CLEMSON, SC - Not only was it the home opener for the Tigers on Saturday, but it was Death Valley's 78th birthday, and the Tigers roared to a 49-0 halftime lead over The Citadel, scoring touchdowns on each of their first six possessions plus a defensive TD. The game was so lopsided that late in the second quarter, the Tigers had out-gained the Bulldogs 293 to 3 despite having already played several backups on both sides of the ball! Trevor Lawrence played barely over a half in the opener last week and less than a half in the home opener on Saturday, but he's showing why he was the preseason Heisman favorite. Trevor was a model of efficiency against The Citadel, going 8-9 for 168 yards and 4 total touchdowns with no interceptions. And remember, that's in less than a half! He is completely in the zone right now, dropping dimes all over the field and more accurate than he has been in his entire stellar career. Dabo pointed out to me after the game that he could have been 25-28 last week with 400 yards and another touchdown if it hadn't been for a few drops. And that was in just over a half of play! One of Trevor's 4 touchdowns was with his legs, as he drove his way through the middle of the defense on 3rd and goal for his 3rd rushing TD of the season. He has thrown 276 passes without an interception, the third-longest streak in ACC history, and has thrown 26 touchdowns over that stretch.
Two of Trevor's TD passes were to sophomore Frank Ladson, who finished the game with 3 catches for 87 yards. The first TD was a brilliant throw and catch in tight coverage. It looked like the DB might get a hand on the ball, but Ladson showed great concentration in making the catch. The second was a beautiful 54-yard bomb that Trevor dropped right into Ladson's hands in stride. Amari Rodgers added the other TD on a 44-yard dime by Trevor to the back of the end zone, which was great to see after Amari dropped the 40-yard touchdown last week. Surprisingly, Joseph Ngata did not record a catch on Saturday. However, he didn't play the whole game either. True freshman EJ Williams was the second-leading receiver with 3 catches for 58 yards.
Travis Etienne will have to wait another week to break Tim Tebow's all-time record for most games with a TD. He played less than a half with only 68 rushing yards but averaged 8.5 yards per carry, and he added a catch and a 44-yard punt return for 123 all-purpose yards. The punt return set the Tigers up at the 5-yard line for DJ Uiagalelei's first career touchdown. He barreled through the teeth of the defense twice for touchdowns, giving Clemson quarterbacks 5 rushing TD's in the first 2 games. DJ was 8-11 for 75 yards passing and clearly established himself as the backup QB, ahead of redshirt freshman Taisun Phommachanh.
Perhaps the biggest story of the day was that the Clemson defense pitched a shutout for the first time since their 31-0 win over Ohio State in the CFP nearly 4 years ago, and this has been the best defense in the nation over that period of time, so it demonstrates how hard it is to shut anyone out. The Tigers actually pitched 3 shutouts in 2016 and came close several times since, but they finally blanked an opponent again on Saturday. Last week, the backups gave up 13 points to Wake, including a late TD aided by a pass interference call on 4th and 14. This week, the backups were much more impressive. The defense was faced with a few sudden change situations after a fumble and a couple turnovers on downs, but they answered the challenge each time. They also created their first turnover of the season, a fumble forced by freshman phenom Myles Murphy that James Skalski scooped and scored for the first defensive touchdown of the season. Baylon Spector left the game in the first half with what looked like a possible concussion, and Dabo told me after the game his status was unknown. The Tigers were also without starting DE Justin Foster, starting DT Tyler Davis, co-starting CB Marion Goodrich and co-starting CB LeAnthony Williams, but they didn't miss a beat. True freshman Bryan Bresee continued to wreak havoc, and several freshman contributed to the Tigers' 4 sacks, including Capehart, Swint, Simpson and Greg Williams. Regan Upshaw added half a sack after recording his first sack last week. The Tigers had an impressive 6 sacks in the opener last week, and 4 against a triple-option is equally impressive! They also had 12 tackles-for-loss on Saturday and 7 three-and-outs.
The Tigers are now 71-5 since the start of 2015, the best record over that span all-time. They set a new ACC record with their 31st straight regular season win, pulling away from 2013-15 FSU. It was also their 45th straight Saturday win, which I believe ties the all-time record held by Oklahoma from 1953-57, but I'll have to check with the Clemson folks to get confirmation on that. Incidentally, that was Oklahoma's fabled 47-game win streak under Bud Wilkinson, who is the only man other than Dabo to win a national title as both a player and head coach!
