CLEMSON, SC - In addition to Bryan Bresee being out due to his sister's passing, the Tigers were missing 4 more defensive starters: DT Tyler Davis, DE Xavier Thomas, S Andrew Mukuba and CB Nate Wiggins. That's 3 All-Americans, potentially 4, out on the defensive side of the ball. As a result, the Tigers gave up more yards and points than they otherwise would have, but they still held LA Tech's Air Raid offense to 20 points and created 6 turnovers, including a blocked field goal and a turnover on downs. One of the turnovers resulted from a bad snap, but it was a head's-up play by DE Kevin Swint to pounce on it. Mickens, Greene and Trotter each came up with an interception. DT Payton Page reached up and blocked the long field goal attempt, and it was recovered by Barrett Carter, but unfortunately he coughed it back up on his return.
The crowd was amazing and electric, especially for an opponent like LA Tech. The upper deck was almost completely full, and it was loud all night. The Tigers marched right down the field on their opening possession, and it looked like they might score more than the 55 I predicted. But they had to settle for a field goal inside the 10 yard line. The Tigers took a 10-0 lead on their next possession after a great, diving catch by Ngata and a nice pass by DJ set them up for a Shipley touchdown run. The offense sputtered for the rest of the half, as the Tigers took a 13-6 lead into halftime with just one touchdown scored.
Much like the opener against Georgia Tech, in which they led 14-3 at halftime, the 2nd half was a different story. The Tigers roared out of the locker room to score 21 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter. It all started with an interception by Trotter, and Will Shipley ran 32 yards for his second touchdown on the very next play. It was the sophomore's 6th TD of the season, and he is the first Tiger to score 2 TD's in each of the first 3 games since 1950! Shipley averaged 11.6 yards on 12 carries.
On the next possession, Malcolm Greene posted his second career interception. He also had a forced fumble last week. Once again, Shipley exploded on the very next play for 27 yards. DJ had a couple good runs and completed passes to Adam Randall and Davis Allen before Phil Mafah punched it in the end zone. It was Randall's first career catch, as the freshman made his debut coming off rehab for his ACL tear last spring. Randall was wearing a big brace on his knee and probably will for the rest of the season. He should have drawn a pass interference call in the end zone later in the game, but the refs blew the call on a text book example of face guarding.
Suddenly, the Tigers had a 3-touchdown lead at 27-6, but they weren't done. Mascoll and freshman LB Wade Woodaz, who blocked a punt against Georgia Tech, combined for a tackle-for-loss on 4th and 2 for a turnover on downs--the 3rd straight turnover forced by the defense in the 3rd quarter. That gave the Tigers the ball at the Bulldogs' 32, and on the very next play, DJ found Beaux Collins, his high school teammate, in the end zone. Collins is the first Tiger to catch a TD in each of the first 3 games since Sammy Watkins in 2011. He also scored in 3 straight games as a freshman late last season. What was a close game at halftime was a blowout just 11 minutes into the second half! That was the very definition of complimentary football: turnover, sudden-change touchdown, turnover, touchdown, turnover, sudden-change touchdown.
The defense forced a three-and-out, and with the offense having found its footing, Dabo brought Cade into the game at quarterback. He completed a 14-yard pass to TE Jake Briningstool for a first down but went three-and-out after that. The Tigers put some backups in on defense, and LA Tech scored its first touchdown after a long completion to tight end Griffin Hebert. I wrote about him in my preview, and he had a huge game with 5 catches for 122 yards. Cade came in for another series but went three-and-out, in part because of a bad hold by Tristan Leigh that negated Cade's 7-yard run. Everyone was blown away by what Cade did on his first series against Georgia Tech in the opener, but I cautioned people that it was at the end of the game with a 24-point lead, and Tech had given up. Cade has done virtually nothing since in 2 series last week and the same in 3 series this week. I'm not disparaging Cade at all--he may be the best freshman quarterback in the country and is the future of Clemson Football. However, he is still learning and not ready to take DJ's spot as the starter, especially given the way DJ is improving week to week. DJ, who was a turnover machine last season, has just one interception in 3 games, and that was a deflection that wasn't his fault. That's a testament to how much his accuracy and decision-making have improved. DJ told me after the game that he didn't think he would be coming back in, but after the Bulldogs made the score 34-13 and Dabo watched Cade go for back-to-back punts, he decided to bring DJ back in, and it paid off. He threw an absolute gem on a fade route to freshman WR Antonio Williams in the end zone from the 19. I noted before the play that Williams was isolated out wide, but it's rare you see a fade called for a 5'11 slot receiver, let alone a freshman! He has been one of the big story lines through the first 3 games, and it was his first career touchdown. After Swint recovered the fumble at the Bulldogs' 12 yard line, Cade handed off to Pace for a TD, so each of the Tigers' 3-headed monster at running back had a score.
