Coming into Saturday’s game against Kent State, Clemson starting quarterback Kelly Bryant had a lot to prove. Fans and pundits around the country questioned the legitimacy of Bryant as the starter.
Bryant silenced many of his critics, leading Clemson to a 56-3 beat-down of visiting Kent State. The Clemson offense exploded for 665 yards and 34 first downs under his direction.
Throughout fall camp Swinney and many of the players touted the junior quarterback’s confidence and ability to lead, and to some it seemed almost too good to be true. However, from the opening snap to his final drive in the third quarter, Bryant oozed confidence.
On the opening play of the game the Wren High native tucked the ball and ran 12 yards for a first down. After a play for no gain he hit Milan Richard for a pickup of 27 yards, setting up a C.J. Fuller touchdown.
Bryant showed his ability to find open space as he ran for 77 yards on 7 carries. In the second quarter, he capped off a 55-yard drive by scampering 8 yards untouched into the end zone.
Clemson utilized the zone read several times on the afternoon and it led to great success in the run game, totaling 353 yards. Much of that success could be attributed to Bryant’s decision making.
Branded by many as primarily a rushing quarterback, Bryant showed poise and patience in the pocket, completing 16 of 22 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown. Bryant highlighted his ability to throw the deep ball with a 61-yard touchdown pass that hit Deon Cain in stride.
Bryant did not have a perfect day, as he threw an interception in the end zone off of a tipped ball and threw behind his receivers on occasion. However, he was effective and any mistakes were miniscule and paled in comparison to his highlights.
Bryant’s early success put Clemson out in front 35-3 with 10:44 to go in the third quarter and gave the starter an opportunity to watch his teammates finish what he began.