CLEMSON, SC – The second-ranked Tigers flexed their muscles
and exerted their will on Saturday in Death Valley with a resounding 48-7 win
over Furman, missing a shutout by just over a minute. The long-speculated quarterback
situation played itself out in front of over 80,000 fans in the season opener.
As Dabo announced on Monday, incumbent Kelly Bryant was the first QB on the field
to lead the offense, but as I predicted (READ HERE), Trevor Lawrence came into
the game before halftime, indicating this is a close, ongoing competition—Lawrence
was not just coming into a blowout situation for mop-up duty.
Both quarterbacks played well, but Lawrence was superb. He
led the Tigers to points on all 5 of his drives, including 4 touchdowns. 2 of
his touchdown drives went over 90 yards! In all, he was 9-15 for 137 yards, 3
touchdowns and no interceptions. Incidentally, Lawrence showed as much poise in
our first interview with him (WATCH HERE) as he exhibited on the field. Kelly
Bryant looked a little rusty on his opening drive, fumbling a snap and making 3
low throws. However, he soon settled in and made a perfect throw to Amari
Rodgers for 40 yards and the Tigers’ first touchdown of the season. Bryant also
ran for a 35-yard touchdown, his 15th career rushing TD. He was 10-16
for 127 yards on the day with one TD through the air and one on the ground.
Each QB was sacked once. More on the quarterbacks in a bit, but the offense
looked sensational on all fronts. Not perfect, but they demonstrated how loaded
and explosive this offense will be. In fact, the Tigers did not punt until less
than 10 minutes left in the game! They were only 4-12 on 3rd down
but went for it on 4th down 4 times, converting twice.
Defensively, the Tigers were as dominant as expected. In my
game preview (READ HERE), I predicted the Tigers would allow 6 points. They
gave up 7 on a late touchdown but were just over a minute away from the coveted
shutout. It was, of course, the reserves that allowed the score. The Tigers
allowed just 163 total yards and recorded 3 sacks against a team that allowed
just 7 all of last season! They also had 10 tackles-for-loss and created 2
Will Swinney holds for Greg Huegel's career-long 49-yard FG
And not to be outdone, special teams were also outstanding! In
his first game back since tearing the ACL in his kicking leg, Greg Huegel was
2-2 on field goals, including a career-long 49-yarder. His previous long was 47
yards at Louisville early last season. Meanwhile, true freshman BT Potter put
on a show on kickoffs, booting all 6 of his kickoffs into or out of the end
zone for touch backs. Steven Sawicki was also 2-2 on touchbacks! Not many people get excited
about kickoffs or special teams, but it cannot be overstated how often they
determine the outcome of games and championships. To wit, imagine if Potter had
been on the 2015 Clemson team. Instead of giving up a touchdown on a kickoff
return, the Tigers would have won back-to-back national championships! And the
Tigers didn’t just excel in the kicking game on Saturday. They also saw a 62-yard
punt return by Amari Rodgers and a 43-kyard kickoff return by Cornell Powell.
The only hiccup on special teams was a Will Spiers punt that was allowed to
bounce into the end zone. Tanner Muse was in position to catch or down the punt
inside the 5, but he was unable to find the football.
Amari Rodgers returns a punt 62 yards
The story of the game had to be the freshmen and redshirt
freshmen that made big plays, which includes Trevor Lawrence. Ballyhooed true
freshman WR Justyn Ross—the #1 player in the state of Alabama last year—scored
a touchdown on his very first catch. True freshman Braden Galloway, a basketball
player converted to tight end, also scored a touchdown in his debut. True
freshman WR Derion Kendrick also got into the act, making a 38-yard catch. Meanwhile,
Lyn-J Dixon stormed out of the gates, showing us why the coaches were raving
about him all August. He ran for 12 yards on his first carry and then broke a
60-yard run on the next play, nearly taking it all the way for a touchdown
before he was caught from behind by a cornerback. Dabo told us weeks ago that
Dixon is ahead of where Etienne was as a true freshman last year—which was very
high praise and surprising to most—and it didn’t take Dixon long to prove his
coach accurate. There were also freshmen making plays on the defensive side.
Redshirt freshman Baylon Spector forced and recovered a fumble, and true freshman KJ Henry also recovered a fumble. Several other freshmen like Jordan Williams, Xavier Thomas, Jackson Carman
and Kyler McMichael also saw significant playing time. And I’ve already covered BT
Potter’s contribution in the kicking game.
