Ugly: Clemson survives Troy 30-24
|Saturday, September 10, 2016, 4:39 PM- -|
CLEMSON – Nearly 80,000 Clemson fans braved the sun, heat and humidity Saturday afternoon, each one of them hoping to get a glimpse of why their Tigers are picked by many to compete for a shot in the College Football Playoff.
What they left with? A lot of questions.
Clemson’s offense bumbled and stumbled through most of the contest, the defense gave up big plays at inopportune times and a sophomore receiver made a critical mistake as the nation’s second-ranked team survived Troy 30-24, improving to 2-0 on the season.
Troy made it 30-24 with 44 seconds to play, but Clemson recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock for the win.
Perhaps the most damning aspect of the game was that many of Clemson’s starters were still in the game in the final minutes.
Wayne Gallman had just nine carries as Deshaun Watson threw it a whopping 53 times – completing 27 of them – as the Tigers rushed for just 123 yards. Clemson outgained Troy 415 yards to 386, with the defense giving up 21 first downs in allowing the Trojans to rush for 141 yards and throw for 245.
The teams each had an ineffective first series, but Troy used good field position on its second drive to get a 39-yard field goal from Ryan Kay for a 3-0 lead with just a little over four minutes into the contest.
The Tigers responded with a 10-play, 57-yard drive that ended with a 26-yard field goal by Greg Huegel.
An already sloppy game got even sloppier. Clemson managed just 54 yards in a lackadaisical first quarter, Watson threw an interception right at a Troy defender and the offensive line failed to protect Watson and failed to open running lanes.
Clemson’s defense managed two interceptions – one by Jalen Williams and one by Kendall Joseph – that thwarted Troy drives and the Tigers managed to get points after the Joseph pick. Joseph intercepted Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers at the Clemson 46, and four plays later the Tigers scored.
On third down at the Troy 35, Watson scrambled to his left out of the pocket and hit Hunter Renfrow in the end zone for the touchdown. Renfrow made a leaping grab and managed to get one foot down before falling out of bounds. Clemson had a 10-3 lead with 10:06 to play in the half.
The touchdown reception was Renfrow’s fifth in the last four games.
The Trojans answered three plays later. Facing a third-and-one at their own 34, the Trojans pitched it outside and Jabir Frye sprinted 66 untouched yards for the tying touchdown.
Two passing plays on the ensuing drive had Clemson knocking on the door for another score, but Watson lost yardage on a fourth-and-one play that turned the ball back over to Troy inside their own 30-yard line. The defense bailed out the offense, however, as Dorian O’Daniel intercepted Troy to give the Tigers the ball at the Troy 40.
Clemson couldn’t get a touchdown, however, and settled for Huegel’s second field goal of the half, a 32-yarder that gave Clemson a 13-10 lead with 2:45 to play in the half.
The Tigers forced a three-and-out, and McCloud fielded the punt at his own 25-yard line and raced almost untouched into the end zone for what appeared to be a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown. As Clemson celebrated, however, the officials gathered for a review and determined that McCloud dropped the ball short of the goal line, and Troy was credited with a touchback.
The Trojans missed a field goal with two seconds left in the half, and Clemson took a tenuous 13-10 lead into the locker room.
Things didn’t get better in the third quarter. Watson suffered his second interception on the afternoon, he overthrew open receivers, receivers dropped passes and the running game continued to be stifled.
However, the Tigers finally put a decent drive together, and on the fourth play of the fourth quarter finally got back into the end zone. Facing a third-and-goal at the Troy one-yard line, the Tigers brought in the jumbo package with defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence. Instead of blocking, however, Wilkins slipped out to the right and caught the touchdown pass from Watson for a 20-10 lead.
It was Wilkins’ second career reception and his first career touchdown.
Clemson forced another Troy punt, and it took them just five plays to add to the lead as Watson hit Deon Cain on a fade in the endzone. The play covered 23 yards, and Clemson led 27-10 with 10 minutes to play in the game.
The Trojans refused to go away, however, and answered with a 14-play, 86 yard drive that took almost five minutes off the clock. The drive ended when Silvers hit Deondre Douglas on a quick slant for a two-yard score. Clemson led just 27-17 with 4:59 to play.
Troy attempted an onside kick, but Williams covered the ball just over the midfield stripe. Clemson managed another Huegel field goal to go up 30-17, but Troy marched right back down the field and scored on the exact same play as the previous drive, making it 30-24 with 44 seconds to play.
Clemson returns to action next Saturday at 12:00 p.m., hosting South Carolina St.