Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney called the fifth-ranked Tigers’ 56-3 win over Kent State on Saturday the cleanest performance he has ever seen in a season opener.
Not only did the Tigers’ put up an opening day record 665 yards, while limiting the Golden Flashes to 120, but they were penalized just four times and the one turnover—an interception—came off a pass that deflected off wide receiver Tee Higgins in the end zone.
“That takes buying in,” Swinney said. “It also takes leadership and pride in your performance. And that’s what I love about this group. They take pride in everything that they do and give it their all on every play.
“So my hat goes off to our staff for doing a great job today, and it also goes off to the players for buying in like they did. We had a mindset to attack from the opening play, and we did just that. Of course, it’s a long season, but this was a great way to start it off.”
The 56 points the Tigers scored on Saturday was the highest point total in a season opener since the 1990 team scored 59 points against Long Beach State in 1990. The 21 points scored in the first quarter marked the most points scored by the Tigers in the opening quarter of a game since 2000, when they scored 21 against The Citadel.
Overall, Clemson’s 665 total yards were the most yards gained in a season opener, breaking the previous mark of 567, which also came against The Citadel in 1978. Saturday’s performance was also the fifth most overall in school history.
“It was great,” wide receiver Deon Cain said. “From the first team to the second team, everyone was playing fast, and at the end of the day, I was proud of everyone. With each drive, everyone got some more confidence, and once everyone gets that confidence, from the first play, to the second play, it just starts rolling after that.”
New starters. Clemson’s coaches had been pretty quiet about what they were going to do about the starting positions at cornerback and at right tackle leading up to Saturday’ game.
What everyone discovered was the Tigers had a new starter at right tackle in Tremayne Anchrum, while Trayvon Mullen started at boundary corner and Mark Fields started at the field corner position. Anchrum beat out Sean Pollard at right tackle. Pollard started the last seven games at right tackle last season.
However, Pollard did start the second half of the game at right tackle.
Getting a lot of experience. The good thing about playing a game like Saturday’s against Kent State is the fact a lot of the younger players on the team get an opportunity to play. In all, the Tigers played 91 players – 48 on defense and 43 on offense.
Don’t play Clemson on opening day. Clemson is now 26-7 in its last 33 season openers, dating back 1985. Swinney’s teams are now 8-1 in season openers and have won three straight.
They keep on winning. Clemson has now won 32 of its last 34 games overall, dating back to 2014. The Tigers have also won 23 of its last 24 games in Death Valley.
Clemson has won nine in a row in September, as well as defeated 47 of its last 48 unranked opponents, which dates back to 2011.
The magic numbers. Clemson has won 46 straight games when holding an opponent to under 23 points, which dates back to 2010.
The Tigers have now 32 games in a row when holding teams to less than 40 points.
Bryant sets a record. Junior quarterback Kelly Bryant made his first career start on Saturday. Since 1977, Clemson quarterbacks making their first start are now 17-7.
Bryant also set the Clemson record for total offense in an opening game with 313 total yards, besting the previous record of 312 set by Tajh Boyd in the opener against the Georgia Bulldogs in 2013.
Touching stat. Freshman Will Swinney, who served as a holder on Clemson’s first extra point, became the first head coach’s son to enter a game for Clemson since Jimmy Howard, the son of then-head coach Frank Howard, did so in 1963.
From first to first: Redshirt freshman quarterback Zerrick Cooper threw the first touchdown pass of his career on a 14-yard pass to Cornell Powell in the third quarter. The touchdown reception also marked the first touchdown for Cornell Powell in his career.