The Tigers will enjoy a timely bye next week with several players either sick or injured and return to ACC play in October against UVA in Death Valley for a rematch of last season's ACC Championship. I'll have an update on Spector when we talk to Dabo on Monday evening. Post-game interviews, notes and highlights are below!
Clemson produced its first shutout since the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, a 31-0 win against Ohio State. It was Clemson’s first regular season shutout since a 54-0 win against Syracuse in 2016.
The shutout was Clemson’s seventh under Head Coach Dabo Swinney, and its fifth home shutout in his tenure.
The shutout was Clemson’s first in a home opener since 2000, a game also played against The Citadel (38-0).
Clemson, which allowed only 1.1 yards per carry last week, held The Citadel to 1.8 yards per carry, and has now held consecutive opponents 2.0 yards per carry or fewer for the first time since games 2-3 last season against Texas A&M and Syracuse.
Clemson recorded four sacks and has now recorded at least four sacks in four straight games, dating to last season, for the first time since games 8-11 in 2018.
Clemson rushed for 162 yards and has now rushed for at least 150 yards in 12 straight games, dating to last season. It represents Clemson's longest streak since a 15-game span across the 1991-92 seasons.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 8-of-9 passes for 168 yards and three passing touchdowns.
Lawrence’s third touchdown pass was the 70th of his career, moving him into a tie for sixth with Jacory Harris on the ACC's all-time career passing touchdowns leaderboard.
Lawrence has now thrown 276 consecutive passes without an interception, passing Drew Weatherford (270 in 2007) for the third-longest streak in ACC history.
Lawrence also scored his third rushing touchdown of the season, the 13th of his career, on a two-yard first quarter run.
Lawrence has now rushed for a touchdown in four consecutive games, dating to last season, to become the first Clemson quarterback to rush for a touchdown in four straight games since Kelly Bryant in 2017.
Running back Travis Etienne rushed eight times for 68 yards and caught an 11-yard pass.
On a 28-yard first-quarter run, Etienne (4,208) moved past Maryland's LaMont Jordan (4,147 from 1997-2000) for the fifth-most career rushing yards in ACC history.
Etienne also recorded his first career punt return in the game, a 44-yard return in the second quarter.
With 123 all-purpose yards in the game, Etienne (5,394) passed Warrick Dunn (5,321) and Robert Lavette (5,393) for eighth on the ACC's leaderboard for career all-purpose yardage.
Etienne was held without a touchdown, snapping a streak of 13 consecutive games with a touchdown, dating to last season. His streak was the second-longest in Clemson history, one game shy of C.J. Spiller’s school record of 14 set in 2009. It also snapped a school-record 10 consecutive games with a rushing touchdown.
Wide receiver Frank Ladson Jr. recorded career highs in receptions (three), receiving yards (87) and receiving touchdowns (two).
Clemson opened the scoring on the game’s opening possession on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence to Ladson. The touchdown reception was Ladson’s fourth of his career and his first of the season.
Ladson added his second touchdown of the game on a 54-yard pass from Lawrence in the second quarter. The performance was Ladson’s first multi-touchdown game of his career.
The 54-yard touchdown pass to Ladson was Lawrence’s 16th career touchdown pass covering 50 yards or more, one shy of Tajh Boyd’s school record of 17. Ladson became the sixth different player to catch a touchdown pass of 50 yards or more from Lawrence, joining Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, Amari Rodgers, Diondre Overton and Travis Etienne.
Wide receiver Amari Rodgers recorded his first touchdown reception of the season — the ninth of his career — on a 44-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence.
With 37 punt return yards in the game, Rodgers (502) entered the Top 10 in school history in career punt return yards. He passed Ray-Ray McCloud (485) and Jacoby Ford (479) during the game and now sits eighth in Clemson history in the category.
Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei scored his first career touchdown on a one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Uiagalelei added his second rushing touchdown of the contest on a six-yard rush later in the second quarter. He became the first freshman quarterback at Clemson with two rushing touchdowns in a game since Kelly Bryant at Miami in 2015.
Linebacker James Skalski recorded his first career touchdown in his 49th career game on a 17-yard fumble return in the first quarter.
Skalski’s touchdown was Clemson’s first defensive touchdown of the season and its first since Logan Rudolph’s 39-yard fumble return touchdown against Boston College last October.
The fumble that led to the touchdown was forced by defensive end Myles Murphy. Murphy and fellow true freshman defensive lineman DeMonte Capehart tied for the team lead with 2.0 tackles for loss each.
