In fourth-ranked Clemson’s victory over rival Florida State this past Saturday, the Tigers checked yet another goal off of their list.
Saturday’s victory clinched Clemson’s third consecutive ACC Atlantic division title and a trip to the ACC Championship on Dec. 2 in Charlotte.
However, at the beginning of the season, few thought Clemson might make it this far with the absence of former quarterback Deshaun Watson and talented receivers in Mike Williams and Artavis Scott, tight end Jordan Leggett and many more.
The odds were stacked up against the Tigers even more with a first-year quarterback in Kelly Bryant leading the way. But the junior has proven the media and fans wrong.
When faced with adversity, Bryant has responded and continues to respond with poise and calmness. Bryant’s statistics might not be as flashy as his predecessor, but the result has been the same. He is a winner.
Clemson is 9-1 with Bryant as a starter and in seven of those nine games, the Tigers have won by 17 points or more. By the way, they are 9-0 when he is healthy.
“I loved how Kelly responded though,” Dabo Swinney said. “He’s not some veteran guy who’s been around for a while. He is a first-year starter who took his team to win a division championship.”
Instead of following in Watson’s footsteps, Bryant stuck to his pre-season motto and has just been “Kelly B.”
“Going into the season, not many people picked us to be in this position,” he said “But we knew what we had in the offensive room and as a team, the type of guys we have, so we were ready to step up in the role and embrace it.
“We got a win tonight against a really good Florida State team and we won the division. That was one of our goals.”
A key cog in Clemson’s third consecutive win over Florida State was Bryant’s versatility. The quarterback was 20-for-30 passing for 151 yards and also rushed for 60 yards and a score.
“I just read my blockers. The offensive line and the running backs, just following those guys,” Bryant said. “They did a great job tonight clearing up some holes for me and the running backs to get through.
“We always know we’re going to run the ball, so we’ve been doing a pretty good job this year running the ball and being balanced. It’s something every week that we try to emphasize on.”
Clemson’s victory over Florida State did not come without some adversity. Late in the fourth quarter, Bryant fumbled and the Seminoles recovered the ball at the Tigers’ 40-yard line. Florida State rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit, cutting Clemson’s lead to 17-14.
The Seminoles seemed to have all of the momentum.
“Stay together,” Bryant said to his team.
That is in fact just what Clemson did. FSU quarterback James Blackman launched a pass right into the hands of Van Smith, giving Bryant and the offense the ball back.
A few plays later, running back Travis Etienne finished the game off with a 1-yard run, his second touchdown of the game, to secure the Tigers’ victory.
“It is good to know. This is a team sport,” Bryant said. “Guys lean on each other. I know we put the defense in a bad spot right there, but the defense stepped up and made a play so that was good to see.”