The Citadel at No. 1 Clemson
Clemson returns home to Death Valley for the first time since beating Wake Forest on November 16, 2019.
The last time the top-ranked Tigers played at Memorial Stadium there were 80,875 fans in the stands, and no one was wearing a mask. That will be different when the Tigers gather at the top of the hill to play The Citadel on Saturday.
There will be just 19,000 fans social distance throughout the stadium and everyone will be required to wear a mask except when eating or drinking. Regardless, the Tigers are glad to be home.
“I am sure it is going to feel like there are hundred thousand out there, just being able to put some fans in the stadium is great,” Clemson tight end J.C. Chalk said. “I’m sure the energy is going to be electric. People have been waiting so long to see some football. That’s awesome, it is exciting to us. Hopefully, we can put on a good show for the fans, show how much we appreciate people still willing to come to games.”
Speaking of running down the hill. The Tigers will still make their grand entrance, but things will be a little different this year than normal. There will be no students on the hill this season. The band will instead be on the hill and they will not be on the field when the team comes down.
As for how the Tigers will do it, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said nothing will change on their end except they will use more buses than usual and it might take a little longer to get the buses loaded.
“It might be a little bit more time to load the buses and get on around there, but we will make it work,” he said. “Coach (Joey) Batson is a master at exactly what the timeframe has to be and all of that, but it is going to be fun, man. We are just excited and looking forward to it and I can’t wait to see everybody in the Valley that can be there, and for those that will be watching on TV, we will try to put on a good show for you.”
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson
Records: Clemson 1-0, 1-0 ACC; The Citadel 0-1
When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
TV: ACCN (Anish Shroff, Tom Luginbill, Eric Wood)
Radio: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 81, XM 81, Internet 81
Latest Line: Clemson minus-45.5
- OVERALL: Clemson leads series, 32-5-1
- HOME: Clemson leads series, 14-1
- ROAD: Clemson leads series, 13-1
- NEUTRAL: Clemson leads series, 5-3-1
- LAST MEETING: Nov. 18, 2017 (61-3, W)
- STREAK: Clemson, Won 17
Three story lines
Clemson enters its 2020 home opener riding a school-record 22-game home winning streak, the nation’s longest active streak. Clemson’s home crowds have seldom left disappointed in the College Football Playoff era, as the Tigers are an FBS-best 41-1 at home since 2014.
Saturday’s contest will be played 78 years to the date following Clemson’s first game at Memorial Stadium, as the Tigers opened the facility that would later become known as Death Valley with a 32-13 defeat of Presbyterian College on Sept. 19, 1942. Though the facility has since expanded to 81,500, current circumstances will result in Saturday’s game being played in front of a comparable capacity to the stadium’s 1942 configuration, as the stadium opened that year with capacity for about 20,000 spectators. An estimated crowd of approximately 5,000 attended the facility’s debut.
The game will also be the home debut of a Clemson defense that featured nine players who made their first career starts last week. Some of the most immediate impact was felt by a pair of highly touted true freshmen — defensive end Myles Murphy and defensive lineman Bryan Bresee — who entered in reserve and combined for nine tackles (3.5 for loss) with 2.5 sacks and a blocked field goal. The tandem contributed to Clemson’s six sacks against Wake Forest, 4.5 of which were split among players who registered their first career sacks in the contest (Murphy, Bresee, Regan Upshaw and LaVonta Bentley). Dating back to last year’s Fiesta Bowl, Clemson has posted at least four sacks in three straight games, a streak it will try to extend this week to four for the first time since games 8-11 of the 2018 season.
The Citadel’s three players to watch
Brandon Rainey, QB: Rainey enters the game just 11 yards shy of eclipsing the 2,000-yard mark in his career. He will become the school’s 16th member of the 2,000- yard club. He currently ranks 6th all-time for rushing yards by a quarterback
Willie Eubanks, LB: The FCS All-America linebacker Willie Eubanks started the season with 12 solo tackles against South Florida last week. The senior added three tackles-for-loss and a sack. The 12 tackles are one shy of his career high of 13, which he set against Furman in 2018 and Elon in 2019.
Raleigh Webb, WR: Webb was just the fourth receiver in school history to catch at least 10 touchdown passes in a season in 2019. It was the highest total in over a decade for a Bulldogs’ wideout.
The better prediction for this game is not the score, but when will Swinney decide to pull quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne. The Clemson fans who will be in attendance will be anxious to see freshmen D.J. Uiagalelei and Demarkcus Bowman play at Death Valley for the first time. My prediction is the 19,000 fans should see both freshmen, as well as a few others, by mid-second quarter and no later than the start of the third quarter.
Score prediction: Clemson 55, The Citadel 3
–Clemson Athletics and The Citadel Communication departments contributed to this story
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