The logo for the 2016 College Playoff appearance was unveiled to loud applause, only to be topped by the roar of the crowd as the Tigers ran down the Hill in the pregame ritual. Schuessler, Leggett, Tankersley, and Teasdall were the rotating captains. Deshaun Watson ran around the field as he soaked in his first appearance in Death Valley in nine months and the Tigers roared in adulation.

According to a Troy beat reporter, the Trojans run a ‘full out Air Raid out of a one back set’ while using ‘a 4-2-5 with a spur player as the 5th man (half linebacker half safety).

Since Clemson deferred, Troy took the ball and ended up in fourth and one. They were set to go for it but a false start forced the Trojans to punt. The fun wasn’t over because Clemson almost blocked down the punt as they hit Troy’s punter; and Ray Ray McCloud let the punt return sail over his head to the 11 yard line. The Tigers started on offense and ended up with third down needing two yards to convert. Deshaun Watson scrambling out of the pocket on the left side to convert, but a holding call on Mitch Hyatt forced the Tigers to move back to third and twelve. Following an overthrown ball to Artavis Scott, Teasdall punted the ball out to the tiger paw.

Troy then marched down the field to the 22 until two overthrown passes stalled the Trojans on 2nd and 1 and 3rd and 1. The Trojans effort was not for naught because a 39 yard field goal by the Senior kicker Ryan Kay put the Trojans up 3-0. The Trojan kickoff specialist Bratcher Underwood then sent the kickoff out of bounds, giving the Tigers the ball at the 35.

The offensive play calling is a drastic change from last week in a good way. Deshaun Watson showed off his agility as he scampered 14 yards for a first down on a draw play. Then on third down the Tigers ran a smash concept (corner-hitch) to the sideline and Watson found Williams open on the corner to keep the drive alive. Then they started to use screens, as a bubble screen out of trips formation went to Ray Ray McCloud and then a tunnel screen to Artavis Scott both ended in huge gains. The Tigers then pounded the ball up the middle with Wayne Gallman and were primed to score until Leggett didn’t finish his route on a wide open post route for a touchdown and the Tigers were forced to settle for a field goal by Greg Huegel.

Troy advanced to midfield using various formations as splitback trips (two backs on either side of the quarterback, and then three receivers to the field side). As usual, a mishap ensued as the Trojans snapped the ball high and the quarterback bobbled and caught it, then running for a loss of six yards. Then the Trojans atrocious punter came out and sent the ball short like a line drive, akin to what Wofford did last year.

On the next drive Adam Choice was subbed in for Gallman and the Tigers stuttered to a third and thirteen until Deshaun Watson sent a beautiful throw deep down the left sideline only for Deon Cain to appear to have it secure and subsequently drop it. Teasdall then shanked the punt low and to the right to give Troy prime field position at the 49 yard line.

Troy took advantage as they completed a pass deep on the fork concept (post/corner) only to again waste the big play because the offense sputtered to third and twelve. There, Dexter Lawrence manhandled the offensive linemen to stuff the run and if that wasn’t enough, Troy’s long snapper sent the snap on the field goal high which killed the fourth down attempt.

 

Deshaun Watson then threw an interception only for Troy’s Brandon Silver to generously give it right back on an interception, this time to Clemson’s underrated undersized linebacker Jalen Williams. Clemson then squandered this chance complete with a botched slow screen to Gallman on third and eight. Santa Clause came to town and this time Kendall Joseph got a Christmas present on another pick by Branden Silver.

 

This time Clemson marched down the field of 54 in four plays as Ray Ray McCloud took a quick out pass for 20 yards and then Deshaun Watson found (former) walk on star Hunter Renfrow in the left corner of the endzone for the Tigers’ first touchdown and Renfrow’s fourth consecutive game with a touchdown reception.

 

Troy got the ball back and ended up calling a timeout while intending to go for it on fourth and one in their jumbo set. Then the second time they appeared in their jumbo set and one 66 yard sweep run by Jabir Frye later, the Trojans tied the Tigers at ten apiece. One note is that Frye had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty over a minor celebration.

 

For the second time Underwood sent it out of bounds, which means that it may be a strategy to avoid a return by Clemson. Scott showed his YAC ability and Deon Cain registered a catch before dropping a beautiful post in the endzone (although he was heavily covered). Clemson then sputtered and turned the ball over on downs.

 

Eager to keep the momentum going, Troy started off by chipping away at the Clemson defense until it ran one too many screens and linebacker Dorian O’Daniel snatched off another pick for the Tigers.

 

Then Artavis Scott gained eighteen yards and it appeared that Clemson was set up for first and goal because Mike Williams caught a beautiful comeback route that came back because the referees ruled that he had stepped out of bounds. Then the offense sputtered into a field goal.

 

Troy did not last long on offense before punting the ball to Ray Ray McCloud. He then showed off his electric abilities by returning the ball seventy five yards – only to Desean Jackson drop the ball on the one yard line and give Troy the ball back at the 20.

 

Then the power of the Air Raid was unleashed as Silvers sliced through the Clemson defense all the way to the 31 yard line, where Troy took a timeout and gave Ryan Kay a shot to tie the game. Kay missed it wide right and Clemson kneeled to end the half.