Tigers unleash near-perfect first half in win over The Citadel, break ACC record
|Saturday, September 19, 2020, 7:18 PM- -|
CLEMSON – It's hard to have a better start than Clemson had Saturday afternoon.
The top-ranked Tigers scored touchdowns on the first seven drives of the game, including two long touchdown throws by Trevor Lawrence – and emptied the bench the rest of the way in a workmanlike 49-0 victory over The Citadel in Death Valley.
Clemson improves to 2-0 on the season, while The Citadel falls to 0-2. The shutout was a first for the Tiger defense since the 2016 Fiesta Bowl and the 31-0 win over Ohio State. Clemson has 31-straight regular-season wins now, which passed Florida State (2013-15) for the longest streak in ACC history.
Travis Etienne had eight carries for 68 yards in limited action, while Lawrence was 8-of-9 for 168 yards and three touchdown passes. Frank Ladson had three receptions for 87 yards and two scores.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said he was excited with the shutout, the first for the team since the 31-0 win over Ohio St. in the Fiesta Bowl in 2016.
"To me defensively, that was the story of the day. To hold that team and all the problems they create to zero points for four quarters is almost impossible," Swinney said. "To see our backups play at a high level, that really excites me. Super happy about the big goose egg. That's a big deal. Especially when you're playing a team that can stress you strategically like they do."
He was also pleased with the play of Lawrence.
"How he's playing on game day is exactly how he's practicing," Swinney said. "Just complete ownership. He's really throwing the ball with a lot of confidence. As I've said many times, he's special."
The Tigers won the toss and elected to receive. The Citadel attempted a surprise onside kick and the ball rolled out of bounds around midfield, but the officials announced the ball had not been marked ready for play. After a normal kickoff and fair catch, the Tigers covered 75 yards in just seven plays for the early score.
A 28-yard run by Etienne and a 13-yard pass to Cornell Powell set up a 17-yard dart from Lawrence to Frank Ladson and Clemson led 7-0 just over two minutes into the game.
Clemson forced a three-and-out on the Bulldogs, and on the first play floated a perfect pass to a streaking Amari Rodgers in the end zone for a 44-yard score. Rodgers caught the perfectly thrown pass in the middle of the end zone, and Clemson led 14-0 at the 9:41 mark of the first quarter.
Clemson forced another Bulldog punt, and a 22-yard run by Etienne set up Lawrence’s two-yard scoring run, his third of the season. With two minutes left to play in the first quarter Clemson led 21-0.
Following the kickoff, freshman defensive end Myles Murphy blew up the first play from scrimmage for an eight-yard loss, forcing a fumble that was picked up by linebacker James Skalski. Skalski picked up the loose ball and rumbled 17 yards for the score. With 1:51 to play in the first, Clemson led 28-0.
The Tigers forced yet another punt and Etienne returned the short kick 44 yards to the Bulldog four-yard line. Three plays later, backup quarterback DJ Uiagalelei powered in from a yard out for the score and Clemson led 35-0 just two minutes into the second quarter.
Following the fourth punt of the day by the Bulldogs the Tigers took over at their own 25-yard line. Two plays later Lawrence hit a streaking Ladson in stride – another beautiful throw – for a 54-yard scoring toss. Lawrence hit Ladson in stride at the 15 and Ladson waltzed in for the 42-0 lead with 9:51 to play before the half.
Lawrence was done at that point and finished the day 8-of-9 for 168 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown. The lone incompletion was a drop.
Yet another punt gave the Tigers the ball at their own 39-yard line, and Uiagalelei led an eight-play drive that culminated in his second touchdown of the day. Uiagalelei bullied his way in from six yards out and Clemson led 49-0 with 5:31 to play before the half.
There was no more scoring in the half, and the Tigers ran a very basic offense in the second half without ever gaining much traction.
Clemson has an open date next week and will host Virginia on Oct. 3rd.