Justyn Ross scores on his first career catch
Derion Kendrick climbs the ladder for 38 yards on his first career catch
Redshirt freshman Baylon Spector forces and recovers a fumble
The takeaway from the season opener is that Clemson is the
most complete team in the nation, which means you are going to see a lot of lopsided
sores like this one. The Tigers simply do not have a weakness in my opinion.
Consequently, the quarterback question will continue to be unclear for quite
some time. As Trevor Lawrence continues to get better and improves his understanding
of the offense, will Dabo make him the starter, even if Kelly Bryant continues
to play well and lead the Tigers to blowout wins? My guess will be no. I
believe we will continue to see what we saw on Saturday—the two quarterbacks
flip-flopping every 2 or 3 series. That type of practice shouldn’t be a problem
when the Tigers are putting teams away early, but what will happen if they find
themselves in a dog fight on the road—something that could very well happen
next week at Texas A&M? Will the time-sharing be a detriment? Will it
prevent either of the quarterbacks from finding a rhythm? That remains to be
seen. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s a dilemma nonetheless. As I wrote
last week, the Tigers find themselves in the exact same situation Alabama was
in last year: a returning starter and proven winner versus a talented freshman who
makes the offense better and is clearly the future. Will Dabo’s hand be forced
at any point during the season, the way Saban’s was in the second half of the
National Championship Game? That will be something to keep an eye on all season
INJURY REPORT: Jordan
Williams (knee) and Chad Smith (shoulder) left the game shaken up, but Dabo
told us after the game that he had not received any injury news from team
physician Danny Poole. We will have an update when we talk to Dabo on Sunday
No. 2 Clemson defeated Furman, 48-7, in front of an announced crowd of 80,048 at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Clemson has now won 44 of their last 47 games, dating back to 2014.
Clemson improved to 92-23-8 all-time in season openers.
Clemson improved to 93-17-8 all-time in home openers and has now won 15 straight home openers, with the last home-opening loss coming to Georgia in 2003 in Dabo Swinney’s first game as an assistant coach at Clemson.
Clemson improved to 29-0 since 2015 when scoring first.
Clemson improved to 43-10-4 against Furman all-time.
Clemson opened a season against Furman for the ninth time in program history. The Tigers are now 9-0 all-time against Furman in season openers, including victories to begin the 1896, 1915, 1916, 1964, 1979, 1989, 1994, 1998 and 2018 campaigns.
Clemson won its 31st consecutive contest against Furman and extended its unbeaten streak against the Paladins to 32 consecutive games. The last tie between the two teams occurred in 1937, and the most recent Furman victory in the series came during the 1936 campaign. Clemson's 31-game winning streak against Furman is its longest active winning streak against any opponent.
Clemson extended its winning streak in non-conference regular season play to 16 games. Dating back to 2014, Clemson's current 16-game winning streak in regular season non-conference games is the longest such streak in program history.
Clemson won its ninth consecutive game at Memorial Stadium, dating back to a 56-7 win against South Carolina on Nov. 25, 2016. It marks Clemson's third home winning streak of at least nine games in Dabo Swinney's tenure as head coach (21 from 2013-16, 13 from 2011-12).
Clemson accrued 531 offensive yards, including 254 rushing yards and 277 passing yards. It marked the ninth time in Swinney’s tenure that the team eclipsed 250 yards both on the ground and through the air.
Clemson’s 254 rushing yards were the team’s third most in a season opener under Swinney (366 in 2017, 320 in 2012).
Clemson held Furman to 163 total yards on 62 plays, an average of 2.6 yards per play. It marked the lowest yards-per-play average allowed by Clemson since holding Auburn to 1.8 yards per play on Sept. 9, 2017. Clemson has held opponents to 2.6 or fewer yards per play 10 times since 2014.
Clemson allowed only 46 passing yards, marking the 10th time under Swinney that the Tigers have held an opponent to 50 or fewer passing yards.
Clemson had a 23-13 advantage in total first downs and has now posted a 75-2 record since 2011 when recording more first downs than their opponent.
Clemson won the turnover margin for the 43rd time since 2011 and improved to 40-3 when winning the turnover margin in that timeframe.
Clemson eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark in a game for the 47th time under Swinney. The Tigers are now 46-1 when rushing for 200-plus yards in Swinney’s tenure.
The victory was Clemson’s 57th consecutive win when holding an opponent under 23 points, a streak that dates back to 2010.
Clemson has now won 30 of their last 31 games at Memorial Stadium.
The victory was Clemson’s 14th straight victory in games played in September.
Clemson won its 53rd game in its last 55 contests against unranked opponents.
Clemson remained undefeated against Football Championship Subdivision opponents, pushing the school’s all-time record against FCS teams to 33-0.
