The Tigers found themselves in a familiar situation shortly after noon: third and five on their own 36-yard line. Football is a game of momentum, and here was a chance to build some momentum. Against Auburn, the offense failed to convert on fourth down. Against Troy, the offense went three and out. The Tigers had shown signs all week of putting the first two games behind them, but was it real or just coachspeak?


The Tigers lined up on third and five ready to prove to the world that ‘we are who we know we are’. The Tigers converted that third down on a pass to Artavis Scott, and then never looked back.


Watson lead the offense as they butchered South Carolina State to put up their first confident touchdown drive of the year. Then the defense had their moment of reckoning: SC State’s Caleb York had thrown three straight completions for 25 yards and was looking to give Clemson a scary afternoon.


At first and ten on the fifty, Christian Wilkins sacked York, and then SC state shot themselves in the foot with a delay of game penalty. On second and eighteen, Carlos Watkins was credited with a sack (because York committed intentional grounding) to push the Bulldogs back to second and twenty-nine. Then York rushed for a loss of five and gave the ball back to the Tigers.


At that point, the first bombs were dropped and they wouldn’t stop until the game ended at 2:59 P.M. Clemson completely dominated the Bulldogs until well in the fourth quarter, and even then the Tigers preserved the coveted shutout.


The Bulldogs went from struggling to hopeless to helpless. They were held to a horrendous 48 rushing yards on 32 attempts, and the passing game was just as bad: 54 yards on 23 attempts. In total the Bulldogs gained 102 yards of offense for 1.9 yards per play on 55 plays. These statistics are almost unheard of in the modern era of offensive centric football, even in mismatched games.

For Clemson’s side of the story, they had ten tackles for loss by eleven players (because some were credited with half a tackle) and five sacks by five different players. The Bulldogs were three for thirteen on third down and failed on their only fourth down conversion. SC State’s punter was the only Bulldog that played well as he was forced to punt ten times for 401 yards.


On offense, Clemson was just as dominant and SC State’s defense was just as helpless. The Tigers ran for 227 yards on 43 carries, averaging 5.7 per rush. The passing game was just as efficient as the Tigers threw for 328 yards on 35 throws, at 9.4 yards an attempt and scoring five times.


The reason it is “Tigers” and not “Deshaun Watson” in the passing statistics is because five quarterbacks played with the top three throwing touchdowns. The carousel was not just at quarterback: Coach Swinney said that every eligible non-redshirting player played in this game. This was the game where we got to see the depth of the Tigers and the freshmen would gain experience for the future.


Emerging true freshman Tavien Feaster was the leading rusher for 83 yards and a touchdown at 6.9 yards a clip. Backup Tyshon Dye ran for 47 yards on five carries. Freshman Cornell Powell had two catches for seven yards and learned a great lesson as he dropped a would-be touchdown catch. Diondre Overton had a 45-yard score on a go route that showed off his ability. Garrett Williams had his first career catch, and fellow tight end Cannon Smith had a 22 yard catch to pair with it.


On defense, true freshman defensive back Trayvon Mullen lead the team with six tackles. Young players like Tanner Muse, Tre Lamar, Dexter Lawrence, Sterling Johnson, Chad Smith, and more earned significant playing time. Freshman linebacker/kickoff specialist James Skalaski had a sack.


This was also a day for the underdog walk ons to shine. Underrated senior receiver Adrein Dunn had a thirty yard punt return, but it looks as if he severely injured his knee. Dunn is a Coach Swinney and team favorite, hopefully he will come back and get to play again. Carson King kicked a good 37 yard punt, and James Barnes threw a nine yard pass to a tight end. Coach Swinney also mentioned another team favorite walk on, Kyle Cote. Swinney said that Cote had an excellent tackle on special teams and that it was a great moment for him and the team.


The Tigers had more drives that were touchdowns than not (8 to 6) on their fourteen drives, but only three of the drives ended in a bad way (blocked field goal, downs, and punt). SC State ten punts, two turnovers, and one turnover on downs on their thirteen drives.


Now yes, this is SC State. A mediocre FCS program that looks bad this year, whom agreed to twelve minute quarters in the second half in order to escape injuries. At this point, the Bulldogs probably did not even want to be here. When it comes to how the Tigers will perform against a talented team like Georgia Tech or Louisville, this game does not give us many clues.


But this game was not about being the superheroes of Clemson or the most dominant team in the country. This game was about exorcising demons that had plagued the Tigers in their lackluster first two games: drops, miscommunication, sloppiness, bad execution, lack of focus, inconsistent play calling, procedural errors, and other unfortunate events.


If one wants to look at the negatives, the Tigers had 7 penalties for 59 yards, two fumbles (both recovered by Clemson), a blocked field goal, and almost lost the time of possession battle. But those minute points overshadow the more important statistics and main points which enabled the Tigers’ talent to dominate.


Obviously, the Tigers were not perfect. But they didn’t have to be. They just had to bring their A+ game and have fun, which lead to domination.