By William Qualkinbush
In the hodgepodge of important players on Clemson’s defense, senior linebacker Quandon Christian can get lost in the shuffle.
He ranks tenth on the team in snaps played. As the SAM (strongside) linebacker, he is often removed in favor of a fifth defensive back against teams that like to spread the field. It is a role he has owned, even if it lacks the glamour of some other positions whose placeholders are seen on the field with more consistency.
But Christian was a key contributor in Clemson’s 55-31 win over Georgia Tech on Thursday night. He had eight tackles in the game, which ties his highest total of the season, and three of them came behind the line of scrimmage.
Perhaps Christian’s greatest claim to fame this season is that he is the only player in college football to tackle David Sims for lost yardage in 127 carries. He made the stop for a one-yard loss in the third quarter.
“I thought he played well,” Venables said of the Tigers’ co-leader in tackles, along with fellow linebacker Spencer Shuey. “He executed his responsibilities well. We changed up a few things slightly at times.”
Christian was more willing to defer to his teammates, citing chemistry as the primary reason for his individual success.
“Everybody played their assignments,” Christian said. “We had a couple of blitzes on, and I got through and made a couple of plays in the backfield.”
Sammy doing what Sammy does. It was yet another run-of-the-mill groundbreaking performance for wide receiver Sammy Watkins on Thursday night.
The junior surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season, becoming the second Clemson player in history (Rod Gardner) to accomplish the feat twice. Watkins currently has 1,086 receiving yards in ten games in 2013.
Watkins also has 3,013 career receiving yards after Thursday’s contest. He is the second Clemson receiver in history (DeAndre Hopkins) to reach the 3,000-yard mark for a career. He is only seven yards away from Hopkins’ career mark of 3,020 yards—the current school record.
Watkins hit the 100-yard mark for the seventh time this season with his 104-yard performance. That is a new school record. Hopkins was the previous record-holder with six such games.
In addition, Watkins’ five catches moved him into second place on the all-time list in Clemson history. His 210 career receptions are behind only Aaron Kelly (232) in school history.
The “other” receiver. While Watkins was continuing to add to his legend, another younger wideout was crafting a legacy of his own in front of a couple dozen NFL scouts.
Junior Martavis Bryant caught five passes for 176 yards and a touchdown. It was his first time surpassing the century mark in receiving yardage in three seasons at Clemson. His career average of 21.83 yards per catch—tops in Clemson history—was bolstered by his 35.2-yard average against the Yellow Jackets.
Breeland gets another. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland recorded his fourth interception of the season in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game. He currently leads the Tigers in that category, breaking a tie he previously held with Darius Robinson and Jayron Kearse.
The Tigers have picked off 16 passes during the course of the season, the most team interceptions since the 2009 team had 21.
Going streaking. Clemson has now won three straight home games against Georgia Tech. The Tigers are 12-6 all-time at home against the Yellow Jackets.
Historically, Clemson has not fared well in Thursday night games, but recent history paints a different picture. The win over Tech was the third straight victory for Dabo Swinney’s program on Thursday night. All three victories have been by double-digit margins.
Speaking of double digits, Clemson now has 17 consecutive wins against non-ranked opponents by ten or more points. Only Alabama has a longer streak in the nation.
The Tigers are also 70-0-1 in program history when amassing at least 500 yards of total offense.
Early defense stifling. Clemson held Georgia Tech to a mere three total yards in the first quarter of play. The Yellow Jackets had the lowest output of any Clemson opponent in a quarter since LSU gained only one yard in the fourth quarter of the 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Half-a-hundred. Clemson’s 55 points scored in Thursday night’s game is the highest number by the Tigers against Georgia Tech since John Heisman coached the team to a 73-0 victory over the Yellow Jackets in 1903. It also represents the most points allowed by a Paul Johnson defense during his tenure at Tech.
The Tigers have now scored 50 or more points four different times this season. That ties the 2006 squad for the most such performances in a season.
Super senior. Placekicker Chandler Catanzaro made two field goals of at least 40 yards during Thursday’s victory. In doing so, he set the Clemson record for career 40-plus-yard kicks with 24, surpassing NFL veteran Chris Gardocki in the process. The 51-yarder Catanzaro hit in the first quarter was his career long.
Overall, the 2013 senior class at Clemson now has 36 wins. This puts the group in a tie for sixth place all-time.