Though No. 5 Clemson did what it was supposed to do on Saturday against an outmanned Kent State team in a 56-3 victory in Death Valley, the efficiency in the way it did it was impressive.
The Tigers opened the game by scoring touchdowns on each of its first three possessions and then in the second half they scored touchdowns on their first four. They also tallied 665 yards on 78 plays.
Things were pretty good on the defensive side, too. Besides holding the Golden Flashes to three points, the Clemson defense limited them to 120 total yards, including just one passing yard. Kent State had just five first downs all afternoon and was 4-of-16 on third down.
“I told the team that I’ve been around the game of football for a long time, but I can’t remember a cleaner performance in an opening game than the one I saw today,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said after the game. “I’m just really proud of how the team showed up and played today. It was a complete performance. We played really well from start to finish. The best part was that we played 91 guys, and they all continued to play well throughout the entire game.”
Saturday’s near flawless performance was a fitting tribute to the 2016 National Champions who were honored all throughout the game for winning the school its first football national championship in 35 years. The 80,121 orange clad fans flocked to Death Valley to honor the champions and see what the 2017 version was going to look like.
It’s hard to imagine they were disappointed with what they saw.
Of the Tigers 665 yards, 353 came on the ground despite not one running back rushing for more than 81 yards. Four different running backs scored touchdowns and they had six rushing touchdowns overall.
Quarterback Kelly Bryant was efficient all day, setting a Clemson record for total yards on opening day with 313 total yards. He threw for 236 yards on 16 of 22 passing, while running for 77 yards on just seven carries.
Bryant was not only efficient, but he was explosive, too. He threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Deon Cain in the first quarter, and then in the second quarter he ran for 47 yards to set up his own 8-yard touchdown.
“It just felt good to get those first few contact plays out of the way, and you know we are settling in getting the first touchdown, and we are ready to play,” Bryant said. “I loved airing out the long pass to Deon, of course, because when one player has confidence, it rubs off.”
Speaking of Cain and the receivers, no one caught more than three balls and no receiver had more than 70 receiving yards. However, Bryant, along with Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson, distributed the ball to 15 different receivers.
“We were extremely eager to show off what we have been working on,” Cain said. “Our offense is just very misunderstood, and we just wanted to come out and prove a lot of people wrong, and we did. We are a group of our own, we have a great game to build off of, and we are just going to keep going.”