Second-ranked Clemson defeated Georgia Southern, 38-7, on Saturday at Death Valley. The Tigers improved to 3-0 on the season, while the Eagles fell to 2-1.
Here’s a look back at how Clemson earned the victory:
Following a sluggish start offensively, Clemson exploded for three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 21-0 lead into halftime. Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster scored on 1-yard touchdown runs at the 8:43 and 0:53 marks of the second quarter, respectively, while freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence found freshman wide receiver Justyn Ross for a 57-yard touchdown pass with 5:19 remaining in the first half.
After scoring on their final three drives of the first half, the Tigers tacked on a 37-yard field goal from Greg Huegel on their first possession of the third quarter for a 24-0 lead.
Georgia Southern spoiled Clemson’s shutout bid early in the fourth quarter with a 6-yard touchdown run by Shai Werts. The touchdown drive was preceded by Lawrence’s first career interception, which set up the Eagles at the Tigers’ 46-yard line.
Later in the fourth, Etienne put the game on ice with a 40-yard touchdown run that gave the Tigers a 31-7 lead with 6:06 to play. The Jennings, La., native surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for his career on the run.
Adam Choice provided the final 38-7 score with a 10-yard rushing touchdown at the 2:03 mark of the fourth quarter.
Lawrence finished 12-of-19 passing for 194 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while Kelly Bryant threw for 68 yards on a 7-of-10 clip with an interception.
Etienne rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns on 16 totes, and Ross paced the Tigers’ receiving corps with three catches for 103 yards and a score.
What went right?
A week after allowing 501 total yards, 430 passing yards and 25 first downs against Texas A&M, Clemson’s defense responded by giving up just 140 total yards, 60 passing yards and seven first downs against Georgia Southern.
Linebacker Tre Lamar recorded a game-high 11 tackles, while Clelin Ferrell posted two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. Austin Bryant also had two sacks, and Xavier Thomas registered his first career sack. Nyles Pinckney forced and recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter.
Offensively, Clemson’s run game got back on track after it rushed for just 115 yards on 32 attempts against Texas A&M last week. Against Georgia Southern, the Tigers ran for 309 on 46 carries and four touchdowns from three different backs (Etienne, Feaster, Choice).
The offensive balance was another positive (286 yards passing, 309 rushing), as was the amount of players that got into the game. All three quarterbacks played, while all four running backs received carries and 14 different players caught at least one pass.
What went wrong?
You always want to avoid injuries, especially in a contest of this caliber, but the Tigers were not so fortunate Saturday. Bryant was forced to leave the game with an apparent injury in the second quarter and did not play the rest of the game, though he returned to the sideline without a helmet before the start of the fourth quarter.
Also, despite compiling 595 yards of total offense, the Tigers turned the ball over three times, including twice in their first three possessions of the game. Choice lost a fumble, while Bryant and Lawrence both threw picks, though Lawrence’s interception was the result of a batted ball in the air.
As for special teams, Huegel missed 40- and 47-yard field goals but also hit on a 37-yard attempt.
Clemson got off on the wrong foot offensively, with its first three drives ending in an interception, missed field goal and lost fumble. But the Tigers’ attack bounced back in a hurry, starting with a 13-play, 93-yard drive led by Lawrence in the second quarter that turned the tide of the game.
Lawrence connected with Hunter Renfrow for a 31-yard pass that put Clemson at Georgia Southern’s 12-yard line, and five plays later, Etienne found the end zone from a yard out to put Clemson on the scoreboard.
The Tigers would go on to score touchdowns on their final two possessions of the second half and take a comfortable 21-0 lead into the locker room.