Clemson, SC –
It took until midway through the second quarter for the cannon to fire in Death Valley, as the cannon failing to fire when the Tigers ran down the hill was an omen for the struggles early in the game.
Clemson’s first three drives would result in three different mistakes: an interception on a tunnel screen, a missed 39-yard field goal by Greg Huegel, and a fumble by Adam Choice.
Those three drives would leave the Tigers with 144 total yards in the first quarter, while Georgia Southern’s drives ended with twelve drives on eight plays. The score after one quarter? 0-0.
After Georgia Southern’s fourth consecutive punt, Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers trot out to the seven-yard line, desperate for points.
Just like Bryant’s command of the offense and mobility turned the tide at Texas A&M, Lawrence’s big arm was just the spark that the Tigers needed to get on the board.
Clemson’s methodical drive was highlighted by Hunter Renfrow’s 31-yard wide open catch down the seam to take the Tigers inside the red zone for the first time of the game.
Even the first touchdown drive couldn’t finish without another near miss – as it took four downs to gain the two yards necessary to put the Tigers up 7-0 midway through the second quarter.
Trevor Lawrence’s 57-yard touchdown pass to fellow true freshman Justyn Ross on the next drive put the Tigers firmly in the driver seat that they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the game.
With a two-score lead in hand and another chance to score after a defensive stop, Travis Etienne put the Tigers on his back as he rushed 66 of the 76 yards the Tigers needed to reach the end zone. Tavien Feaster finished what Etienne started as his three runs punched the Tigers in from the six-yard line to pay dirt.
In a fashion similar to the first two games, the Tigers first half struggles were ameliorated midway through the second quarter once the offense found their rhythm and posted a three score lead to enter the locker room up 21-0.
Kelly Bryant’s day was over as he was injured (apparently he was breathing really fast), giving Trevor Lawrence extended playing time in the second half.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty turned 4thand 3 into 4thand 18, giving Greg Huegel a chance to make up for his missed kick earlier. Greg Huegel made good of his second chance and pushed the score to 24-0 on a 37-yard field goal to open up the second half.
The rest of the third quarter was uneventful with no new scores. Clemson’s last drive of the third quarter ended in another Greg Huegel miss from 47-yards, this time from wide left.
The start of the third quarter brought a spark of energy to the game in a flurry of interesting events. A Georgia Southern fumble was recovered by Nyles Pinckney as he rumbled for eleven yards before being tackled near midfield. Two plays later, Trevor Lawrence’s pass was tipped and picked by linebacker Rashad Byrd.
The Eagles seized this opportunity and used a double pass trick play where wide receiver Obe Fortune threw a 40-yard pass to slot player Wesley Kennedy who was downed at the six-yard line.
Star sophomore quarterback Shai Werts ran the six yards for six points on the next play, and all conference kicker Tyler Bass nailed the extra point with 13:54 left in the game. Travis Etienne scored his second touchdown of the day on a 40-yard run that extended Clemson’s lead to 31-7 with six minutes left in the game. The run also put him over the thousand-yard mark for career rushing yards.
Adam Choice’s 10-yard rushing score late in the game polished off the Tigers final drive of the game for a 38-7 win over the Eagles.
Clemson’s defense cleaned up most of its mistakes from last week, with the only major blunder occurring on the Eagles’ trick play. On the other hand, the Eagles rarely passed the ball – which is where most of Clemson’s mistakes against A&M occurred.
Clemson’s running game performed well with multiple running backs and quarterbacks, and Travis Etienne again asserted his role as the lead back in the offense. Clemson’s six rushers ran for 309 yards, and Etienne’s 162 yards accounted for over half of the Tiger’s production on the ground.
Both quarterbacks showed why they are necessary to Clemson’s success. Bryant struggled in the passing game, but his mobility was impressive to watch before he left the game with an injury. Trevor Lawrence’s extended playing time gave him invaluable experience as he wowed fans with his next-level arm.
Lawrence completed 12 out of 19 passes for 194 yards along with a touchdown and an interception, and Kelly Bryant completed seven out of ten passes for 68 yards and a pick before his day ended early with an unknown injury.
True freshman Justyn Ross was Clemson’s leading receiver with 103 yards on three catches and the only passing score of the day. Out of the fourteen players who caught the ball, Ross was the only one to eclipse the 50-yard mark, catch more than two passes, or score through the air.
Clemson’s defense only allowed 140 yards and one touchdown to the Eagles’ potent offense. Tre Lamar’s eleven tackles led the Tigers, while Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant each notched two sacks of Shai Werts.
A massive second and fourth quarter propelled the Tigers to victory, but the Tigers haven’t shaken off their early season rust. Between early turnovers, missed field goals, and struggles near the goal line, the coaches will have plenty to correct before the Tigers head to Atlanta next Saturday.
Although the Tigers got the win to move to 3-0, the game itself was filled with the mistakes that coaches were looking to eliminate after last week’s close call against Texas A&M.