Third-ranked Clemson dominated Pitt in a 52-17 win last Saturday at Memorial Stadium on Senior Day. The Tigers controlled the game from the outset as they jumped out to a 31-0 lead after one quarter.
The Tigers’ defense held the Panthers to 246 yards of total offense and just 16 yards on the ground. They also forced five turnovers with four interceptions and a forced fumble.
Linebacker James Skalski had not played since the Georgia Tech game on Oct. 17. But he returned for possibly his last game at Death Valley and made an impact as Clemson shut down Kenny Pickett and the Pitt offense.
Skalski had surgery on his groin before the Boston College game but made his return to play ahead of schedule because he was itching to get back on the field.
“It felt great. I’m always pushing limits and just eager to get to play, obviously. I was just happy I could be out there,” the senior said.
Skalski played well in limited action and as he finished the game with a team-high six tackles including five solo tackles and a tackle-for-loss. Clemson had him on a pitch count, sort of speak, limiting the middle linebacker to 20 snaps.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables praised Skalski’s tenacity to fight back from injury and to get back on the field for what may have been his final game at Death Valley.
“I’m very thankful for his toughness and selflessness and his love for his teammates and Clemson,” Venables said. “This opportunity to play here on senior night meant a lot to him and he put in a lot of work to get here.”
The original plan for rehabilitation had Skalski questionable to return for the Pitt game with a likely return for the Virginia Tech game or the even the ACC Championship Game. But the graduate chose to listen to his body and get back to action as soon as possible.
“I just listened to my body and pushed the envelope a little bit,” Skalski said. “But I listened to myself and trusted myself and the surgery was four weeks ago Wednesday, so way ahead of schedule and feeling good.”
Clemson returns to action next Saturday as it travels to Blacksburg, Va. to face Virginia Tech.
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