Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Clemson remains perfect after clobbering Florida State in most lopsided win in series history

12 Comments

No. 2 Clemson (8-0, 5-0 ACC) is starting to have that look again. The Tigers were challenged early against Florida State (4-4, 2-4 ACC) in a scoreless first quarter, but Clemson woke up after that and left no doubt about how good they are. Clemson’s 59-10 victory over Florida State was the biggest margin for victory by the Tigers in the history of the series. It was so lopsided, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had the luxury of inserting backup players in the third quarter.

Trevor Lawrence passed for 314 yards and four touchdowns before getting the entire fourth quarter off. Lawrence had a rough start to the game as it took time for he and the rest of the Clemson offense to get comfortable against a feisty start by the Florida State defense, but once the big plays started coming together, there was no looking back. Tee Higgins caught two touchdown passes inside the red zone to help get the Tigers on their roll, and Amari Rodgers pulled in two touchdown catches to go with his 156 receiving yards.

Clemson’s defense made life difficult for Florida State all afternoon. The Seminoles had a team total of -21 rushing yards and the team combined for 253 yards of offense in the game. Meanwhile, Clemson racked up more than double that with 523 yards, including 404 through the air. Florida State was also penalized 16 times for 140 yards, and two turnovers led to Clemson points when the game was still relatively up for grabs. For as uch progress as Florida State seemed to be making in recent weeks, all of that went out the window against Clemson.

Clemson’s 49-point victory is the largest margin for victory by Clemson in the all-time series against Florida State, and the second-most lopsided victory by either team in the series. Florida State defeated Clemson 57-0 in 1993 and 48-0 in 1998. Florida State also had a 47-point victory over the Tigers in 2000.

Next up for Clemson is a home game against Louisville. The Cardinals have been struggling mightily this season, which seems to suggest there should be another comfortable Clemson win on the horizon. Three of the final four games Clemson plays will come at home, with the only road trip remaining coming up in two weeks at Boston College. The fate of the division could come down to that game.

Florida State plays their next two games on the road, first at NC State next week and then at Notre Dame after that. The margin for error to get to a bowl game is beginning to get razor thin for the Seminoles. Florida State needs two wins in their final four games in order to go bowling. The two home games remaining will be played against Boston College and Florida.

Clemson on cruise control at Florida State with 28-0 halftime lead

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
1 Comment

Florida State was already going to have a difficult time competing with Clemson, but penalties and a turnover have only hurt their chances of pulling a big upset in the ACC this afternoon. Clemson is taking a 28-0 lead into the second half in Doak Campbell Stadium, moving the defending ACC champions one half closer to maintaining sole possession of first place in the ACC Atlantic Division.

Florida State’s defense managed to keep things interesting early on by keeping Clemson’s offense out of sync. Trevor Lawrence had a rough start to the game but has kept his poise and managed to throw a pair of touchdowns while Travis Etienne is fighting for every yard he can when given the chance to run.

Clemson ended up taking advantage of a penalty on Florida State’s special teams unit in the second quarter. After the Seminoles were flagged for roughing the kicker on a missed Clemson field goal, the Tigers capitalized on the free first down with Lawrence completed a seven-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins on 3rd & 5.

Lawrence would connect with Higgins again on Clemson’s next possession to take a 14-0 lead. After Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois was intercepted on a 3rd and 20 pass attempt by Tre Lamar, Clemson added to their lead with a goal-line touchdown run by Christian Wilkins. Clemson would score a fourth touchdown on their fourth straight drive the offense’s next time up late in the half to push the lead to 28-0.

Florida State has been flagged seven times for 59 penalty yards. Further complicating things for Florida State is an apparent injury to Dontavious Jackson, who was helped off the field late in the half. The linebacker’s status was unknown but his potential loss would be a tough blow for Florida State’s defense. Defensive back Stanford Samuels also came off the field on the same drive.

It’s already been one long half for Florida State, and there are still 30 minutes to go in Tallahassee.

