Football season is officially here after second-ranked Clemson rolled to a 48-7 win over Furman, who was ranked No. 21 in the FCS Coaches’ Poll coming into the game, on Saturday.
The Tigers racked up 531 total yards in the victory, while the defense pitched a shutout for nearly the entire game until Furman got a touchdown with 1:18 to play. Still, Clemson’s defense held the Paladins to 163 total yards, forced two turnovers and had three sacks in the victory in front of 80,048 fans at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.
Here are my grades from the game.
Quarterbacks: Overall, I thought both quarterbacks played well. Kelly Bryant missed on some throws earlier and was just 5-for-10 in the first half. He bounced back and was 5-for-6 in the second half and had an outstanding 35-yard touchdown run. He also threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Amari Rodgers in the first quarter and then a 38-yard pass to Derion Kendrick in the third quarter. It looked like Trevor Lawrence’s was held back a little this week, not sure why. However, he was still effective. He was just the second true freshmen in Clemson history to throw three touchdown passes in a game. He completed 9-of-15 passes for 137 yards, including a 42-yard pass to Cornell Powell. Grade: A
Running backs: It was an okay day for the running backs. Clemson ran for 7.1 yards per carry, but a 61-yard run by Lyn-J Dixon and Bryant’s 35-yard touchdown helped that number. Etienne averaged 5.7 yards on 11 carries and Feaster 8.0 on three. The running backs were not involved in the passing game and Feaster missed on a couple of blocks that led to Bryant and Lawrence getting sacked. Feaster and Etienne also had some communication errors with both quarterbacks. Grade: B
Wide Receivers/tight ends: There were some good moments. Rodgers’ 40-yard touchdown reception came after he fooled the defensive back by not opening his hands until just before the ball came to him. Kendrick came back and made a nice play on his 38-yard grab as he went up and just took the ball out of the air. Powell also made a nice catch on his 42-yard reception. Trevion Thompson made a nice 18-yard catch on the sideline that kept a 95-yard scoring drive alive. Freshmen Justyn Ross and Braden Galloway showed us why the coaches were so high on them in fall camp. However, it was not a perfect day. There were a couple of dropped passes, and Rodgers was roughed up a little bit on one of the screen passes in the first quarter that led to a tackle for loss. Grade: B+
Offensive line: Clemson’s running game totaled 254 yards on 36 carries. That was good. However, they did struggle one time on short yardage as Etienne was held for no gain on a second-and-short play in the opening drive. Also, right tackle Tremayne Anchrum missed an assignment that allowed a Furman defensive end to sack Lawrence in the second quarter. The other sack was not charged to the offensive line, but was a missed assignment by the tight end. Overall, it was not a bad outing for the big guys up front. Grade: B
Defensive line: Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins had a team-high seven tackles in less than three quarters of action, including a sack. Albert Huggins also had three tackles in the middle of the line and a half sack. Defensive end Clelin Ferrell got a sack, plus a quarterback-pressure, while Jordan Williams had a half sack. Justin Foster had three tackles and one tackle for loss. In all, Clemson’s defensive line recorded five of the Tigers 10 tackles for loss between seven different players. Grade: A+
Linebackers: Isaiah Simmons, in his first start as the strong side backer, seemed to be in on every tackle early in the game. He finished with five tackles and had a half tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Tre Lamar made his first start since last year and had four tackles. Shaq Smith also played well, getting three tackles and was all over the field. Baylon Spector played well and recorded a fumble. Grade: A
Secondary: The best news was no one came out of the game hurt, especially with depth being an issue in the secondary. Furman did not really challenge the Tigers’ back end. K’Von Wallace had five tackles and did a good job coming up from his strong safety position and stopping the run. Furman completed just 4-of-9 passes for 49 yards, but keep in mind it was an option-team. The only negative in the secondary was the fact safety Tanner Muse was called for pass interference, as was Trayvon Mullen and freshman Kyler McMichael. Grade: B
Special Teams: B.T. Potter is a weapon. Six of his seven kicks were touchbacks and the one that was not was caught right outside the goal line and fair caught. Greg Huegel made field goals of 35 and 49 yards, the latter equaling his career-long. He was also 6-for-6 with his extra points. Rodgers averaged 43.5 yards on two returns, including a 62-yard return, while Powell had a 43-yard kickoff return. The only down side, and it was not bad, was punter Will Spiers averaged just 33 yards on two punts, with one of his punts going into the end zone after the gunners lost communication and did not get it downed in time inside the 5-yard line. Grade: A