There was a time when the Clemson-Florida State game was the premier series in the ACC and, arguably, all of college football. Those days are long gone.
No. 2 Clemson hammered an overwhelmed Florida State team, 45-14, securing their fifth straight win in this series and their second consecutive blowout, following last year’s 59-10 whipping in Tallahassee last season.
Trevor Lawrence accounted for four first-half touchdowns, hitting Travis Etienne for one and Justyn Ross for two and rushing for another, to stake the Tigers (6-0, 4-0 ACC) to a 28-0 halftime lead. He finished the day a modest 17-of-25 for 170 yards while rushing six times for 40 yards. (Lawrence did throw another interception, his sixth of the season.)
Etienne rushed 17 times for 127 yards, and as a team Clemson charged for 297 yards and two touchdowns on 50 carries.
Florida State’s quarterbacks had little success throwing the ball and their offensive line had less success protecting them. Alex Hornibrook went 8-of-12 for 84 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while James Blackman was 6-of-17 for 38 yards and two interceptions.
Cam Akers led FSU (3-3, 2-2 ACC) on the ground with nine carries for 34 yards.
No. 2 Clemson leads Florida State 28-0 at the half, and the game is every bit as lopsided as the score indicates.
The Tigers have out-gained the ‘Noles 358-34 and lead in first downs, 19-2.
Trevor Lawrence has accounted for all four touchdowns, opening the scoring with a 3-yard toss to Travis Etienne, then rushing in from eight yards out to give Clemson a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
In the second frame, Lawrence hit Justyn Ross twice, from 10 and eight yards. He finished the half 17-of-25 for 170 yards with three touchdowns and an interception while rushing six times for 40 yards and a score. Etienne carried 13 times for 89 yards.
If there is one coaching point for Clemson, it’s that the Tigers did blow a fourth-and-goal run and a short field goal just before the end of the half.
Florida State has played both quarterbacks, and both of them have been intercepted. James Blackman was 4-of-11 for 33 yards and an interception, and Alex Hornibrook was 4-of-5 for 12 yards and a pick. But wait, there’s more: Florida State also ran the ball eight times for minus-2 yards.
After beating Clemson in the Carrier Dome two years ago and nearly doing the same in Death Valley East last year, tonight’s Clemson-Syracuse game was billed preseason as a meeting of the ACC’s two best teams, a de facto ACC semifinal even. Pretty much all of that hype evaporated when Syracuse was crushed 63-20 by No. 21 Maryland last week, but, still. If this is truly the ACC’s second-best team… woof.
Trevor Lawrence tossed two interceptions and generally put in a workmanlike effort, and still the defending champions won with ease: No. 1 Clemson 41, Syracuse 6.
Lawrence completed 22-of-39 passes for a career-high 395 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing four times for 42 yards and an additional score. Most of his success through the air came on jump balls and screens to his massive, speedy wide receivers. Tee Higgins caught seven passes for 150 yards, Amari Rodgers snared four for 121 yards and two scores, and Justyn Ross snared five passes for 64 yards.
The heroes of the night were the Tigers’ defenders. Clemson (3-0, 2-0 ACC) limited Syracuse (1-2, 0-1 ACC) to 184 yards of total offense. Orange quarterback Tommy DeVito was 15-of-27 for just 172 yards with an interception and while absorbing six sacks.
If there was one moment of drama on the night, it came early in the third quarter when, trailing 17-6, Syracuse linebacker Christopher Frederick intercepted Lawrence and returned the ball to the Clemson 9, but DeVito gave the ball right back by throwing it to Clemson’s Mario Goodrich.
Lawrence hit Rodgers for an 87-yard touchdown two plays after that and the game was all but over.
Clemson’s biggest test a year ago during the regular season was going into College Station and holding off a furious second half rally from Texas A&M. Facing perhaps their biggest test on paper of the 2019 regular season, the No. 1 ranked Tigers needed neither a close call nor a late stand at the goal line in order to dispatch the No. 12 Aggies 24-10 and extend their FBS-best win streak to 17 in a row.
Heisman Trophy favorite Trevor Lawrence continued to dazzle in the Clemson passing game, leaning on his outstanding group of receivers to help throw for 268 yards (one pick) and a touchdown pass to a wide open Justyn Ross (94 total yards to go with the score). Tee Higgins chipped in with 70 yards receiving while the big news to emerge from the game came in the form of Amari Rodgers, who caught two passes for six yards less than six months after he tore his ACL.
Tailback Travis Etienne was bottled up by his standards, rushing for just 53 on the ground but finding other ways of contributing with four catches for 52 yards. It was a slow start overall for the Tigers offense, which was blanked in the first quarter but ran off 24 unanswered after that to turn an interesting game into a comfortable victory over a top 15 program.
The offensive output from the Aggies was not exactly what Jimbo Fisher had in mind for his return to Death Valley in a slightly different shade of dark red. Quarterback Kellen Mond was far from the guy we saw in last year’s meeting, throwing for 236 yards, a touchdown and an interception while also fumbling once and generally throwing a bit high on his passes all afternoon. The rushing game didn’t do him much favor with just 53 yards total but after a few early drives looked promising, the SEC visitors simply couldn’t get over the hump and make things close enough to truly threaten the defending champions.
The A&M defense did seem pretty solid overall on their side of the ball against one of the best offenses in the country but a handful of injuries, some cramps and a few missed tackles and assignments were enough to open the door for the home team. The good news is the Aggies return home and won’t leave the state of Texas until late October — having a pair of stiff tests upcoming with top 10 programs Auburn and Alabama coming to Kyle Field down the road.
As for Clemson, they passed the test in what could be their only game during the regular season against a ranked opponent given Syracuse’s earlier blowout loss to Maryland. To say Dabo Swinney’s team carries the ACC banner at this point is an understatement but the affable head coach is no doubt happy to celebrate the ‘W’ and another impressive defensive effort. This still isn’t a team that is hitting on all cylinders early in their 2019 campaign but that might not matter after getting past A&M on Saturday.
It took a quarter for No. 1 Clemson to get warmed up but eventually the defending champions decided to show up for their game against what might be the only ranked opponent they’ll see in the regular season in 2019.
That’s not to say that Dabo Swinney can be all that happy with the Tigers performance on Saturday afternoon in Death Valley but at least they have the lead over No. 12 Texas A&M 17-3 heading into halftime and plenty of momentum after a huge second quarter.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence had a rushing touchdown just before the break and was already up to 188 yards passing, including a nifty touchdown pass where he escaped pressure and lofted a beauty into the waiting hands of a wide open Justyn Ross (72 yards and the score himself). Tailback Traivs Etienne had a bit tougher time on the ground, rushing for 32 yards on 11 carries against a defense that was far from the Georgia Tech one he played in the season opener last Thursday.
Kellen Mond wasn’t quite as sharp as he was in last year’s meeting, which was a breakout game nationally for the Aggies quarterback. He wound up with just five completions for 51 yards, fumbled and was pretty inaccurate passing the ball down the field. Jashaun Corbin did not provide much help running the ball with 31 yards on 12 carries as A&M had one really good drive in the first half but mustered just three points.
All told the Aggies had just 93 yards of offense and saw their defense gradually wear down after a few early stops.
Can Jimbo Fisher’s crew rally in the second half? They are certainly facing a huge uphill battle given the way the Tigers have flipped the switch and started to put some distance between them and their visitors from the SEC.