No. 3 Clemson clears biggest ACC hurdle yet by rolling over No. 16 N.C. State

Getty Images
1 Comment

No. 3 Clemson’s biggest hurdle in conference play? Turns out, there wasn’t much of one at all.

The Tigers continued to look more and more like No. 1 Alabama’s biggest challenger for the national title this season, dispatching previously undefeated No. 16 N.C. State in effortless fashion 41-7 on a picturesque Saturday afternoon in Death Valley.

Dabo Swinney’s group was dominant on both sides of the ball but turned in one of their best performances of the season on the offensive end when factoring in the competition in this one. Young freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence set career-highs in yardage (308), attempts (39) and completions (26) as Clemson took to the air downfield early and often — finding top target Tee Higgins (119 yards, one score) for big gains quite a bit against a leaky secondary.

Running back Travis Etienne didn’t break off any big runs and finished with only 39 yards but scored three rushing touchdowns for third straight game. While it seems like a lock that quarterbacks will stack the Heisman Trophy podium at the end of the year the way things are trending, the sophomore is playing well enough the past month to at least earn a trip to New York City as the guy this team has been leaning on as of late.

Defensively, the Tigers continue to play like the all-world unit they were billed as to start the year. K’Von Wallace and Jalen Williams both came up with spectacular interceptions but the effort started up front with the All-American defensive line providing constant disruption of the pocket and clamping down on things on third down.

That made for a rough outing for Wolfpack QB Ryan Finley after two years of nearly pulling off the upset against Clemson. The senior finished with 21 completions for just 156 yards to go with those two picks and will likely need to spend a few hours in the ice bath before returning home to the Triangle. Reggie Gallaspy did find some moderate success running the football to the tune of 59 yards and a score but it was far from enough to keep the team in the running.

As a result, NCSU will likely fall back in the polls after their hot start to the season against a very soft schedule and continue to deal with questions about just how good this team really is this year.

The outcome will also, more or less, allow Clemson to lock up yet another ACC Atlantic title while reaffirming this team’s greatness too. Though there’s still tests along the way like Florida State, Duke and whomever meets them in Charlotte in the coming weeks, the Tigers certainly cemented themselves as the conference’s top dog on Saturday with another big win and are finally starting to look like the only legitimate challenger in college football to their old foe in the defending national champions.

No. 3 Clemson rolling to comfy halftime lead over No. 16 N.C. State

Getty Images
Leave a comment

N.C. State has played Clemson close the past few years in the Textile Bowl but will need to step things up quite a bit in the second half if they want to hang with the No. 3 team in the country down the stretch in the pair’s ACC showdown on Saturday afternoon.

Playing in front of a fired up crowd in Death Valley, the Tigers jumped out to a 24-0 lead at halftime in a score line that didn’t even indicate the home team’s dominance over the No. 16 Wolfpack early on.

Leading the way for Clemson was young quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who remarkably was up to 28 attempts in the game already and wound up throwing for 244 yards and a touchdown in his biggest test to date. Favorite target Tee Higgins was naturally involved quite a bit on offense with seven catches and 111 yards plus a trip to the end zone. Tailback Travis Etienne was relatively quiet on the ground with only 27 yards (two TD’s though) but figures to get plenty of work after emerging from the locker room.

The Tigers defense also played a big role in the halftime lead, holding NCSU to just 1-of-6 on third down as the decorated front four applied continuous pressure and already had two sacks. Perhaps the only thing that truly went awry through two quarters was when Dabo Swinney called for a fake field goal with his son Will as holder — but the younger Swinney fumbled the initial snap and, after picking the ball up off the turf, wound up fumbling again after being hit at the line of scrimmage.

Wolfpack QB Ryan Finley dealt with a ton of pressure on just about every dropback as he completed just seven passes for 58 yards and an interception. If there was a bit of a bright spot for the team, they did manage to run the ball better than they have this season with 43 yards on the ground but there’s not a whole lot else to write home about for a team that was untested but 5-0 coming into the game.

There have been some dramatic second half performances in this series over the years but from the looks of this one so far, that does not appear to be in the cards this time around. Perhaps NCSU can dial things up after regrouping at the break but the Tigers are really starting to live up to that ranking beside their name in the polls.