Through 3 games, DJ's QB rating is higher than that of NC State's Devin Leary (Preseason ACC Player of the Year) and Miami's Tyler Van Dyke, both of whom are considered by most to be among the nation's top 5 or 10 quarterbacks. And DJ's numbers would be even better if they weren't giving snaps to Cade to get him ready. By the way, the Tigers' offense is averaging 41 points through 3 games! They have averaged 36 points over their Power Five leading 9-game win streak after averaging just 19 points per game in their first 7 games last season. That's progress, folks!
3rd string QB Hunter Johnson came in for the Tigers' final possession and, along with freshman Keith Adams, Jr. making his debut, they moved the ball to the LA Tech 29 before running out the clock. It was Hunter Johnson's first action in Death Valley since 2017!
The team was playing with heavy hearts after the passing of Ella Bresee on Thursday. There was a nice tribute to her before the game, and LA Tech Head Coach Sonny Cumbie showed tremendous grace toward the Clemson Family. He wore an Ella Strong shirt during pregame warmups, and Dabo told us after the game that Cumbie and every player on the team wrote a personal letter of condolence to Bryan Bresee. What a gesture! Watch Dabo's opening statement below for more on that. I could tell he was really touched and moved by it.
Some spoiled fans might not be pleased with a 48-20 win over LA Tech, as if it really matters whether you blowout a team by 28 or by 50. Go watch No.10 Arkansas, down 17-0 at home and trailing by 10 in the 4th quarter to FCS Missouri State, and then tell me a 28-point win isn't good enough. The Tigers are showing consistency on offense and dominance on defense. They ran the clock out at the LA Tech 29 and probably could have scored more if they let DJ play the entire game. They still haven't put together a complete game, but they are taking care of the football, forcing turnovers and making big plays in special teams. As I noted, they were without several stars on the defensive side and would have allowed 10 points or less if they had played. For example, the Bulldogs' second touchdown could have been an interception, but freshman corner Toriano Pride didn't turn around to find the football. He will learn from that. Talented freshman CB Jeadyn Lukus also got some valuable playing time. The Tigers extended the Power Five's longest win streak to 9 and the nation's longest home win streak to 36 on Saturday night. They should be close to full-strength on defense when they travel to No.18 Wake for a huge ACC Atlantic Division showdown next week!
I'll have more in a bit. In the meantime, post-game interviews, highlights and notes are below!
WITH THE WIN....
Clemson won its ninth straight game to extend the Power Five's longest active winning streak.
Clemson’s current nine-game winning streak represents the 14th winning streak of nine games or more in program history.
Clemson won its 36th consecutive home game to extend its school record for both the longest home winning streak and longest home unbeaten streak in school history (as well as extend the nation’s longest active home winning streak). No member of Clemson’s roster has lost a home game at Clemson in their careers.
Clemson (36) passed 2006-11 Boise State (35) for sole possession of the 14th-longest home winning streak in FBS history. Clemson pulled within one game of the ACC record (Florida State, 37 from 1992-2001) in that category.
Clemson improved to 23-4 in night games since the start of the 2018 season. Clemson is now 42-7 at night since 2015.
Clemson won its 18th consecutive night game in Death Valley, a streak that dates back to the middle of the 2013 season.
Clemson is now a national-best 55-1 at home in the College Football Playoff era (since 2014).
Clemson won its 26th consecutive non-conference home game. Clemson’s active 26-game non-conference winning streak at home is the longest such winning streak in program history. Clemson’s last home loss in non-conference play was in 2012.
Clemson improved to 36-3 against non-conference opponents at Death Valley under Dabo Swinney.
Clemson won its 36th consecutive game against unranked opponents when ranked in the AP Top 5, the longest active streak in college football according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Clemson improved to 120-13 against AP-unranked teams under Dabo Swinney, including a 97-3 mark against unranked teams since the start of the 2012 season.
