Clemson began the 2018 season ranked second in the nation and took on Furman on a beautiful day in Death Valley. The Tigers came into the game heavily favored against the Paladins, a very good Southern Conference football team.
Clemson won the toss and elected to receive, but the kick sailed through the end zone for a touchback. The Tigers started with a Kelly Bryant rollout but the pass fell short. On second down, Travis Etienne ran into Bryant just after the snap but Bryant picked up a few yards. Third and long saw Bryant hit Tee Higgins on a comeback route. After a few lackluster plays, the Tigers converted a 4th and short. A few more lackluster plays lead to 4th and 5 and the Tigers did not convert.
The Paladins took over and tried to run into the teeth of the Tiger defense, with predictable results. On 4th and 13, Furman punted the ball back to the Tigers. Amari Rodgers had a good return, putting the Tigers near midfield. Bryant came out firing, completing multiple passes. The drive ended with Bryant hitting Rodgers for the touchdown from 40 yards out. Greg Huegel hit the extra point to put Clemson up 7-0.
B.T Potter won the kickoff competition during fall camp and his kickoff showed why. We haven’t seen a Tiger kicker putting the ball out of the end zone like that in a while. The Paladins started off slow but executed a nice QB draw on 3rd down to convert. Tanner Muse committed a pass interference penalty to give the Paladin drive more life. A horrible snap a couple of plays later put the Paladins 28 yards back and they punted. Rodgers had a great punt return down to the Paladin 20. Furman’s defense came to play today, and they forced the Tigers to settle for a Huegel field goal to make the lead 10-0.
Another booming kickoff gave the Paladins the ball at the 25, and they moved the ball on the ground to get a 1st down. On the next play, they got another 1st down on a nicely executed play action pass to end the 1st quarter. The Tiger defense then stiffened and forced Furman into a 4th and 1 that they couldn’t convert because of the speed of Christian Wilkins.
Trevor Lawrence then came in to lead the Tiger offense. On first down he handed it to Etienne for an 8 yard gain. On 2nd down he rifled a slant pass to Tee Higgins who couldn’t quite hang on to it. Rodgers then made the 3rd down catch to convert. The drive had a few more good plays but eventually sputtered. Huegel then put the 50-yard field goal attempt right down the middle to give the Tigers a 13-0 lead.
Furman started at the 25 and had a 7-yard completion on 1st down. They made a few plays but the Tiger defense exerted its will and forced a punt. The Paladin punter was having a good day and pinned Clemson deep at their own 5 yard line. Lawrence continued to lead the Tiger offense. On 3rd and 5, Lawrence rifled a pass to Trevion Thompson who just managed to keep his left foot in for the 1st down, confirmed by review. A few doses of Etienne moved the ball down the field. Lawrence then hit Cornell Powell with a deep throw on a play where Furman jumped offside. After an Adam Choice run for a few yards, Lawrence hit Diondre Overton on a slant in the end zone. The Tigers led 20-0.
Furman didn’t make much happen on their possession and had a poor punt that put the Tiger offense the Paladin 38 with about two minutes left.Freshman TE Braden Galloway had a couple of catches on the drive. Etienne found the end zone from 8 yards out to give Clemson a 27-0 lead going into halftime.
Potter started the second half by sending the kickoff to Greenville. A pass interference penalty against Trayvon Mullen on 3rd down extended Furman’s drive, but it eventually stalled and Furman punted. Bryant came back in to lead the Tiger offense and Tavien Feaster had some good runs to make his case for getting plenty of touches during the year, even if he isn’t the starter. Hunter Renfrow caught a couple of passes on the drive as the Tiger offense was humming along. But some poor blocking eventually led to a 4th and 6, and Clemson did not get the first down.
Furman started their drive at their own 33 but the Tiger defense didn’t allow them to do much. Another good punt put the Tiger offense on the field at their own 21. Bryant remained in at QB and Etienne handled the RB duties. Bryant had a nice pass downfield to freshman Derion Kendrick and followed it up with a 35-yard run to go untouched to the end zone. The Tigers led 34-0 with 5:26 to go in the 3rd quarter.
Furman had a few nice option plays against Tiger reserves, but the reserves finally had enough of it and ended the Paladin drive. Lawrence came back in at QB on the next Clemson and freshman Lyn-J Dixon came in at RB. Dixon showed why the coaches raved about his skills on several runs including a 61-yard run. Then freshman WR Justyn Ross followed that with a catch and run to score and make it 41-0 with 8 seconds left in the 3rd quarter.
Furman started the 4th quarter with the ball, but couldn’t do much and fumbled it away. The Tigers recovered the ball deep in Paladin territory. Lawrence hit Galloway on a rollout for a 9-yard score to put Clemson up 48-0. It was getting ugly for the Paladins, and the glimpse of the future for the Tigers was looking pretty good.
Furman came out thinking “Hey, now Clemson has their 3rd stringers in!” It didn’t matter. They ended up punting from their own end zone. Chase Brice came in at QB and Dixon remained at RB to start the drive. Brice had one nice throw and a good run, but the drive fizzled and Will Spiers punted the ball into the end zone.
Furman started slow on their next drive but then broke a long run down to the Tiger 20 yard line. A couple of plays later, Furman coughed it up and freshman K.J. Henry recovered it at the 6 yard line. Then Clemson’s 8th string offense couldn’t quite generate enough to get the first down and punted it away. Furman got a pass interference call and moved into Tiger territory. After some tough running, the Paladins scored on a 16-yard pass to get on the board. Clemson led 48-7.
Cornell Powell had a good kickoff return to give the Tigers the ball on their 43 yard line. The Tiger offense then ran a few plays before the clock expired, giving the Tigers a 48-7 win. Furman came out ready to play, but the talent, and depth of talent, for the Tigers was just too much. Next week the Tigers hit the road to take on the Texas A&M Aggies. Check back with us at STS for reviews of today’s game and previews of what should be a more challenging game in College Station. What did you think of the Tigers’ opening performance? Sound off in the comments section below.