ATLANTA, GA - The loss of starting LB Kendall Joseph did not prove to be as detrimental as it might have seemed 24 hours ago. Joseph is the quarterback of the defense and has about as much experience defending the Paul Johnson offense as anyone. And it looked ominous for the Tigers on Tech's first possession to start the game, as they gashed the Tigers for a few big chunk running plays and looked poised to jump out to a 7-0 lead while chewing up half the first quarter in the process. But the Tigers' defense stiffened and wound up pushing Tech back out of field goal range. It was smooth sailing from that point on, and it was a total team effort from the Tigers on both sides of the ball, as they played numerous backups early and often on defense and saw several different players making plays on offense.
Trevor Lawrence took a big step forward today, essentially taking the game over after Kelly Bryant struggled to move the ball in his first couple possessions. Lawrence led the offense to touchdowns in each of his first two drives and led touchdown drives in 5 of his 6 possessions, throwing TD passes to 4 different players! The only possession in which Lawrence failed to find the end zone was when his pass deflected off the back of Cervenka's helmet and was intercepted. Otherwise, Lawrence was about as good as you can get. His debut at A&M was impressive, throwing a 64-yard touchdown to Higgins on his very first road play, but his exhibition today was even more impressive. He looked more comfortable with his reads, more confident and more decisive. And some of the throws he made--like the frozen rope to Renfrow for a touchdown, running to his left--would have been difficult for many NFL quarterbacks to make. I would be very surprised if Trevor does not make his first career start against Syracuse in Death Valley next week. Kelly Bryant came back into the game and played reasonably well, leading a touchdown drive, but the offense is simply better with #16 on the field right now.
Etienne rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries, averaging 11.1 yards per carry. It was his second straight game rushing for over 100 yards. He also caught a shovel pass from Lawrence for another touchdown, so Etienne has scored 2 TD"s in each of the last 2 games. Freshman phenom Justyn Ross is proving to be the most dangerous big-play WR in the nation, recording his team-leading 3rd touchdown catch of the season. With just 6 catches this season, Ross is averaging a touchdown every 2 catches and 28.7 yards per catch!
Venables proved to be Paul Johnson's kryptonite once again, holding Tech to just 203 total yards. His defenses had allowed an average of 209 total yards per game for the last 4 years, so now it's 208 yards per game in the last 5 meetings! And that was without starting linebacker Kendall Joseph, who injured his groin in practice on Wednesday. Dabo said after the game that they had hoped Joseph might be able to play today, and there's a good chance he'll be back against Syracuse next week. JD Davis got the start in Joseph's stead and really rose to the occasion, coming up with a big sack in the first half and "assisting," if you will, Clelin Ferrell's touchdown on the fumble recovery for the Tigers' first score. His twin brother Judah also got substantial playing time, as did Chad Smith and Shaq Smith at the linebacker position. They also put Skalski into the game for the first time this season, which surprised me because I thought they would save his 4 games for the end of the season. It sounds like they still intend to red shirt Skalski, so I find it curious that they would play him this early in a blowout game as opposed to waiting until the end of the season when they might need him more. I'll get some clarification from Dabo when we talk to him Sunday evening. Many others got into the game on the defensive side, such as Huggins, Pinckney, Foster, Xavier Thomas, Logan Rudolph, Nolan Smith and Denzel Johnson, and they saw meaningful playing time early when the game was still relatively close. The defense created a turnover for the 12th straight game.
Dabo said it was the best game they've played this season, and it was a big statement win for the Tigers, serving notice to the rest of the ACC that they do not plan to abdicate their throne anytime soon. For the seniors, it was their 4th straight ACC road opener win, and they've also beaten Tech 4 straight years--something that's only been done 3 times in the history of Clemson Football! After losing to Tech in Atlanta 5 straight times, the Tigers have now won there twice in a row, and the scary thing is they could have easily won this one by more than 28 points! The Tigers brought in the reserves early in the second half, and that kept the game closer than it would have been. Dabo decided he wanted the team to finish on a positive note, so he brought Trevor Lawrence and the starting offense back out at the end of the game, and they almost effortlessly found the end zone again with a Tee Higgins touchdown.
Next up for the Tigers is 4-0 in Syracuse at noon in Death Valley. I'll have a photo gallery tomorrow and our Sunday evening teleconference with Dabo, so stay tuned!
The 28-point victory represented Clemson’s largest margin of victory against Georgia Tech since a 39-3 win in 2003.
The 49 points scored by Clemson against Georgia Tech were the Tigers’ most against the Yellow Jackets since scoring 55 points in 2013. The 49 points were the most scored by Clemson all-time at Grant Field in Atlanta since the field’s opening in 1913. Clemson scored a series-best 73 points on Georgia Tech at Piedmont Park in 1903.
Clemson held Georgia Tech to 146 rushing yards. The Yellow Jackets entered the day ranked No. 1 in rushing offense in the FBS, averaging 392.7 yards per game.
Over the past four meetings with Georgia Tech, Clemson has limited the Yellow Jackets to 2.85 yards per carry.
