NO.2 CLEMSON LOOKS LIKE NO.1, ROUTS FSU FOR 21ST STRAIGHT WIN; BECOMES 15TH PROGRAM TO WIN 750
- 2019-10-13 11:42:51
CLEMSON, SC – The Defending Champs received a lot of unfair criticism and doubt after beating a good UNC team on the road two weeks ago. Many on ESPN said Clemson was “struggling” this season and not the same as last year. It’s as though they all had amnesia and didn’t know the Tigers blew out their first four opponents, including a ranked Texas A&M team. You’d have thought the Tigers lost to UNC the way the national media and pollsters reacted, dropping the winners of 20 straight to No.2 and replacing them with the Alabama team they humiliated just nine months ago 44-16 in the National Championship. Well, the Defending Champs came out on Saturday after the bye week and shut their critics up emphatically with a 45-14 rout of Florida State after leading 42-0 in the 3rd, reminding everyone who the real No.1 team is. The Tigers extended their nation-long win streak to 21 games, and Clemson became just the 15th school in history to win 750 games.
The Seminoles won the toss and deferred, which played right into Dabo’s hands. He, Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott had a worked up a wonderful script for the opening drive that the Tigers executed to perfection. Trevor Lawrence completed a 40-yard pass on the very first play to Tee Higgins on a 50-50 ball, and on the next play, Travis Etienne completed his first career pass to Justyn Ross for 23 yards. That was like throwing gasoline on the fire of the already frenzied Death Valley crowd. After a couple runs by Etienne, he scored on an inside shovel pass from Trevor on 4th and one. The six-play touchdown drive was like a repudiation of all the nonsense that was thrown the Tigers’ way over the last two weeks. It was as if the Tigers were saying, “Hey, college football world, we’re still the undefeated Defending Champs!”
The opening drive was just a taste of things to come, as the offense exerted its will all day on the Noles. Justyn Ross came into the game with just one touchdown against Texas A&M, but he scored on back-to-back possessions and almost made it a hattrick, finishing with 5 catches for 61 yards. As I predicted, both he and Amari Rodgers had big games. Rodgers, who had 2 long TD catches last year in Tallhassee, took a reverse 29 yards for a touchdown. Etienne rushed for 127 yards, averaging 7.5 yards per carry, and Lyn-J Dixon added 49 more on 10 carries. Trevor Lawrence was an efficient 17-25 for 170 yards with 3 touchdowns in limited playing time. He also continued his productive running, rushing for yards and another touchdown, his 5th rushing TD of the season. After just one rush TD last season, Trevor now has one in every game except for Charlotte. He did make a bad decision on an interception, however, in the second half when the game was well in hand. On 3rd and 2 after being flushed from the pocket, he tried to do too much and threw the ball down the sideline as he was falling out of bounds. Free safety Hamsah Nasirildeen made an outstanding toe-dragging catch on the sideline to give Trevor his 6th INT on the season. The Tigers also had a couple of false starts, which is a little disconcerting, especially at home. John Simpson committed his third in three quarters after jumping twice in the second half at UNC. The Tigers had 5 false starts in that game, and they will have to clean that up. The only other negatives were a fumble by Dixon, a couple of personal fouls and a missed 24-yard field goal by Potter. It was the second easy field goal Potter has missed in as many games—the miss at UNC nearly cost the Tigers the game—and Dabo benched Potter for Sawicki, who made a 26-yarder in the 4th quarter. Dabo told us after the game that Sawicki is now the starter. He said that Potter has been great in practice and is clearly the more talented kicker, but he’s missed easy field goals in consecutive games, and sometimes a young player needs to spend some time on the sideline. Potter has been superb on kickoffs and will continue to handle those, but Sawicki will be the field goal specialist until he gives Dabo a reason to go back to Potter. It will be interesting to see if Dabo gives Potter another shot on a long field goal at some point because his leg is much stronger.
On the defensive side, the Tigers’ starting unit was sensational. For the second year in a row, they shut down All-ACC running back Cam Akers, holding him to just 34 yards after 11 yards last year. The allowed just 63 total yards at the half and 172 through 3 quarters. The Noles were just 1-9 on 3rd down through the first three quarters with as many punts (7) as they had points. The defense was pitching a shutout until Alex Hornibrook found big-play WR Tamorrion Terry for a 64-yard touchdown with 2 minutes left in the 3rd. The Noles played musical quarterbacks for the entire game, alternating series between Blackman and Hornibrook, but neither QB was ever able to consistently move the ball against the Tigers. The biggest take-away from the defensive performance was their take-aways. They created four turnovers—3 interceptions and a fumble—after coming away with none in Chapel Hill for the first time in several games. They now have 8 interceptions on the season and almost had a couple more against the Noles. Former WR Derion Kendrick returned his first career INT 38 yards for a touchdown. It was the Tigers’ second pick-six this season. Chad Smith also posted his first career INT, and Muse collected his third of the season. Denzel Johnson forced the fumble, and it was recovered by Simmons, who again led the Tigers in tackles and had a sack and tackle-for-loss on back-to-back plays.
The Tigers have beaten the Noles in 5 straight, outscoring them 104-24 in the last two meetings! I predicted 48-17 in my preview and wasn’t far off. In fact, the Tigers ran the clock out with the ball at the FSU 7-yard-line. The Tigers could have easily scored 60 or more if they wanted to, though. I expected them to prove the UNC game was a one-game anomaly, and that’s exactly what they did. It’s as if the knee-jerk national media can only remember the last game played, so it will be interesting to see what they say about the Tigers this week. Paul Finebaum even had the temerity and short-sightedness to say the Tigers weren’t a playoff team. What a laugh—especially after No.3 UGA from his beloved SEC lost at home to the South Carolina team that lost to UNC with a crowd advantage! I said after the UNC game that all of those doubters on ESPN will be made to look foolish in the long run and that the Tigers would be No.1 when the real rankings are released in November. Expect more blowouts like this one to come!
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