Instant Replay: No. 2 Clemson 35, Duke 6
Second-ranked Clemson defeated Duke, 35-6, on Saturday night at Death Valley. The Tigers improved to 11-0 (8-0 ACC), while the Blue Devils dropped to 7-4 (3-4).
Here is a look back at how Clemson earned the victory:
Clemson struggled for much of the first two quarters, especially offensively, but still led by a score of 14-6 at halftime.
The Tigers fell behind 6-0 in the first quarter after Duke’s Collin Wareham kicked field goals of 34 and 32 yards, which capped drives of 83 and 37 yards, respectively.
After being forced to punt on its first three possessions, Clemson’s offense finally got things going early in the second quarter. Tavien Feaster gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead with a 2-yard rushing touchdown at the 12:44 mark of the second period, capping a seven-play, 75-yard drive that spanned 2:32. Clemson extended its lead to 14-6 when Trevor Lawrence delivered a dime to Justyn Ross for a 19-yard touchdown pitch and catch with 1:16 left before halftime.
The Tigers wasted no time tacking onto their lead in the second half. Less than three minutes into the third quarter on Clemson’s first possession of the third quarter, Travis Etienne burst through Duke’s defense for a 27-yard rushing touchdown that put the Tigers up 21-6. Following a missed field goal by Duke on its ensuing possession, Etienne scored again, this time on a 29-yard run that made the score 28-6 with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Lawrence then found T.J. Chase for a 10-yard touchdown pass at the 11:21 mark of the fourth quarter that provided the final score.
What went right?
After rushing for only 17 yards in the first half, Clemson exploded for 191 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the second half. Etienne scored both of the touchdowns and had 81 yards on nine carries (9.0 average).
Defensively, the Tigers allowed just 262 total yards, including 87 in the second half. Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and company were disruptive all game, consistently pressuring Duke quarterback Daniel Jones and batting down passes. Clemson posted four sacks and nine tackles for loss.
What went wrong?
The Tigers got off to a sluggish start offensively and had to punt on six of their first seven possessions before finding a rhythm. It wasn’t the sharpest of outings for Lawrence, who was inaccurate on some of his throws but still finished 21-of-38 passing for 251 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t receive much help from his receivers at times as they dropped several passes, including one that likely would have resulted in another touchdown. Clemson committed seven penalties for 54 yards and went just 4-of-14 on third down.
Also, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow left the game with an injury in the second quarter. He had to be helped off the field and did not return.
It was still a one-score game (14-6) at the start of the third quarter when Clemson set the tone for the second half with a quick touchdown drive on its opening possession. The Tigers needed less than two minutes to go 61 yards on five plays for a touchdown. Etienne’s 27-yard touchdown run gave Clemson a 21-6 lead at the 12:25 mark of the third quarter, and the Tigers never looked back.