Swinney improved to 2-0 all-time against Furman as a head coach, including victories in 2012 and 2018.
Swinney extended his record in season openers as head coach to 9-1.
With the victory, Swinney tied Danny Ford (nine) for the second-most season-opening victories in Clemson history, trailing only Frank Howard (25) in program annals.
Swinney pushed his all-time record in non-conference play as a head coach to 37-13, including a 30-8 record against non-conference opponents in regular season play.
Quarterback Kelly Bryant recorded his 15th career start and passed for 127 yards (10-of-16) and a touchdown. Bryant also recorded the 15th rushing touchdown of his career on a 35-yard run.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence was 9-15 for 137 yards and three touchdowns. Lawrence joined Deshaun Watson as the only true freshmen in program history to throw three touchdown passes in a game.
Running back Travis Etienne recorded his first career start, rushing for 63 yards on 11 carries, including a 7-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Clemson opened the scoring with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Bryant to wide receiver Amari Rodgers. The touchdown pass was the 15th of Bryant’s career and the first receiving touchdown of Rodgers’ career.
Rodgers finished with a career-high 44 receiving yards and 87 punt return yards for a career-best 141 all-purpose yards.
Rodgers averaged 43.5 yards on two punt returns, the third-highest single-game average by a Clemson returner with at least two returns since 2000 (Jacoby Ford, 47.0 vs. Florida Atlantic in 2006; Ray Ray McCloud, 44.0 at NC State in 2017).
The touchdown pass was Bryant’s sixth career touchdown pass of 40 or more yards.
Rodgers recorded a 62-yard punt return in the first quarter, the longest punt return by a member of the Tigers since Ray-Ray McCloud’s 77-yard return against NC State in November 2017.
KickerGreg Huegel matched his career-long by converting a 49-yard field goal in the second quarter, matching his previous best set against Louisville in 2017.
Lawrence recorded the first passing touchdown of his career on a six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiverDiondre Overton, the second receiving touchdown of his career.
The touchdown pass from Lawrence to Overton was the culmination of an 11-play, 95-yard drive. It was the longest drive by distance by Clemson since a 95-yard touchdown drive against Syracuse on Nov. 5, 2016.
Etienne recorded his 14th career rushing touchdown in the second quarter.
Wide receiver Cornell Powell recorded a career-long 42-yard reception in the second quarter.
Wide receiver Justyn Ross recorded his first career touchdown reception on a 15-yard pass from Lawrence in the third quarter. The drive was the culmination of a touchdown drive that covered 92 yards in three plays, with all 92 yards gained by true freshmen.
The 92-yard, three-play scoring drive marked the fewest plays needed for Clemson to go 90-plus yards since a two-play, 95-yard drive against Syracuse on Nov. 5, 2016.
Clemson led at halftime, 27-0. Dating back to last season, Clemson has shut out its opponents in the first half of five of its last six games (27-0 vs. Furman, 21-0 vs. Miami, 20-0 vs. South Carolina, 38-0 vs. The Citadel, 17-0 vs. Florida State).
Clemson led 41-0 through three quarters. Clemson is now 75-2 since 2011 when leading after three quarters.
Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow extended his streak of consecutive games with a catch to 29 games.
Wide receiverDerion Kendrick recorded his first career reception a 38-yard pass from Bryant. On the play, Bryantsurpassed 3,000 career passing yards, becoming the 15th player in Clemson history to reach the mark.
Tight end Braden Galloway recorded his first career touchdown reception on a nine-yard pass from Lawrence in the fourth quarter.
Defensive lineman Christian Wilkins recorded a sack in the third quarter, pushing his career total to 11.0.
Defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell increased his career sack total to 16.5 with a sack in the third quarter.
Defensive linemen Jordan Williams and Albert Huggins split a sack in the third quarter. The half-sack was the first of Williams’ career and pushed Huggins’ career total to 5.0.
Linebacker Baylon Spector caused and recovered the first fumble of his career in the fourth quarter for the Tigers’ first takeaway of the year.
Defensive lineman K.J. Henry recovered the first fumble of his career in the fourth quarter.
Clemson’s captains for the contest were defensive lineman Austin Bryant, quarterback Kelly Bryant, kicker Greg Huegeland linebacker Kendall Joseph.
Clemson faced the opponent against whom the team played its first game in program history. Guided by Head Coach Walter Riggs, Clemson earned a 14-6 road victory against the Furman Purple Hurricane in the Tigers’ gridiron debut on Oct. 31, 1896.
Despite being the 123rd season of Clemson Football, the game marked only the 118th home opener in program history as a function of five seasons in which the team did not play a home game.
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