Clemson recorded a 248-146 advantage in rushing yards. Clemson has outrushed Georgia Tech in each of the teams’ last four meetings, all Clemson victories.
Clemson held Georgia Tech to three completions, Clemson’s seventh time holding an opponent to five or fewer completions since 2016, the most in the FBS.
Clemson amassed 480 total yards on offense, including 232 passing and 248 rushing. It marked the third time this season that Clemson has reached 200 passing yards and 200 rushing yards in the same game and the 37th time the program has done so under Head Coach Dabo Swinney. Clemson is undefeated (37-0) in those contests.
Clemson’s defense opened the scoring, as Clelin Ferrellrecovered a fumble in Georgia Tech’s end zone. It was Clemson’s first defensive touchdown of the season and the first defensive touchdown off a fumble by the Tigers since Tanner Muse’s 63-yard fumble return for touchdown at Syracuse in 2016.
Ferrell’s touchdown was the first touchdown by a Clemson defensive lineman since Carlos Watkins’ pick-six against Appalachian State on Sept. 12, 2015.
The defensive touchdown marked the first time that Clemson’s first score of a game came from the defense since Ryan Carter recorded a 12-yard interception return for the first points of Clemson’s 34-10 win against South Carolina in 2017.
Ferrell’s fumble recovery in the end zone was Clemson’s first fumble recovery touchdown of zero yards since Tavaris Barnes vs. Louisville in 2014.
Clemson has now forced a takeaway in 12 consecutive contests, the program's longest streak since a 15-game stretch across the 2012-13 seasons.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 13-18 passes for 176 yards with four touchdowns. It was the first four-touchdown passing performance by a Clemson quarterback since Deshaun Watson on Nov. 26, 2016 (six vs. South Carolina).
Lawrence became the first Clemson freshman to throw four touchdown passes since Watson on Sept. 27, 2014 (six vs. North Carolina).
Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow extended his streak of consecutive games played with a reception to 32 on a 17-yard touchdown reception from Lawrence in the second quarter.
On the ensuing extra point, kicker Greg Huegelpassed James Davis (294) for sixth-most career points in school history.
The touchdown reception was Renfrow’s first of the season and 15th of his career. The original walk-on is one touchdown reception away from tying Terrance Roulhac, Derrick Hamilton and Jacoby Ford (16 each) for 10th most career touchdown receptions in Clemson history.
Wide receiver Justyn Ross recorded a 53-yard touchdown on his first reception of the game. He has now recorded a touchdown reception in three out of his first four games and scored in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
Ross became the first Clemson receiver to score a touchdown in three of the team’s first four games since Artavis Scott in 2015. He is the first freshman to do so since Sammy Watkins caught a touchdown in each of his first four games in 2011.
Both of Ross’s touchdown receptions in the last two weeks have covered 50 yards or more, including a 57-yard touchdown vs. Georgia Southern and a 53-yard touchdown against Georgia Tech. He becomes the first Clemson player to catch touchdown passes of 50 yards or more in back-to-back games since Artavis Scott vs. South Carolina and Oklahoma in 2014.
Running back Travis Etienne scored the first receiving touchdown of his career on a three-yard shovel pass from Lawrence in the second quarter.
Helater rushed for a touchdown to match his career-long streak of four consecutive games with a rushing touchdown, equaling a four-game streak set vs. Florida State, The Citadel, South Carolina and Miami in 2017.
With his seventh point of the game following Etienne’s touchdown run, Huegel became the sixth player in school history to reach 300 career points, joining Chandler Catanzaro, Aaron Hunt, C.J. Spiller, Nelson Welch and Travis Zachery.
Huegel now ranks tied with Travis Zachery for fifth all-time in career scoring with 300 points.
Etienne finished the game with 122 yards on 11 carries and has now posted consecutive 100-yard rushing games for the first time in his career.
Etienne became the first Clemson player to rush for 100 yards in back-to-back games since Wayne Gallman against Wake Forest and South Carolina in 2016.
With 75 rushing yards on the day, running back Tavien Feastereclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for his career.
Feaster reached the career 1,000-yard rushing mark on a 27-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter. It marked the second straight week in which a Tiger running back scored a touchdown on the rush in which he reached 1,000 career rushing yards.
The rushing touchdown was the 11th of Feaster’scareer and his second of the season.
Etienne (7.79 yards/carry) and Feaster (6.25 yards/carry) currently sit in first and second, respectively, for career yards per carry among Clemson rushers with 1,000+ yards.
Wide receiver Tee Higgins recorded a 30-yard touchdown reception, his career-high second touchdown reception of the season.
Tackle Mitch Hyatt made his 46th career start to tie PK Nelson Welch (46 from 1991-94) and P Cole Chason (46 from 2003-06) for the eighth-most career starts in Clemson history.
Cornerback A.J. Terrell recorded his first career caused fumble in the first quarter.
Defensive lineman Christian Wilkins recorded his second sack of the season in the first quarter, pushing his career total to 12.0. On the play, he recorded the second caused fumble of his career, his first since Oct. 3, 2015 vs. Notre Dame.
