No. 23 Clemson revs up offense in 73-7 win
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — This was supposed to be a chance for Clemson to recover from an opening day loss. It turned out to be a day for the record books.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was so happy with the way his team played in the No. 23 Tigers’ 73-7 win over South Carolina State on Saturday that he wanted to revel in it for just awhile longer before thinking about top-ranked Florida State ahead in two weeks.
“I’m excited to watch this tape,” Swinney said after his team gained 735 yards and held the FCS Bulldogs to just 44 yards. “I’m going to watch it tonight.”
The Tigers (1-1) were coming off a disastrous second half in a 45-21 loss to No. 7 Georgia last week where they didn’t score in the final 30 minutes and were held to just 15 yards as Georgia pounded them for 283 yards on the ground.
They dominated on both sides of the ball, and the records started falling.
Clemson threw for 467 yards, just one yard shy of the school record. Artavius Scott caught six passes for 164 yards, setting a record for a freshman at Clemson. It was the third best offensive day ever for the Tigers, and South Carolina State’s 7 yards on the ground was the best day for Clemson’s rushing defense since holding the Bulldogs (1-1) to minus-10 yards when the two teams played in 2008.
The 73 points were the most scored by the Tigers since an 82-24 win over Wake Forest in 1981 and it was their biggest margin since beating Presbyterian 67-0 in 1957.
The Tigers scored on 12 of their 16 possessions, with two of the failures coming when the clock ran out on each half.
“I think we grew up a little bit,” Swinney said.
The Tigers will have to grow up a lot over the next two weeks. After a bye week, they head to Florida State, which beat Clemson 51-14 last season.
Clemson starting quarterback Cole Stoudt completed 22 of his 31 passes for 302 yards, but true freshman Deshaun Watson played four series, with the crowd at Death Valley cheering each time he came in. Watson led his team to a touchdown each time, although it appeared offensive coordinator Chad Morris kept the playbook simpler for the 18-year-old than for Stoudt.
Stoudt said he zones out the crowd and feels no disrespect when the crowd cheers for the guy who has been at Clemson for weeks instead of years.
Watson completed eight of his nine passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran five times for 20 yards. He said he understands Stoudt is the starter as long as he plays well.
“Whenever they put me in, I’m going to take advantage of my opportunities,” Watson said.
Swinney also dismisses any chance of a quarterback controversy.
“Cole is definitely, from a whole package standpoint, still a little bit ahead, but not a tremendous amount,” Swinney said. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that No. 4 (Watson) is pretty special.”
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said he was “disgusted” with his unit last week, especially after they allowed 346 yards in the second half at Georgia. This week, he said he was “particularly pleased with the effort.”
It took South Carolina State eight offensive plays before they moved the ball forward. Twenty-one of their first 27 plays went for no gain or losses. The Bulldogs didn’t get past midfield until late in the third quarter, and on the first play in Clemson territory, backup quarterback TeDarrius Wiley had a pass picked off by Jadar Johnson, who ran it back 60 yards for a touchdown.
The Bulldogs avoided a shutout when Dominique Mitchell returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown with four minutes to go.
“That really killed,” Johnson said. “We wanted that shutout.”
It was the worst loss ever for South Carolina State in 12 defeats against Football Bowl Subdivision teams, eclipsing a 56-0 loss to Arizona and a 70-14 defeat by Texas A&M in back-to-back weeks in 2012.
South Carolina State picked up a $275,000 check for their cash-strapped university and athletic department, which debated shutting down its men’s basketball program over the summer.
Bulldogs coach Buddy Pough shrugged that off. “Once you get past 50 or 60, it’s just six of one and half-a-dozen of another,” he said. “We’ve have to put this one past us. We have a lot of season left.”