Clemson bounced back from its Week 1 loss to Georgia with an emphatic 49-3 win over South Carolina State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Here are four sequences that went a long way toward deciding the game, a turning point and a telling stat from the Tigers’ win.
- Clemson didn’t waste any time scoring its first touchdown of the season. The Tigers took the opening kickoff and marched 72 yards on nine plays with most of those coming on the ground. The Tigers ran the ball on four of their first five plays and covered 56 yards on the drive with the running game. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalalei scored on a 4-yard keeper to cap the scoring drive, setting the tone for the rest of the night.
- After a quick three-and-out forced by Clemson’s defense on South Carolina State’s first possession, the Tigers used some different options to quickly find the end zone again with a seven-play, 67-yard drive. Justyn Ross made a long catch early in the possession and found himself all alone in the end zone, but Uiagalelei overthrew him. But the Tigers brought in freshman Will Taylor at quarterback in the red zone to give the Bulldogs’ defense a different look and eventually reached paydirt on Will Shipley’s 7-yard scamper to push their lead to 14-0.
- Another three-and-out for South Carolina State late in the first quarter forced the Bulldogs to punt yet again. Dyson Roberts sent a 40-yard kick to Will Taylor at Clemson’s 33, but the freshman flipped the field with a nifty 51-yard return along the sideline. The Tigers took over at South Carolina’s State 11 following a penalty on the Bulldogs at the end of the play, and Uiagalelei extended Clemson’s lead to 28-0 on the next play with an 11-yard scoring toss to Ross, his first touchdown grab of the season.
- After the teams traded turnovers midway through the second quarter, Clemson maintained possession on its seventh drive and pieced together its longest scoring march at the time after starting at its own 16. The Tigers needed just nine plays to cover the 84 yards thanks in large part to a 38-yard catch and run by Joseph Ngata that moved Clemson into the red zone. Four plays later, Uiagalelei capped Clemson’s fifth scoring drive of the half with a 5-yard keeper to put Clemson well in control, 35-0, with 6 minutes, 43 seconds left before halftime.
It’s hard to pick a momentum-shifting moment in this one given Clemson never really relinquished it against an inferior opponent, but the Tigers kept their collective foot on South Carolina State’s neck with a fast second-half start. After Ngata recovered his own fumble on the Tigers’ first offensive play of the third quarter, the Tigers found the end zone yet again seven plays later on Shipley’s 13-yard touchdown run to make it 42-3, a score that officially ended the day for Uiagalelei and some of Clemson’s other first-teamers.
Telling stat: 242
That’s how many rushing yards Clemson racked up, a stark contrast from what happened a week earlier. Yes, the level of competition wasn’t great, but the Tigers ran it 21 times in the first half alone — 12 more than their backs combined for all game against Georgia — while four different backs got touches before halftime, an indication of just how committed Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott were to working on the ground game. Clemson didn’t really have to be balanced to beat a team it was simply superior to physically, but after that 2-yard showing against Georgia, it’s a morale booster for the running game, something the Tigers will need in order to stay multi-dimensional against ACC foes starting next week with Georgia Tech.
Football season has finally arrived. Time to represent your Tigers and show your stripes!