On Senior Day at Death Valley last Saturday, it was a pair of first-year players in Clemson’s receiving corps that got their chance to shine against Wake Forest.
True freshmen Frank Ladson and Joseph Ngata each found the end zone in the Tigers’ 52-3 win over the Demon Deacons after Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers left the game with injuries.
“It was pretty neat on Senior Day to have two true freshmen go out there and make some big plays,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “They’ve made some plays this year, but that was really the first time with Frank Ladson … With Justyn Ross being out getting checked out a little bit, Frank was in there rolling with the ones, and that was a critical play down there at the goal line and that was good to see him go finish that play. And later on, Joseph Ngata, that was a really nice play for him to keep bringing those guys along.”
Ladson hauled in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Lawrence on Clemson’s first possession of the third quarter, making the score 38-3, before Ngata scored on a 21-yard reception from Chase Brice in the fourth period to provide the final 52-3 margin.
It was the third touchdown catch of the season for both Ladson and Ngata. Through 11 games, Ngata has tallied 16 receptions for 229 yards, while Ladson has posted eight catches for 71 yards.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said he expects Ross (bruised rib) and Rodgers (shoulder) to be back for the South Carolina game on Nov. 30 but was pleased to see Ladson and Ngata step in and take advantage of their opportunities versus Wake Forest.
“It was great to see Frank have a big play for a touchdown, and then obviously Joe came back and had a big one as well,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “All of sudden you’ve got a couple great players, you’ve got Amari Rodgers and Justyn Ross out … So, to see those guys go in there and still make those type of plays, that’s awesome. That’s what they came here to do.”
Nearing the end of their first regular season at Clemson, Ngata and Ladson were beginning to hit the inevitable “freshman wall.”
However, Scott believes the two former five-star recruits started to break down that wall and catch their second wind in the Wake Forest game and hopes to see them really come on down the stretch.
“The biggest thing is true freshmen, this is game 11 for them,” Scott said. “Everybody should improve as the season goes, but for the freshmen, I think every week is critical for them. They’ve been practicing really well. I think the season is probably getting long for them coming out of high school, you think about both guys being here since January.
“And same thing happened to Justyn last year. About Week 8, Week 9, they’re kind of looking around like how long is this going to go on, this is pretty tough, and then they kind of catch their second wind. Justyn did that last year, and I think (Saturday) was kind of that moment for both Joe and Frank to kind of catch their second wind and really settle in and play better maybe than they had the last few weeks.”
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