For the first time since 1982, the No. 5 Clemson Tigers entered Death Valley to play their season opener as the defending national champions. And they left with a 56-3 victory over Kent State.
Following the Tigers win, the media spoke to many players and coaches including head coach Dabo Swinney, quarterback Kelly Bryant, wide receiver Deon Cain and defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
Here is what we heard:
Heading into Saturday’s game, Swinney wanted to see a complete game. Luckily, his Tigers came out focused, determined and completely firing on all cylinders.
“Really a complete performance in all three phases,” Swinney said. “Loved how our guys showed up ready to play. Hats off to the team for the amount of guys that were really prepared to go in and play to the standard that we talk about. We talked about attacking from the open snap, and I think that’s what you saw. I wanted it to look like we had practiced for a month and to have a good, clean execution. I’ve been around a lot of football and opening games and that’s about as clean as I can remember.”
Bryant made his first start for the Tigers in the opener against the Golden Flashes, rushing 77 yards on 7 carries and one touchdown, as well as passing for 236 yards on 16-of-22 attempts and one touchdown. Under Bryant, the offense had 665 total offensive yards, the all-time record for total offense for a Clemson quarterback in his opening game.
“I can’t say enough about Kelly,” Swinney said. “That’s what I was hoping I’d see, that’s what I’ve seen in practice for quite a while. It was great to see him take it to game day.”
Those statistics might be surprising to media and fans that doubted the junior’s abilities as a starter. But Bryant’s confidence in his talent is through the roof.
“I knew what I could do,” Bryant said. “All along everybody said I couldn’t do it. I knew just to go out there, take one play at a time, and be Kelly B, and the rest will take care of itself.
“I knew what type of player I was. Now people have witnessed it today.”
Bryant’s 61-yard touchdown pass to Deon Cain on the second drive of the game really set the tone. Cain hopes games like Saturday’s will prove doubters wrong.
“Our offense is very misunderstood,” Cain said. “We want to come out and prove a lot of people wrong. We’re going to keep it rolling from now on. We had a great day just to set it off. Now, we just keep it going.”
On the defensive side of the ball game, Venables was all smiles following his defense’s performance.
“I love watching the energy our guys played with,” Venables said. “I just thought they were relentless and played to a standard today. There was no real let-up.
“Kent State came out and did a bunch of things we didn’t really work on and our guys immediately adjusted. Just really showed a strong level of intelligence and composure.”