When it comes to his first-team offense, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has to be pleased.
For a second straight week to open the 2020 football season, Trevor Lawrence and company were crisp in their execution. Lawrence accounted for four touchdowns, including three through the air, while the top-ranked Tigers totaled 293 yards in the first half of their 49-0 victory over The Citadel Saturday at Death Valley.
Lawrence and the first-team offense were pulled before halftime. However, the damage was already done. Clemson scored touchdowns on its first six offensive possessions and also got a 17-yard fumble return for a touchdown by James Skalski. The Tigers led 49-0 at halftime.
Clemson’s 49-first half points were the most by a Clemson team in an opening half since scoring 49 points against Temple in 2006.
Speaking of Skalski, the Clemson defense was every bit as dominant as the offense, as The Citadel managed just 36 total yards in the opening 30 minutes, including minus-2 rushing yards from their vaunted triple-option attack in the first half.
The shutout Saturday was the Tigers’ first since a 31-0 shutout against Ohio State in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff. The Citadel was just 3-for-16 on third down conversions and finished the game with 86 rushing yards and 162 yards overall.
The closest the Bulldogs (0-2) came to scoring was when kicker Colby Kintner missed on a 47-yard field goal attempt with 12:48 to play in the game.
But the story of the game was once again the efficiency of the Clemson offense. Lawrence completed 8-of-9 passes for 168 yards. His three touchdown passes were 17 yards to Frank Ladson, 44 yards to Amari Rodgers and 54 yards to Ladson. He also ran two yards for another score.
Freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei added touchdown runs of one and six yards in the second quarter. Clemson finished the game with 405 yards.
Running back Travis Etienne ran the ball eight times for 68 yards. He also caught one pass for 11 yards and had a 44-yard punt return to set up Uiagalelei’s first touchdown.
Ladson caught three passes for 87 yards to go along with his two touchdowns.
Clemson started the game with a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive to take a 7-0 lead. Lawrence capped the drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Landson with 12:36 to play in the first quarter.
Etienne had a 28-yard run on the drive. He also caught a screen pass for 11 yards.
Clemson extended the lead to 14-0 with a 44-yard touchdown strike from Lawrence to Rodgers on the second play of the Tigers’ second drive. The touchdown came at the 9:41 mark of the first quarter.
Lawrence’s throw to Rodgers was a beautiful deep ball down the middle of the field. Rodgers hauled it in to atone for a drop he had on Clemson’s first possession.
The score moved to 21-0 thanks to a two-yard run by Lawrence. It was then followed up with a 17-yard fumble return for a touchdown on defense by Skalski to make it 28-0.
Uiagalelei scored the first touchdown of his college career just a few plays later after coming into the game on the fourth offensive possession. Clemson game planned for the freshman to enter the game on the fourth possession regardless of the score.
On third-and-goal, Uiagalelei ran right up the gut on a quarterback keeper for a 1-yard touchdown to extend the Tigers’ lead to 35-0 with 13 minutes left in the opening half.
The freshman’s touchdown was set up by a 44-yard punt return by Etienne.
Lawrence then continued his hot start with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Ladson, giving the Tigers a 42-0 lead with 9:55 to play in the half. Clemson needed just three plays to go 72 yards on the drive.
Uiagalelei scored on a 6-yard run to make it 49-0.
Clemson is off next Saturday but is scheduled to return to action in two weeks on Oct. 3 when it hosts Virginia at Memorial Stadium.