CLEMSON, SC - The Tigers allowed more points than they've allowed against an ACC opponent since Syracuse scored 23 in the "Chase Brice game" over 2 years ago, but Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne demonstrated why they are the best QB/RB duo in the nation on Saturday night. They set an all-time record with their 46th consecutive Saturday win, previously held by the 1953-57 Oklahoma Sooners during their fabled 47-game win streak. Coincidentally, those Sooner teams were coached by Bud Wilkinson, the only man other than Dabo to win a national title as both a player and head coach.
Trevor came out of the bye week as hot as he was before, going 25-38 for 329 and 3 touchdowns with a couple of dropped passes. He could have easily been over 400 yards. He extended his streak to 314 passes without an interception and needs just 66 more to break Russell Wilson's ACC record. For the third straight game, he was incredibly accurate on deep balls, finding Amari Rodgers in the back of the end zone for the 3rd straight game, this time for 27 yards, and another completion to Ladson for 29. Trevor also threw a strike to Davis Allen on the sideline for 18 yards on 3rd down and made a beautiful pass to the end zone that was dropped by Rodgers with tight coverage. He has certainly played like a Heisman winner through the first 3 games of the season.
Trevor's running mate in the backfield wouldn't be outdone, though. Travis gained 187 total yards with 2 touchdowns; one rushing and one receiving. He had 5 catches for 105 yards and I believe his first 100-yard receiving game, adding 73 rushing yards on 5.3 yards per carry. Travis also made history, tying Tim Tebow's record for most career games (38) with a touchdown. A couple of his runs were a reminder of how truly special he is, bouncing off tackles and breaking long runs when it seemed the defense had him dead to rights. After the game, Dabo compared Travis to "Sweetness," Walter Payton, the NFL Hall of Famer, and Travis sure played like him on Saturday night.
The offensive line gave up 2 sacks, and Trevor was called for grounding in avoiding a third, but you're going to give up some sacks when you drop back to pass 38 times. Overall, the line played well. As I expected, the tight ends were once again involved in the passing game after recording no catches in the last game. Davis Allen came up with a big 18-yard reception to convert on 3rd down, and Galloway added 2 catches for 17 yards. I thought we'd see a little more from Galloway, however. Ngata was coming back from a slight injury and did not record a catch for the second straight game. Ladson and Rodgers picked up the slack with 5 and 6 catches, respectively, and Brannon Spector added 4 catches for 32 yards after missing the last game due to COVID.
There were several miscues by the offense coming out of the bye week, but one thing they did extremely well was protect the football. Virginia forced 7 turnovers, including 5 interceptions, last week against Duke, but the Tigers didn't give the ball away once, and they won the turnover margin for the first time this season.
Defensively, it wasn't the dominant performance with which we've been spoiled for so many years by Brent Venables's crew. Again, it was the most points they've allowed against an ACC opponent in over 2 years and the most in any regular season game since South Carolina in the 2018 season. They allowed 417 yards, which was also the most in a regular season game since that 2018 Palmetto Bowl. UVA marched down the field in 38 seconds for a touchdown to end the 1st half, and that's something we rarely see. However, bear in mind that 23 points is still a very low number in today's game. On the same day, Alabama allowed 24 points against an A&M team that scored just 17 at home against Vandy last week. It's also the third game of the season for the Tigers, and UVA did some things that they hadn't shown in their one game of film, catching the Tigers off guard. Armstrong is a very good quarterback, and he's going to give lots of teams trouble this season with his ability to run and throw. Also, as I wrote in my preview, UVA has one of the most experienced offensive lines in the entire country, and they were a challenge for this young Clemson front. I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses, but I expected this defense to be a work-in-progress, getting better as the season goes, so I'm not too surprised that we saw some hiccups on Saturday night. And it might be the best thing for the Tigers with D'Eriq King and top-10 Miami coming to town next week. If they had pitched another shutout, they'd be thinking about how great they are all week. Instead, Venables will be riding their tails all week. I think you'll see a unit with a chip on its shoulder against the Canes! On the positive side, the defense recorded its first two interceptions of the season, including a spectacular one-handed catch by first-year starter Andrew Booth in the end zone. Booth also had a nice PBU against the Hoos' dangerous 6'7 receiver, and this is the kind of game that can really boost the young player's confidence. I can't remember the last time I saw an interception as impressive as that one! Nolan Turner came up with the other INT, reading the quarterback's eyes and jumping the route. It was his 4th career interception but 1st during the regular season. He had one against UVA in the ACC Championship last season.
Finally, the special teams continued to play well. BT Potter was perfect on the night, making both his field goal attempts from 47 and 42 yards. Lyn-J Dixon opened the game with a 52-yard kickoff return. The Tigers' coverage units were good, and Spiers was solid on his 3 punts.
