Third-ranked Clemson routed Pitt last Saturday and looked crisp after a sluggish stint in the middle of the year due in large part to injuries.
Defensively, the Tigers held the Panthers to 246 yards of total offense and forced five turnovers with four interceptions and a forced fumble. After a long break from their open date and debacle in Tallahassee, Fla., it was easy to forget just how good Clemson (8-1, 7-1 ACC) can be.
Several key players returned for Saturday’s game on both sides of the ball like quarterback Trevor Lawrence, outside linebacker Mike Jones and middle linebacker James Skalski. But perhaps no player proved more impactful than defensive tackle Tyler Davis.
The sophomore has missed significant time this year and has played in just four games to this point. Most recently he missed games against Syracuse, Boston College and Notre Dame after an ankle injury suffered in practice following the Tigers win at Georgia Tech on Oct. 17.
Davis also missed time early in the year against The Citadel and Virginia due to a knee sprain he suffered in the season opener at Wake Forest.
The difference Davis makes in the heart of Clemson’s defensive line with his technique and ability to close holes shows up in a massive way on the stat sheet.
Opponents have exploited his absence in the running game and averaged 3.4 yards per carry, 131.6 rushing yards per game and five touchdowns in the five games Davis did not play.
In four games the sophomore defensive tackle played, opponents averaged just two yards per carry, 66.3 rushing yards per game and only reached the end zone once on the ground.
Davis’ impact also appears in the Tigers’ sack totals because of his ability to get to the quarterback and push the pocket, opponents have to dedicate an extra blocker on the sophomore in the passing game.
Clemson has sacked the quarterback 21 times in the four games Davis played compared to 15 sacks in the games he was sidelined. Davis personally recorded a sack against the Panthers and Georgia Tech.
Davis said he was back to 100-percent on Monday and as the numbers show, that bodes poorly for Clemson’s opponents moving forward.
Clemson travels to Blacksburg, Va., for a 7:30 p.m., kick against Virginia Tech on Saturday. A win over the Hokies will secure a sixth straight trip to the ACC Championship Game for the Tigers.
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