Do not get top-ranked Clemson wrong, it was happy to win by 18 points Saturday night. But the Tigers know their performance in their 41-23 victory over Virginia at Death Valley was not up to their standard.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said his team was inconsistent on offense and defense at times and as a result it led to them making mistakes and not taking advantage of some the Cavaliers’.
In the end, the Tigers just had too much firepower for Virginia as quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Travis Etienne accounted for 187 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Amari Rodgers added six catches for 72 yards and two scores as Clemson won its 24th consecutive ACC game.
Lawrence finished the night with 365 total yards.
“We are in a pretty good position that we are kind of disappointed in an 18-point win,” Lawrence said. “We still won the game and we played pretty well, but we definitely have some things we have to clear up. But like I said, that is a good situation to be in when you are kind of disappointed by that, so every week, we try to get better and we try to learn from the last week.
“I am really glad we got challenged in some new ways. There are things we can learn from and grow from.”
The Tigers (3-0, 2-0 ACC) finished the night with 466 total yards and were 8-of-15 on third down. But they gave up two sacks, were penalized a bunch and dropped several passes. As Swinney said, it was a very inconsistent performance.
“We scored 41 points, but we left a couple of touchdowns out there,” Swinney said. “When we watch the tape, we will be disappointed in that, but hopefully, it will make us better and we are going to have to get better.”
Clemson is going to have to get better on defense, too. Virginia totaled 417 yards and quarterback Brennan Armstrong was a matchup problem all night. The sophomore totaled 359 yards, including 87 rushing yards. He also threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns, though Clemson did intercept two of his passes, while allowing him to complete just 24-of-43 passes.
There were some good things. Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth made a spectacular third-quarter interception to stymie a Virginia drive to start the second half. The sophomore made a one-hand snag while falling backwards to record the interception. Safety Nolan Turner had a second-quarter interception, which led to a touchdown just before the end of the first half.
Virginia (1-1, 1-1 ACC) also finished 6-of-16 on third down, while the Tigers got three sacks.
“Defensively, we played better. We really played better, defensively, then we did last year against them,” Swinney said. “Last year, you look at the numbers and then you look at the score of the game, you are kind of surprised because they were 10-of-18 on third down and eighty percent on short yardage. We had one pass breakup and one sack in that game last year.
“So, to come back this year, I thought we made a lot of good plays on the ball. We had eight PPUs and three sacks. And did a better job on third down, especially in the second half. But we were just inconsistent. We were inconsistent in doing our job. We were inconsistent in containing the quarterback and they got us on the edge a few times. We missed some tackles.”
But Clemson got on top by 10 points before the end of the first quarter, and the game was never really in doubt from that point on. However, for this Clemson program, just winning is not always good enough. They still like to play to a standard.
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