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Clemson vs. The Citadel: Tigers Overwhelm the Bulldogs 61-3

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NCAA Football: The Citadel at Clemson
Clelin Ferrell and the Tiger defense feasted on the Citadel Bulldogs today in Death Valley.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson participated in Cupcake Week by taking on the Citadel Bulldogs in Death Valley, celebrating the great men and women who serve this country and wearing the purple uniforms for Military Appreciation Day. To those who serve and have served, including many friends and family members of mine, a hearty thank you for all that you do for the people of this great country.

Clemson won the toss and deferred. After a touchback, the Bulldogs took over at the 25. The Bulldogs started off well and moved into Tiger territory, but Clemson eventually got them behind the chains and forced a 4th and 3. The Tiger defense held and gave the offense the ball in good field position at their own 40. On second down, Ray-Ray McCloud had a good catch and run to move into Bulldog territory. On the next play Tavien Feaster was called for a low block and the 15-yard penalty pushed the Tigers back into their side of the field. On 3rd and 20, Kelly Bryant hit Deon Cain for a 53-yard scoring strike to put the Tigers up 7-0.

NCAA Football: The Citadel at Clemson
Deon Cain picks up yardage after the catch against The Citadel.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Citadel started at the 27 after a good return. After a short 1st down run, the Bulldogs threw two passes. Trayvon Mullen intercepted the second one to put the Tiger offense at the Bulldog 47. Travis Etienne had a couple of good runs on the drive. On the third run, he put it in the end zone from 6 yards out. On the kickoff Clemson got called for a rarely seen penalty: two players wearing the same number on the field. Starting at the 30, a penalty put the Bulldogs at 2nd and 20, not the place an option team wants to be against the Tiger defense. They didn’t survive it and punted it away.

NCAA Football: The Citadel at Clemson
Trayvon Mullen celebrates after an interception.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

A Hunter Renfrow catch on 1st down and a 2nd down run by Bryant pushed the ball into Bulldog territory. Cain then pulled in a 21-yard catch on the next down. On 3rd and 7, McCloud converted to give the Tigers the ball at the 12. Renfrow caught a short pass and then worked his way into the end zone. The Tigers were up 21-0 with just under a minute left in the 1st quarter. The Bulldogs didn’t do much on their possession and punted on 4th and 5.

The Tigers took over in Bulldog territory. Adam Choice and Tee Higgins factored into this drive pretty often as Clemson moved down the field. Freshman T.J. Chase finished things up with a 13-yard reception from Bryant to put the Tigers up 28-0. On their possession, the Bulldogs again dug themselves into a hole with penalties. They ended up at 3rd and 22 and wanted to throw, but the Tiger secondary gave them nothing but an opportunity to throw the ball away. McCloud muffed the punt, twisting awkwardly to make a fair catch, but he recovered it.

The Tigers drove down into the red zone, but a sack on Bryant hurt them. Two chances to get 16 yards for a first down only netted 12, so they settled for a 26-yard field goal by Alex Spence. With 6:32 left in the first half, the Tigers were up 31-0. The reserves for the Clemson defense started entering the game in large numbers. During the drive the Bulldogs executed an option perfectly and picked up 14 yards. That was about all they had though, and they punted the ball back to the Tigers.

Zerrick Cooper came in at QB on the Tiger drive. Clemson didn’t do much and the Bulldog defense got a 3-and-out. The Tiger defense then returned the favor. Withthe Tiger offense back on the field, Cooper dropped the snap but picked it and hit Higgins on a long throw to put the ball at the Bulldog 42. On 4th down, Cooper hit D.J. Greenlee to pick up the first down. With less than 20 seconds left, Higgins showed great focus to catch a ball that was batted around twice in the end zone, his first of what is sure to be many touchdowns in a Tiger uniform. The Tigers went into the half up 38-0.

Amari Rodgers returned the second half kickoff 35 yards to put the Tiger offense in great field position. With Hunter Johnson coming in at QB, Feaster ripped off a 61-yard run to the end zone. Only 22 seconds into the second half, Clemson was up 45-0. The Citadel had a decent drive, including another nicely executed option run for 27 yards. But Clemson eventually got them to 4th and 10 and they punted.

NCAA Football: The Citadel at Clemson
The Tiger defense spent the afternoon throttling the over-matched Bulldog offense.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson showed nice touch on a 41-yard throw to Cain down the left sideline. It was great to see a Tiger receiver get behind the defense and have the ball hit him in stride. Etienne had a couple of good runs and put it in the end zone from 7 yards out. With just over nine minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the score was 52-0. The Bulldogs had a few good runs on their drive but ended up punting again.

NCAA Football: The Citadel at Clemson
Travis Etienne gets loose against the Bulldog defense.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Tiger offense came back onto the field with Johnson at QB. On 3rd and 5 Johnson threw another beautiful pass, this time to Higgins who made a one-handed catch and scored from 78 yards out. Get used to seeing those two connect on plays like that in the coming years. A missed PAT put the score at 58-0. Against a Tiger defense consisting of players deep on the depth chart, the Bulldogs couldn’t do much. After the punt, the Tigers took over at their 29 with 15 seconds left in the third quarter.

Zerrick Cooper came back in at QB for the Tigers and C.J. Fuller at RB. The drive didn’t amount to much and Clemson punted. The Citadel took over at the 18. They managed to get a first down but got to 4th and 2. They went for it from their own 36, but the Tiger defense shut down a wide run and gave the ball back to the offense.

Johnson led the next series for the Tiger offense. Kanyon Tuttle, son of 1981 National Championship WR Perry Tuttle, had a nice catch on the drive. The drive ended with a Christian Groomes 38-yd FG to make the score 61-0. The Bulldogs had a 61-yard pass completion on their drive to get down to the Tiger 11. With a strip sack on 3rd down, the defense limited the damage to a FG and the score was 61-3 with just under three minutes left.

The Bulldogs executed a nice onside kick to get the ball back but the Tigers ended getting the ball back after a few plays when Shaq Smith got an interception with just over a minute left. I though the Tigers might just run the clock out, but they came out throwing WR screens with Cooper back in at QB. But then they got back to the ground game and finished off the clock.

The Tigers got the job done today, as expected. This time of the year we hear about “style points” and Clemson got their fair share of those. Next week comes the game we look forward to all year as the Tigers travel to Columbia to take on the Gamecocks. Check back with us for reviews of today’s game and previews of next week’s matchup with the chickens. Let’s hear your thoughts on facing a team whose QB’s feeling after last year’s 56-7 Tiger victory was that Clemson wasn’t “that much better than us or better than us at all”. My guess is he’s expecting another close game.