For nearly a month, the college football world has been wondering when Clemson was going to look like, well… Clemson. You know, the Tigers that made it to the national championship game last year and ran the table during the regular season in 2015.
Well, the college football world can stop wondering after Thursday night.
Facing a pesky Georgia Tech team in their ACC opener, Clemson’s defense looked like one of the best in the country through the first half and quarterback Deshaun Watson finally showcased the skills that had many people labeling the Heisman Trophy favorite in 2016. The Tigers jumped out to a 23-0 lead going into the locker room at halftime but the score line didn’t quite indicate just how lopsided the game was up to that point.
After just two quarters, Watson and the Clemson offense had 347 yards. Georgia Tech? A whopping 22. The Tigers had more first downs than the Yellow Jackets had plays run and yards.
It was just that kind of half in Atlanta.
Freshman defensive tackle Christian Wilkins was particularly impressive for Brent Venables’ defense, blowing up a play in the backfield on the very first snap of the game and generally disrupting the Yellow Jackets’ triple option each drive.
Watson also finally returned to the form he displayed last year, throwing for 262 yards and two scores while adding 27 yards on the ground. Perhaps most encouraging for the Clemson offense was the big plays they got from Ray-Ray McCloud (seven catches, 90 yards) while the defense focused on Mike Williams.
Things were not completely perfect in the half for Watson even if he was bailed out by a bone-headed mistake. After a miscommunication with a receiver in the red zone, the signal-caller lofted a ball directly into the hands of defensive back Lance Austin.
Austin stepped out of the end zone however and then back in, before fumbling and then recovering the ball for what was a safety. Clemson promptly marched down for a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Going to be a long halftime speech filled with adjustments for Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson as a result.