Kellen Mond’s comeback effort falls short as No. 2 Clemson holds off Texas A&M

Getty Images
13 Comments

A furious Texas A&M comeback effort led by Kellen Mond fell just short, as No. 2 Clemson raced to an early lead and held on for a 28-26 win in College Station.

The Aggies moved the ball consistently throughout the night but saw four drives of 30-plus yards end in some form of disaster. A&M opened the game by moving 66 yards before a missed Daniel LaCamera field goal, and also saw a 30-yard march end in a missed field goal.

Then, with the Aggies trailing 14-6 midway through the third quarter, Mond converted a 3rd-and-11 at the Clemson 44 by rushing 23 yards, setting up a 1st-and-10 at the 21. But Mond cramped up after the run, forcing backup Nick Starkel into the game. Clelin Ferrell immediately sacked Starkel, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Clemson’s Justin Foster.

Two plays later, Clemson (2-0) quarterback Kelly Bryant hit Tee Higgins for a 50-yard completing, setting up a touchdown to give Clemson a 21-6 lead.

After that, Mond came alive. He found Camron Buckley for a 69-yard completion, setting up a 9-yard scoring strike to Kendrick Rodgers to pull the Aggies (1-1) within 21-13 at the 4:22 mark of the third quarter.

Clemson answered that score, keyed by a 40-yard strike from Bryant to Hunter Renfrow, moving 75 yards in eight plays to set up Travis Etienne‘s 1-yard plunge, giving Clemson a 28-13 lead with a minute remaining in the third quarter.

But Mond immediately led the Aggies back, needing only a handful of snaps to travel 75 yards. Mond hit Quartney Davis for a 14-yard touchdown grab, the first catch of any kind of his career, to bring the Aggies within 28-20 with 14:07 still to play.

The teams traded punts through the next three possessions until A&M moved in position to potentially tie the game, but Davis fumbled the ball through the end zone on a play that was ruled a fumble on the field and was impossible to overturn upon review.

That fumble gave Clemson the ball at its own 20 with 2:09 remaining, but the Tigers could not achieve a game-clinching first down, and Will Spiers‘s 22-yard punt handed the Aggies the ball at the Clemson 49 with 1:12 still to play.

Mond needed only 26 seconds to score, hitting Rodgers for a 10-yard gain, accepting a pass interference penalty on Clemson and then finding Rodgers again, this time for a 24-yard score.

Needing a two-point conversion to push the game into overtime, Mond was intercepted in the end zone.

Hunter Renfrow recovered the onside kick to clinch the win for Clemson. The win moves Clemson to 23-4 in one-score games in its last 27 such games.

In a losing effort, Mond was the star of the night, hitting 23-of-40 passes for 430 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions while also leading the Aggies’ ground efforts with 10 carries for 33 yards. Trayveon Williams rushed 17 times for 31 yards.

Clemson also failed to run the ball consistently, mustering 115 yards on 32 carries. Bryant was the Tigers’ leading rusher with 54 yards on 15 carries. Instead, Clemson (2-0) was carried by a handful of big plays in the passing game.

Trailing 3-0 in the first quarter, Bryant hit Amari Rodgers for a 64-yard gain, turning a 3rd-and-15 into a 1st-and-10 at the A&M 16. Bryant scored on a 1-yard dash four plays later to give Clemson a lead it would not relinquish through the first half.

After forcing an A&M punt, Clemson put freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the game, and the freshman immediately made the absolute most of his opportunity, finding Higgins for a snatch-and-dash 64-yard score.

Bryant got the bulk of the duties for Clemson, playing the entire second half and completing 12-of-17 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown. Lawrence was 5-of-9 for 93 yards and a score. Etienne led all Clemson running backs with eight carries for 44 yards and a touchdown.

The win pushed Dabo Swinney to a four-game winning streak in his personal rivalry with Jimbo Fisher. Swinney now owns the ledger, 6-5. The Aggies and Tigers will complete their home-and-home in Clemson in Week 2 of next season.