The collective swelling has finally begun to subside for Tigers fans after being swarmed by the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta last weekend. And luckily our collective hearts have descended from our collective throats with the news that Deshaun Watson did not sustain an ACL tear, as we all feared during the second drive of Saturday's game, but merely an LCL sprain, from which he may return in time to pluck the chickens. For that alone we all owe a hearty thanksgiving next weekend.
This week our Tigers have a chance to take out their frustrations against the state of Georgia by hosting the luckless-but-far-from-hapless Georgia State Panthers for the first time ever, marking the third consecutive opponent to make their inaugural visit to Death Valley this season (Louisville and Syracuse the others). The Panthers have struggled to a 1-9 season record (0-7 SBC) thanks in part to shoddy defense and a turnover-prone offense. But make no mistake, these Panthers can sling the ball around the yard (ranking 21st nationally at 288yds per game and 32nd nationally at 13.1yds per completion) and sustain drives (ranking 21st nationally in third-down conversion rate at nearly 47%). It will be up to Clemson's second-ranked defense to ground the Panthers' aerial assault and ensure the game doesn't end in a disastrous upset.
This is not only the first trip by Georgia State to Tigertown, but is the first ever meeting between the two programs, primarily because Georgia State had no football program prior to 2010, when they began gridiron competition without conference affiliation. After two seasons (2010: 6-5; 2011: 3-8), Georgia State joined the FCS (D1-AA) Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA) in 2012, but managed just a 1-10 record (1-7 CAA). The Panthers football program entered the FBS (D1-A) ranks and joined the school's other athletic teams in the Sun Belt Conference (SBC) for the 2013 season, going 0-12 (0-7 SBC) for the season.
This fledgling Panther football program and its struggling-though-scrappy 2014 squad may well be just what the doctor ordered for our Tigers to get over the sting of last week's defeat. But it's not just this season that the Tigers have struggled against teams from the Peach State. Historically, Clemson's performances against various gridiron brethren from across the Savannah River have not been pretty. As previously noted this season, Clemson's all-time record against its major border rivals UGA (18-42-4) and GA Tech (27-51-2) has been dismal. The record against others schools in Georgia stands at just 8-6, a middling record against a mediocre-at-best mélange of teams: Clemson lost to a Camp Hancock (Augusta, GA) squad in 1918; lost to Oglethorpe College in 1931; lost to the Georgia Navy Pre-Flight School (Athens, GA) team in 1943; went 4-0 against Gordon College (now Gordon State College, Barnesville, GA) between 1907 and 1910; and 4-3 against Mercer College (now Mercer University, Macon, GA) from 1910-1913 and 1933-1935. So all told Clemson's record in defending the Palmetto State against the Peach State stands at just 53-99-6. Ouch. The stings from last week are flaring up again.
Luckily, there is some historical "ointment" to salve this itch caused by our Tigers' futility against the state of Georgia. At the very least, here's some statistical "Benadryl" to get us through the impending matchup with Georgia State: Clemson is undefeated (6-0) all time against teams now in the Sun Belt Conference (SBC). Clemson has compiled a 4-0 record against Appalachian State (now of the Sun Belt, but previously of the FCS Southern Conference when the Tigers defeated them in 1984, 1990, 1991, and 1997), and have one win each over Louisiana-Monroe (2007) and Troy (2011). To further reduce the swelling from last weekend and begin the cathartic healing process heading into the season's home stretch, here are highlights from each of these latter two Tiger victories, as well as last season's triumphs over UGA (2013) and GA Tech (2013).
In 2007 Tommy Bowden's ninth Clemson team was coming off a season-opening victory over Florida State on Labor Day night in Death Valley, cracking the national polls at #25 at 1-0 on the young season when it squared off with a Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks team that had dropped its opener to Tulsa and stood unranked at 0-1.
Tiger QB Cullen Harper continued the hot start to his first year as a starter by completing 20/26 for 270yds and a then-school-record 5tds passing.
RB James Davis carried seven times for 68yds and a touchdown to pace the ground attack.
RB CJ Spiller carried six times for 38yds, but added 4 receptions for 87yds, including a 68-yd scoring strike.