Linebacker J.D. Davis recorded his first sack of the season -- the second of his career -- in the first quarter.
Clemson has now recorded at least three sacks in four straight games for the first time since the Tigers recorded a combined 14 sacks across the Wake Forest (four), South Carolina (three), Virginia Tech (four) and Ohio State (three) games in 2016.
Linebacker Tre Lamar recorded the second caused fumble of his career -- his first of the season -- in the first quarter, knocking loose the ball eventually recovered by Ferrell for the Clemson touchdown.
Georgia Tech scored its first touchdown of the game with 2:08 remaining in the second quarter. It marked only the second first-half touchdown allowed by Clemson in its last nine games, dating back to November 2017.
Clemson opened ACC play on the road for the seventh year in a row, the longest stretch in program history. Clemson has not opened conference play at home since 2011.
Clemson’s captains for the contest were defensive end Austin Bryant, running back Adam Choice, defensive tackle Albert Huggins and tight end Milan Richard.
WITH THE WIN…
Clemson has now opened 4-0 for the fourth straight season and for the fifth time in the last six years.
Clemson won its first four games of a season for the sixth time under Head Coach Dabo Swinney (2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017). Clemson's five 4-0 starts under Swinney entering 2018 were already the most under any head coach in school history (Frank Howard, 4; Danny Ford, 3; Josh Cody, 3; Tommy Bowden, 2; John Heisman, 1).
Clemson opened ACC play with a victory for a fourth consecutive season, marking the program's longest such winning streak since the 2002-05 seasons.
Clemson earned its 31st all-time victory against Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech is one of 11 schools against whom Clemson has earned at least 30 all-time victories (South Carolina, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Furman, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, Maryland, Presbyterian and The Citadel).
Clemson won its fourth consecutive game against Georgia Tech, dating back to a 43-24 home win in 2015. It matched Clemson's longest winning streak in the all-time series, equaling four-game winning streaks across the 1898-1903 seasons and the 1993-96 campaigns.
Including a 26-7 win in 2016, Clemson has now won back-to-back road games at Georgia Tech for the first time the 2001 and 2003.
Clemson recorded its 14th all-time road win against Georgia Tech.
After dropping from No. 2 to No. 3 in the AP Poll last week, Clemson improved to 20-4 under Head Coach Dabo Swinney when entering a game ranked lower in the AP Poll than it was in its previous contest.
Clemson secured its 16th victory in its last 17 true road games.
Clemson earned its 23rd victory in its last 26 games away from home, including neutral site contests.
Clemson defeated an ACC foe for the 28th time in its last 30 opportunities, including conference championship games, dating back to 2015.
Clemson extended its winning streak in Saturday games to 20, already the longest active streak of any Power Five school in the country. It is the second-longest Saturday winning streak in school history, trailing a 21-game Saturday streak across the 2014-16 campaigns.
Clemson won its 17th consecutive game in the month of September, dating back to 2014. The current streak was already the longest in school history.
Clemson improved to 31-0 since 2015 when scoring first.
Including a win against Georgia Southern a week earlier, Clemson won games in back-to-back weeks against teams from the state of Georgia for the first time since winning consecutive games against Georgia and Georgia Tech in September 1987.
With the 105th victory of his head coaching career, Head Coach Dabo Swinney matched the number of total victories earned by Notre Dame's Knute Rockne, the winningest coach by percentage in Division I history. Rockne compiled a 105-12-5 career record from 1918-30 at Notre Dame for a record .881 winning percentage.
Swinney improved to 7-5 all-time against Georgia Tech. Entering the game, his six previous wins against Georgia Tech were already the most of any coach in Clemson history
Swinney improved to 10-6 as a head coach all-time in games against schools from the state of Georgia. He now holds a 7-5 mark against Georgia Tech, a 1-1 record against Georgia and a 1-0 mark against both Georgia State and Georgia Southern.
Clemson has now won 46 of their last 51 games overall, dating to 2014.
Clemson has won 26 of their last 28 games against ACC teams.
Clemson has now won 15 of its last 16 away from home against ACC opponents.
Clemson led 28-7 at halftime and has now won 56 of their last 58 when leading at halftime. It marked the most first-half points scored by any opponent against Georgia Tech since Oct. 1, 2016.
Clemson led 42-14 after three quarters and improved to 77-2 since 2011 when leading after three quarters.
Clemson held a 25-15 advantage in first downs and now has a 77-2 record when recording more first downs than their opponent since 2011
Clemson earned the victory despite losing the turnover battle for the second consecutive week. It marks the first time that Clemson has won games when losing the turnover margin in back-to-back weeks since defeating Kent State and Auburn despite negative turnover margins in the first two games of 2017.
Clemson rushed for 248 yards and is now 48-1 when rushing for at least 200 yards under Dabo Swinney.
Clemson improved to 34-2 when producing a 100-yard rusher since 2011 (Travis Etienne - 122 yards).
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