By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Each week we take a look back at what the Clemson Tigers did right and what they did wrong on the gridiron as we grade the fourth-ranked Tigers’ performance at every position in Saturday’s 52-13 victory over S.C. State
Tajh Boyd did not put gaudy numbers against S.C. State, but he was efficient and more importantly he did not make any mistakes. With the Bulldogs playing a blanket defense most of the time, he took what the defense gave him, while throwing for 169 yards and running for another touchdown all in the first half. Backup quarterback Cole Stoudt took the same approach and completed 19 of 20 passes to set a school for completion percentage (95 percent) in a game. He also threw for 143 yards and three touchdowns.
Though Rod McDowell averaged 5.4 yards per carry, it seemed at times as if he danced instead of just hitting the hole. Zac Brooks ran hard and so did D.J. Howard, who had the group’s lone touchdown – a 19-yard run in the third quarter. D.J. Davidson, who earned a scholarship in August, ran the hardest and looked the best as he rushed for a team-high 63 yards.
Wide receivers/ Tight ends
In all, eleven different wide receivers or tight ends caught passes as Boyd and Stoudt spread the wealth all afternoon. Germone Hopper had the most impressive day as he hauled in a team-high six catches, along with Adam Humphries, while catching touchdown passes of 17 and 26 yards from Stoudt. Charone Peake also caught a touchdown pass from Stoudt, while Martavis Bryant was 4-of-4 on balls thrown his way for a team-high 87 yards.
The first-team offensive line struggled and part of that might have to do with the absence of Tyler Shatley, who was sitting out the game, at right guard. Nonetheless the group struggled to show any consistency up front, especially in the run game. The second group did well as Clemson scored both of its first two offensive touchdowns with them in the game. Head coach Dabo Swinney said the plan all along was to have the second team come in the game and work with Boyd and it had nothing to do with the inconsistent play of the first-team offensive line.
The Tigers had 12 tackles for loss and recorded three sacks and more than likely the defensive line had something to do with all of it. The defensive front allowed Clemson to hold the Bulldogs to 86 yards rushing, while it constantly harassed S.C. State quarterbacks Richard Cue and TeDarrius Wiley all afternoon. Kevin Dodd had five tackles, D.J. Reader had four tackles, a sack and a pressure that allowed Martin Jenkins to intercept a pass.
Kellen Jones showed why he is going to be a good linebacker for Clemson as he totaled a team-high seven tackles and had two tackles for loss. Quandon Christian had four tackles, deflected a pass to set up Darius Robinson’s interception, while Stephone Anthony had a sack and a tackle for loss.
Jenkins returned his interception 52 yards for a touchdown and Robinson returned his 35 yards for a score. It marked the first time in school history that two interceptions were returned for a touchdown in the same game. S.C. State quarterbacks completed only 10 of 22 passes. The only two blemishes to keep this unit from getting an A were Tyler McDonald’s two catch-and-run touchdown receptions for the Bulldogs’ only scores.
Bradley Pinion again was impressive with his punts and kicks. He averaged 48.8 yards per punt on four punts, while five of his six kickoffs were touchbacks. The one that was returned also went into the end zone but the State returner decided to take the kick out even though it was five yards deep. Chandler Catanzaro made a 38-yard field goal. The return game is still a concern as the Tigers had two kickoff returns for 43 yards and no punt returns.
Swinney made sure earlier in the week that his team understood they had to play to their standard and not their opponents when he stopped practice and made sure they understood the importance of the game. His team came out and responded with 17-first quarter points and at one point was up by 45 points. The offense struggled early, but Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris got them going in the second quarter, while Brent Venables defense continues to show marked improvement, especially in the secondary.