WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — After Jeff Scott voluntarily sent a message to ESPN analyst Desmond Howard following Clemson’s 63-3 victory Saturday at Wake Forest, Howard responded via Twitter, and let’s just say it wasn’t a nice pleasantry.
During Saturday morning’s ESPN College GameDay Show, Howard attacked the Clemson football program, saying the Tigers gave fallen from elite status, that the defensive line has not been as dominant as people anticipated. He closed by saying the Clemson offense is a finesse group.
“The expectations were through the roof coming into the season,” Howard said. “If you make a quarterback change like Dabo (Swinney) made, then everything is at risk, everything is at stake. I think the quarterback situation is going to blow up in their face at some point this season.
“I don’t see them being a physical outfit, offensively. They’re more of a finesse group. They’re not going to be a smash-mouth group, and you can’t change who you are in the middle of the season. You are who you are, you are what you are.”
Obviously, Howard’s statements got back to Scott and he was not happy about them. As he gave an opening statement to the media following the game, Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator sent Howard a message.
“I think somebody needs to send that to Desmond Howard, so he can get his facts straight there,” Scott said afterward. “It is hard to be a finesse group when you are rushing for 300 yards a game. You would agree with that, wouldn’t you?”
Howard got Scott’s message and let’s say he was a little condescending in his message back to Scott.
Clemson’s offense responded to Howard’s earlier comments by taking it out on Wake Forest. The Tigers rushed for 471 yards and scored six rushing touchdowns. The 471 yards were the fourth best total in Clemson history. The Tigers finished with 698 yards overall, the fifth most in school history and the most by any Clemson team since 1981.
Their 11.8 yards per carry, broke the record of 11.2 yards which was set back on Oct. 17, 1903 against Georgia Tech. That was a 115-year old record.
Running backs Travis Etienne, Lyn-J Dixon and Adam Choice each ran for more than 100 yards each, the first trio of Clemson backs to do that since James Davis, C.J. Spiller and Demerick Chancellor did it against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 30, 2006.
Saturday marked the fourth straight game Clemson rushed for at least 248 yards after Swinney said they would make more of an effort to get Etienne and the rest of the running backs the football more following the Georgia Tech game.
The Tigers (6-0, 3-0 ACC) have averaged 330.3 yards per game since Swinney made his promise. Etienne, who rushed for 167 yards and scored three touchdowns, was also asked about Howard’s comments after the game and the Clemson running back said he did not care about those comments and that “they never watch GameDay.”
Etienne had touchdown runs of 59, 3 and 70 yards on Saturday. The sophomore has rushed for 654 yards and 9 touchdowns in the last four games for Clemson.
Dixon ran for 163 yards and scored on touchdowns of 65 and 52 yards on Saturday, while Choice had a 64-yard touchdown and rushed for 128 yards.
Howard, who won the Heisman Trophy and was a Super Bowl MVP during his playing days, started the back-and-forth between he and Scott on Saturday morning when he said Clemson was not an elite team.
“They are a great team, but they want to be an elite team,” he said. “After Penn State lost the other night against Ohio State, James Franklin was talking about, ‘We’re a great team, but we want to be an elite team.’ We put Clemson in the elite category, and they’ve earned that. So now, they’re falling down from the elite status. Now they are great, there’s no doubt about that.”
Howard then said the quarterback situation is going to catchup with Clemson, while he also attacked a defense that is yielding just 261.2 yards per game (fourth in the country), including just 249 on Saturday.
“The defense, they haven’t been as dominant as people anticipated with those four defensive linemen, all NFL-caliber studs,” Howard said. “So, it’s going to catch up with them at some point. I think they’re going to lose a regular season game, and they may lose the ACC Championship game.”
When it starters where in the game, the Tigers held Wake to 13 yards rushing on 26 carries through the first two and a half quarters. This was a Demon Deacon team that was averaging 244.4 yards per game on the ground and ranked second in the ACC in rushing yards coming into Saturday.
The Tigers finished the game with 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, three sacks, while the 249 total yards were a season-low for Wake, who was averaging 487.6 yards per game (second in the ACC) coming in and had more than 500 yards of total offense against Boston College and Notre Dame.