Clemson improved to 75-2 at home against AP-unranked opponents under Dabo Swinney. Clemson's only home losses under Swinney to opponents unranked in the AP Poll came in Swinney's first game as interim head coach in 2008 (21-17 loss to Georgia Tech) and during a national championship season in 2016 (43-42 loss to Pitt). Clemson has now won its last 31 games against AP-unranked opponents in Death Valley.
Clemson improved to 4-0 all-time against Louisiana Tech. Louisiana Tech is one of 44 historical opponents against which the Tigers have a perfect all-time record.
Clemson led 13-6 at halftime and has now won 99 of its last 101 games, including each of its last 62, when leading after two quarters.
Clemson improved to 121-2 since 2011 when leading after three quarters.
Clemson now has a 119-2 record when totaling more first downs than its opponent since 2011 and has won its last 60 such contests.
Clemson improved to 73-1 when rushing for 200+ yards under Dabo Swinney.
Clemson improved to 28-2 in September games since 2015.
Clemson has now won 100 of its last 101 games when holding teams under 23 points (dates to 2010), including 89 straight prior to a season-opening 10-3 loss to Georgia in 2021.
Clemson gained 521 total yards, a season high. It was Clemson’s 79th 400-yard game since 2015, tied for second-most in the nation, and its 49th 500-yard game in that span.
Clemson recorded 280 rushing yards and 241 passing yards, its 57th game exceeding 200 yards in both categories under Dabo Swinney. Clemson is now 57-0 when both passing and rushing for 200+ yards under Swinney.
Clemson’s 280 rushing yards were a season high, its highest single-game rushing total since a 332-yard rushing effort against Wake Forest last season.
With four rushing touchdowns Saturday, Clemson has now rushed for at least three touchdowns for the sixth time in a seven-game span for the first time since the 2019 season finale and first six games of 2020.
Clemson reached the 40-point threshold for the first time since back-to-back 40-point games against UConn and Wake Forest last season. It was Clemson’s 49th game with 40 or more points since 2015, fourth-most in the nation.
Clemson reached the 30-point mark for the eighth time in a nine-game span, dating to last season. Clemson has averaged 36.2 points per game in its current nine-game winning streak, dating to last season.
Clemson never trailed in the contest and has not trailed in 348:03 of elapsed game time, dating back to Clemson’s game against UConn on Nov. 13, 2021. Clemson trailed 7-3 in that game until a six-yard touchdown run by Will Swinney on a fake field goal with 3:03 remaining in the first quarter.
Clemson won the turnover margin, 4-1, its first time finishing plus-three or better in the category since last year’s Boston College game. Clemson now has a 68-4 record when winning the turnover margin since 2011.
Clemson produced three interceptions among its four takeaways, its most interceptions and takeaways in a single game since picking off four passes against Pitt in November 2020.
Clemson scored 21 points off of the four takeaways. Clemson also scored an additional seven points following a turnover on downs.
Clemson finished even or positive in the turnover margin for the seventh straight game, dating to last season. It represents Clemson's first time doing so since a nine-game streak in 2019.
Clemson yielded just six rushing yards. That was the third-fewest for the Bulldogs in a game dating back to Oct. 23, 1999. It was the lowest rushing total allowed by Clemson since holding UConn to -21 rushing yards last November.
Clemson’s 280-6 margin (plus-274) in rushing yardage was Clemson’s largest since out-rushing Wake Forest by 296 yards last season.
Running back Will Shipley rushed 12 times for a career-high 139 yards with two touchdowns. His previous career high was 128 rushing yards, set against both Florida State and South Carolina in 2021.
Shipley (11.6-yard average) became the first Clemson player to average 10 yards per carry on at least 10 attempts since Travis Etienne in the 2020 ACC Championship Game against Notre Dame.
Shipley’s 100-yard rushing game was Clemson’s first individual 100-yard rushing game of the season and the fourth of his career. Clemson is now 57-2 when having a 100-yard rusher since 2011.
Shipley, who had two touchdowns against both Georgia Tech and Furman, became the first Clemson player to rush for multiple touchdowns in three straight games since Travis Etienne later in the 2019 season (vs. Boston College, Wofford and NC State).
Shipley became the first Clemson player in records back to 1950 to open a season with multiple rushing touchdowns in each of the first three games of a season.
Shipley added his fifth rushing touchdown of the season on a two-yard touchdown run on Clemson’s second drive.