Linebacker Trenton Simpson recorded his first career sack in the second quarter to end a drive by The Citadel. Capehart and defensive end Greg Williams also added their first career sacks in the contest, and linebacker Kevin Swint recorded his first career half-sack.
Clemson jumped out to a 28-0 first quarter lead. The 28 first-quarter points tied for Clemson’s fourth-most in a quarter in school history, including most recently at NC State last season. Since the start of the 2019 season, Clemson has outscored opponents in the first quarter, 219-34.
Clemson scored 49 first-half points, its most in the first two quarters of play since scoring 49 against Temple in a 63-9 victory on Oct. 12, 2006. Previously, Clemson’s most first-half points in the Dabo Swinney era was 45 against Ball State in 2012 and against South Carolina State in 2016.
Clemson opened the game scoring a touchdown on each of its first seven drives (including a statistical “zero-play” drive on a fumble return for touchdown) for the first time in the Dabo Swinney era. The streak of consecutive drives with a touchdown was broken only by a drive that started deep in Clemson territory with 32 seconds remaining in the first half.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, three teams opened a game with seven consecutive touchdown drives last season: Louisiana (vs. Texas Southern), Wisconsin (vs. Kent State) and Arizona (vs Northern Arizona).
Clemson scored three rushing touchdowns and has now opened a season with three or more rushing touchdowns in each of the first two games of a season for the first time since 2010.
Clemson turned the ball over only once and has not produced multiple giveaways in a game in any of its last 10 games, dating to last year.
Clemson played its 120th home opener in school history in its 125th season, as there were five seasons in which Clemson did not play a game at home.
The game was Clemson’s latest home opener in a season (Sept. 19) since opening the 1985 season on Sept. 21 against Georgia.
Official attendance for the contest was 18,609. Previously, Clemson’s last game attended by fewer than 20,000 at any location came at Duke on Nov. 2, 2002 (16,479). The last time Clemson played at Memorial Stadium in front of a crowd fewer than 20,000 people was on Oct. 31, 1964 against Virginia (17,000).
The game was played 78 years to the date following Clemson’s first game at Memorial Stadium, as the Tigers opened the facility that would later become known colloquially as Death Valley with a 32-13 defeat of Presbyterian College on Sept. 19, 1942.
Captains for the contest were running back Darien Rencher, wide receiver Will Swinney, safety Nolan Turner and defensive end Regan Upshaw.
WITH THE WIN....
Clemson improved to 95-17-8 all-time in home openers.
Clemson won its 17th straight home opener. Clemson has won every home opener since a 30-0 home opener loss to Georgia in 2003. It ties Clemson's longest winning streak in home openers all-time, set across the 1944-60 seasons.
Clemson improved to 33-5-1 in its all-time series with The Citadel since the teams' first meeting in 1909.
Clemson has now won its 18 most recent games in its all-time series with The Citadel since 1932, the third-longest winning streak against a single opponent in Clemson history (31 vs. Furman, 1938-Present; 29 vs. Virginia from 1955-89).
Clemson is now 35-0 against Football Championship Subdivision teams since the NCAA formed the division prior to the 1978 season.
Clemson won its 23rd consecutive home game to extend its school record for the longest home winning streak in school history. Clemson holds the nation's longest active home winning streak.
Clemson won its 24th consecutive non-conference game in regular season play, dating to 2014. Clemson’s last regular season non-conference loss came in the 2014 season opener against Georgia. Including postseason play, Clemson is now 31-4 overall in non-conference play in the College Football Playoff era (since 2014).
Clemson has now won 31 consecutive regular season games, dating to Clemson's last regular season loss at Syracuse in 2017. Clemson's streak now surpasses the 2013-15 Florida State Seminoles for the longest in ACC history.
Clemson pushed its winning streak in Saturday games to 45 to extend the longest Saturday winning streak in school history. Clemson's current run of consecutive Saturday victories is the longest active streak in the country.
Clemson pushed its winning streak in September games to 24. Clemson's last September loss came in 2014 at No. 1 Florida State. Clemson is now 23-0 in September games since 2015, the only team in the country with a perfect September record in that span.
Clemson has now won 74 of its last 79 games overall dating to 2014.
Clemson has now won 80 of its last 82 games when leading at halftime.
Clemson improved to 102-2 since 2011 when leading after three quarters.
Clemson is now 52-1 when scoring first since 2015.
Clemson improved to 101-2 when totaling more first downs than its opponent since 2011.
Clemson has now won 83 straight games when holding teams under 23 points (dates to 2010).