
“It is tough to get a shutout. We only had one last year. It does not happen every day. If it did, it would not be that special so it is great when we get one,” Williams said.
After three games, Clemson’s defense ranks eighth nationally in total yards allowed (250.0 yards per game), 11th in scoring (12.3), 16th in rushing defense (92.0) and 17th in passing defense (158.0). But that will all be tested in the next couple of weeks.
Clemson has just five days to turn around and get ready for Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack in Atlanta, and then on Oct. 1 it returns home to face No. 10 Louisville’s high-scoring offense and Heisman Trophy candidate Lamar Jackson. The Cardinals have scored at least 63 points in all three of its games, including a 63-20 victory over No. 2 Florida State on Saturday.
Jackson has 18 touchdowns in three games, more than every FBS team.
“It is exciting to have that challenge sitting in front of us. We have some tremendous football teams (to play) and some great players,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “Florida State is loaded with a bunch of good players so for Louisville to be able to do that to them, it just tells you where they are at right now and how well they are playing.”
Georgia Tech beat Vanderbilt 38-7 on Saturday, and the Yellow Jackets are 3-0 as the Tigers come to town. After battling so many injuries last year, quarterback Justin Thomas and the Georgia Tech offense seems to be back to full speed.
“Those are all challenges. This game is about recognition and precision. We will have a bunch of guys starting for the first time against Georgia Tech. Going on the road, and we did not play great there last time, so yeah, it is a new challenge,” Venables said. “It will take a whole day of repetition to get eighty snaps of practice reps. That’s eighty less than what we are getting for this preparation so it is tough. We put in a little bit of work in fall camp so hopefully, that will help us.
“It is exciting to get be able to turn around and get ourselves ready to play in five days. It’s going to be fun.”
But Saturday was fun, too, and though the Tigers have some hard work and some tough challenges ahead the next couple of weeks, they did what they were supposed to do against S.C. State.
“Anytime you get a shutout, it feels good because of all the hard work we put in,” safety Jadar Johnson said. “We don’t want to give up any cheap mistakes and that stuff so that’s what we were focusing on this week and it went pretty well.”