Clemson is the first school to win 300 ACC regular season games, and the Tigers are now 72-5 since the start of 2015, which is best in the nation, and 32-1 in their last 33 games. They have won 24 straight games against ACC opponents, 24 straight home games (school record) and 32 straight regular season games (ACC record). As I predicted last week, ESPN College GameDay will be coming to Tiger Town for the ACC showdown between No.1 Clemson and top-10 Miami. Armstrong and UVA were a good warmup for what the Tigers will see from Heisman candidate D'Eriq King and the Canes. Click the link below for post-game interviews and our Sunday evening teleconference with Dabo!
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 25-of-38 passes for 329 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The 300-yard passing game was Lawrence’s second of the season and the ninth of his career. His ninth 300-yard passing game moved him past Charlie Whitehurst for sole possession of the third-most in Clemson history. It pulls him within one 300-yard game of joining Tajh Boyd (18) and Deshaun Watson (13) as the only players in school history to record double-digit career 300-yard passing games.
The game was Lawrence’s 16th of his career with three or more passing touchdowns, tying Deshaun Watson for the second-most such games in school history.
During the game, Lawrence (73) passed Jacory Harris (70) for sole possession of sixth on the ACC's all-time career passing touchdowns leaderboard.
Including his 329 passing yards in the game, Lawrence (7,793) became only the fourth quarterback in Clemson history with 7,500 career passing yards.
Lawrence has now thrown 314 consecutive passes without an interception, the longest active streak in the country and the third-longest streak in ACC history. He has now recorded only the third 300-pass streak without an interception in conference history.
Lawrence became the first quarterback to complete 25 passes in a game against Virginia since Duke’s Daniel Jones completed 33 on Oct. 1, 2016.
Running back Travis Etienne rushed 14 times for 73 yards with one rushing touchdown, and he also set a Clemson receiving yardage record for a running back with 114 receiving yards on five receptions with a receiving touchdown.
Etienne’s receiving performance broke C.J. Spiller’s Clemson running back record of 108 receiving yards, set against Duke in 2008. Etienne recorded the fourth 100-yard receiving game by a running back in Clemson history, as all three previous instances were recorded by Spiller.
Etienne scored his second rushing touchdown of the season, the 58th of his career, on a 16-yard first-quarter run.
By scoring a touchdown in the 38th different game in his career on that run, Etienne tied the FBS record for most career games with a touchdown (by any means), held jointly by Florida's Tim Tebow (38 games from 2006-09) and Louisiana Tech's Kenneth Dixon (38 from 2012-15).
During the game, Etienne (390) passed placekicker Greg Huegel (379 from 2015-18) for second on Clemson's career scoring leaderboard.
Etienne surpassed his single-game career high in receiving yardage of 98, set in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.
Etienne’s first three completions went for 21, 16 and 46 yards on 3rd-and-16, 3rd-and-9, and 3rd-and-16, respectively.
Etienne recorded his first receiving touchdown of the season — the seventh of his career — on a four-yard pass from Lawrence in the third quarter.
The receiving touchdown was the 65th total touchdown of Etienne’s career, moving him into a tie with Oklahoma’s DeMarco Murray for the 13th-most in the FBS since 1956.
With 187 all-purpose yards in the game, Etienne (5,581) became the second player in Clemson history and the seventh player in ACC history to record 5,500 career all-purpose yards.
During the game, Etienne (5,581) passed Dalvin Cook (5,399), Duke Johnson (5,526), Ted Brown (5,565) and Jamison Crowder (5,575) to move into fourth on the ACC's leaderboard for career all-purpose yardage.
Wide receiver Amari Rodgers caught a career-high-tying six passes for 72 yards with two touchdowns.
The game was the third multi-touchdown game of Rodgers’ career, joining two-touchdown receiving performances at Florida State in 2018 and at Syracuse in 2019.
Rodgers scored his second touchdown of the season — the 10th of his career — on a 27-yard pass from Lawrence in the second quarter. He added another touchdown later in the quarter on a nine-yard pass from Lawrence.
Rodgers has now recorded a touchdown reception in consecutive games for the third time in his career (vs. Florida State and Louisville in 2018; vs. Boston College and Wofford in 2019).
Running back Chez Mellusi scored his fourth career rushing touchdown on a two-yard fourth-quarter run. It was his first touchdown since scoring against Virginia in the 2019 ACC Championship Game.
Wide receiver Brannon Spector posted career highs with four receptions for 32 yards.
Safety Nolan Turner recorded Clemson’s first interception of the season in the second quarter, picking off Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong.
The interception was the fourth of Turner’s career but his first in regular season play. Turner previously had an interception in the 2018 Cotton Bowl vs. Notre Dame, 2019 ACC Championship Game vs. Virginia and the 2019 Fiesta Bowl vs. Ohio State.
Cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. recorded his first career interception on a highlight-reel one-handed interception on the opening drive of the second half.
Linebacker Baylon Spector recorded a career-high 13 tackles. His previous high was six, set against Ohio State in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.