WR Jacoby Ford hauled in 3 receptions for 68yds, including a 52-yd touchdown, to lead the Tiger pass-catchers.
This was all the auxiliary firepower Harper would need to direct an explosive Tiger offense to 503 total yards from scrimmage and a 49-26 victory. The Tiger defense struggled at times to hold the Warhawks offense in check, allowing two hundred-yard rushers en route to 272 rushing yards and 419 total yards allowed. But the offense provided more than enough to cover up this porous defensive effort, and the Tigers cruised to a 2-0 record and jumped to #20 in the next week's polls. UL-M would end the year unranked at 6-6 (4-3 SBC), while Clemson would finish a disappointing 9-4 (5-3 ACC), missing out on an ACC title opportunity with a late-season, last-second, heartbreaking loss to Matt Ryan and the Boston College Eagles in Death Valley. The Tigers beat archrival South Carolina in Billy Brice before capping the season with a frustrating Peach Bowl loss to Auburn in Atlanta's Georgia Dome to end the year at #21 in the polls.
Highlights: 2007 Clemson vs. Louisiana-Monroe (ULM highlights begin at 2:36)
In 2011 Dabo Swinney's third full season as the Tiger head man included the installation of new offensive coordinator Chad Morris's Hurry-up, No-huddle (HUHN) "Smash-mouth Spread" scheme. The Tigers kicked off the season and unveiled their shiny new offense, directed by first-year starter Tajh Boyd at quarterback, against the Troy Trojans from the Sun Belt Conference.
After a somewhat sloppy and disjointed first half which found the Tigers trailing 16-13, the Tiger offense exploded for thirty second-half points behind the arm of Boyd and the legs of RBs Andre Ellington and Mike Bellamy, while the defense held the Trojans to just three points in the final two frames en route to a 49-13 Tiger victory. Boyd finished 20/30 for 264yds and 3tds passing.
RB Andre Ellington carried eighteen times for 89yds to pace the running game.
RB Mike Bellamy carried just three times, but tallied 81yds, most of it on the freshman's 75-yd touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, which effectively put the game away.
Fellow freshman phenom WR Sammy Watkins hauled in seven of Boyd's passes for 81yds and a touchdown.
TE Dwayne Allen added one big reception for 54yds and another score. The Troy Trojans would end the year 3-9 (2-5 SBC) and unranked. The Chad Morris Era was off and
running throwing in Clemson, however, and the highflying Tiger offense would send the 2011 Clemson team soaring to a 10-4 ACC Championship season, the school's first conference title since 1991, and its first ten-win season since 1990.
Clemson defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, NC to claim the conference crown after a late season slide saw the Tigers drop three of their last four regular season games. The title game victory earned the Tigers an Orange Bowl bid, the school's first BCS Bowl appearance, but the elation quickly evaporated with a disastrous second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers, who went on to a dominant 70-33 win. Despite this debacle in Miami, the Tigers still finished the year at #22 in the polls.
Highlights: 2011 Clemson vs. Troy
For video of the full game, click here.
And just as a reminder that there is video evidence of recent Clemson success against the red & black and the old gold & white:
Highlights: 2013 Clemson vs. UGA
Full Game: 2013 Clemson vs. UGA
Highlights: 2013 Clemson vs. GA Tech
Full Game: 2013 Clemson vs. GA Tech
This week's matchup with Georgia State gives us a chance to celebrate the Tigers senior class in style, in what will hopefully be their record-tying 40th career win (matching the 1990 senior class). And of course, a win would go a long way towards building some positive momentum on offense, and keeping the positive mojo on defense heading into the annual rivalry with the dirt peckers from Columbia. Let's break out the purple jerseys to honor our military veterans and active servicemen and memorialize those who gave the last full measure for our freedom. Here's to a Stoudt swan-song start for #18 at quarterback, an offensive onslaught, and a dominant defensive effort by Grady "S.W.A.T. 5-0" Jarrett, Vic "Beast"ley, Stephone "SAckmaster" Anthony, Garry "Gambit" Peters and the rest of the senior defensive stalwarts en route to 8-2 and in line for a 10-3 finish.