Shipley became the first Clemson player to score at least five rushing touchdowns in the first three games of a season since Kelly Bryant in 2017. Shipley became the first Clemson running back to accomplish the feat since James Davis in 2006.
Shipley added a 32-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, the longest scoring run of his career.
Shipley has rushed for a touchdown in six consecutive games, dating to last season, Clemson’s longest streak since Travis Etienne rushed for a touchdown in seven straight games in 2020.
Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei improved to 14-4 as Clemson’s starting quarterback in his career. Uiagalelei completed 17-of-29 passes for 221 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Uiagalelei also rushed nine times for a season-high 62 rushing yards, one shy of his career high set in 2021 at NC State.
Running back Phil Mafah scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on a four-yard run in the third quarter. It was his fourth career rushing touchdown.
Wide receiver Beaux Collins scored on a 32-yard catch-and-run from Uiagalelei on the first play following a Louisiana Tech turnover on downs.
Collins has now caught a touchdown in three consecutive games, tying his career-long streak set last year against Louisville, UConn and Wake Forest.
Collins became the first Clemson player to catch a touchdown pass in each of the first three games of a season since Sammy Watkins in 2011.
Wide receiver Antonio Williams scored his first career touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Uiagalelei in the fourth quarter.
Williams also recorded a career-long 38-yard reception in the second quarter.
Running back Kobe Pace rushed for a three-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and has now rushed for a touchdown in back-to-back games for the third time in his career (vs. Boston College and Syracuse in 2021 and vs. Wake Forest and South Carolina in 2021).
Clemson opened the scoring on a nine-play, 70-yard drive on the game’s opening possession culminating with a 22-yard B.T. Potter field goal.
With the field goal, Potter (57) passed Aaron Hunt (55 from 2000-03) for sole possession of fifth on Clemson's leaderboard for career field goals made.
Potter added a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter.
With 12 points in the game, Potter (371) passed Pitt's Chris Blewitt (363 from 2013-16) for 14th in career scoring and 13th in career kick scoring in ACC history.
Potter’s sixth PAT of the game was the 200th of his career, making him only the sixth kicker in ACC history — and third in Clemson history — to reach the mark.
Clemson recorded the game’s first takeaway on an interception by safety R.J. Mickens, his first of the season and the third of his career.
Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. recorded his first career interception on Louisiana Tech’s first possession of the second half. Trotter’s interception immediately preceded Shipley’s 32-yard touchdown run on the following play.
Cornerback Malcolm Greene recorded his first interception of the season on Louisiana Tech’s following possession. It was his second career interception and his first since Nov. 28, 2020 against Pitt.
Clemson recorded its fourth takeaway of the game on the first career fumble recovery by linebacker Kevin Swint.
Defensive end Myles Murphy recorded his first sack of the season in the second quarter. It was his first sack of the season and his first since Nov. 20, 2021 against Wake Forest.
Clemson’s defense recorded 12 pass breakups, surpassing Clemson’s 10 against Wake Forest last season for the most by the Tigers under Dabo Swinney.
Clemson has now intercepted a pass in seven consecutive games for the first time since an eight-game streak across the 2018-19 seasons.
Defensive tackle Payton Page recorded his first career field goal block on a 56-yard attempt in the second quarter. It was Clemson’s first field goal block since the 2020 season opener at Wake Forest (Bryan Bresee).
The block was Clemson’s third special teams block of the season, including two punt blocks in the season opener. This season marks Clemson’s first with three blocked kicks (placekicks and punts) since 2016 (five).
Quarterback Hunter Johnson made his season debut in the fourth quarter. After spending the 2018-21 seasons at Northwestern in between his two stints at Clemson, the game marked 1,750 days since his last appearance for Clemson in the 2017 ACC Championship Game.
Clemson has now scored on its opening possession in seven of its last eight games, dating to last season. Clemson is now 69-4 when scoring first since 2015.
Clemson faced a Conference USA opponent for only the second time in school history. Clemson defeated Charlotte, 52-10, in its first game against an active Conference USA opponent in 2019.
Clemson faced Louisiana Tech Head Coach Sonny Cumbie for the first time. Clemson improved to 41-4 since 2011 when facing an opposing head coach for the first time.
Captains for the contest were safety Carson Donnelly, cornerback Sheridan Jones, offensive tackle Jordan McFadden and tight end Luke Price.