Defensive lineman Bryan Bresee recorded the first full sack of his career in the second quarter. He had previously split a sack in the team’s season opener at Wake Forest.
Placekicker B.T. Potter opened the scoring on a 47-yard field goal on Clemson’s opening drive. He later added a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter and has now converted his last six field goal attempts, dating to last year’s National Championship Game.
With his fourth PAT of the game, Potter passed Obed Ariri (99 from 1977-80) for fifth on Clemson's leaderboard for career PATs and became the fifth player in school history to convert 100 career PATs.
Potter extended his school record for consecutive PATs made to 101.
Running back Lyn-J Dixon returned the opening kickoff a career-long 52 yards on his first kickoff return of the season.
Clemson won the turnover margin and snapped a three-game streak without winning the margin, dating to the 2019 season finale. Clemson is now 59-3 when winning the turnover margin since 2011.
Clemson did not turn the ball over and produced an 11th consecutive game without turning the ball over multiple times. Clemson's 11-game streak with one giveaway or fewer is the program's longest in Head Coach Dabo Swinney's tenure.
Clemson recorded three sacks and has now recorded multiple sacks in 25 of its last 26 games, including each of its last nine.
Clemson played its 17th game all-time while ranked No. 1 in the AP poll, tying Pitt and Tennessee for 15th-most since the poll's inception in 1936. It was Dabo Swinney's 16th game coached at No. 1, moving him into sole possession of 20th among coaches in the AP Poll era (since 1936) and pulling him within one game of Ara Parseghian (17) for 19th.
The game was Clemson’s first of four scheduled home games in the month of October. If played as scheduled, it would represent the seventh time Clemson has played four home games in a single month, joining the 1920, 1987, 1989, 1993, 2008 and 2011 campaigns. In all six of the previous instances, Clemson posted a winning record in those contests.
Punter Will Spiers made his 47th career start to break Cole Chason's school record for career starts by a punter (46 from 2003-06).
Linebacker James Skalski appeared in his 50th career game. Chad Smith (58 from 2016-19) holds Clemson's career record for games played by a linebacker.
Captains for the contest were running back Travis Etienne, punter Will Spiers, offensive lineman Cade Stewart and defensive tackle Jordan Williams.
WITH THE WIN....
Clemson pushed its winning streak in Saturday games to 46 to extend the longest Saturday winning streak in school history and take sole possession of the longest streak in FBS history. Clemson's current run of 46 consecutive Saturday victories now surpasses the 1953-57 Oklahoma Sooners for the longest such streak in FBS history.
Clemson became the first program to win 300 ACC regular season games, according to official conference records. The ACC credits Clemson with a 300-143-6 record all-time in ACC regular season play.
Clemson improved to 40-8-1 against Virginia all-time. Virginia becomes the fifth opponent against whom Clemson has collected 40 all-time wins (South Carolina, Wake Forest, NC State and Furman).
Clemson won a fifth consecutive game against Virginia for the first time since opening its all-time series against the Cavaliers with a 29-game winning streak across the 1955-89 seasons. That previous 29-game winning streak is tied for the sixth-longest winning streak in FBS history for one team over another.
Though 2020 is technically a divisionless season, Clemson improved to 29-8 against opponents historically from the ACC Coastal Division, including postseason play, under Head Coach Dabo Swinney. Clemson has now won 15 of its last 16 games against traditional Coastal Division opponents since 2015. Clemson has won its last 11 such games, dating back to the 2016 ACC Championship Game.
Clemson won its 24th consecutive game against an ACC opponent, including postseason play. The 24-game winning streak against conference opponents ties the 1998-2001 Florida State Seminoles for the third-longest streak in conference history.
Clemson won its 24th consecutive home game to extend its school record for the longest home winning streak in school history. Of the 119 players on Clemson's 2020 roster, 110 have never experienced a home loss in their Clemson careers. Nine fifth-year seniors on Clemson's 2020 roster were on the 2016 team that recovered from a home loss to Pitt by winning the national championship that season.
Clemson won its 32nd consecutive regular season game, adding to the longest such streak in ACC annals. Clemson's last regular season loss came in October 2017 at Syracuse.
Clemson improved to 23-1 in October games in the College Football Playoff era (since 2014).
Clemson improved to 15-2 all-time when ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press. Clemson has never lost a regular season game as the nation’s top-ranked team.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney secured his 133rd career win as a head coach, pulling him within one victory of Virginia's George Welsh (134) for the second-most career wins by an ACC head coach. At the time of his retirement following the 2000 season, Welsh was the winningest head coach in ACC history prior to being passed by Bobby Bowden.
Clemson has now won 75 of its last 80 games overall dating to 2014.
Clemson has now won 45 of its last 47 games against ACC teams.
Clemson improved to 103-2 since 2011 when leading after three quarters.
Clemson is now 53-1 when scoring first since 2015.
Clemson has now won 81 of its last 83 games when leading at halftime.
Clemson has now won 76 of its last 78 games against unranked teams.