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Clemson vs. Pittsburgh: Tigers Roll Past the Panthers 52-17

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Clemson started hot and kept the Panthers off balance most of the day to win 52-17.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Clemson
Trevor Lawrence’s return paid dividends for the Tiger offense.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

After an unexpectedly long layoff after the close loss to Notre Name, Clemson returned to Death Valley to take on the Pitt Panthers. The layoff gave the Tigers more time to heal up, and that would hopefully pay off against a good Pitt team. The game would also mark Trevor Lawrence’s return to play after his COVID-19 diagnosis. D.J. Uiagalelei did a tremendous job in Lawrence’s place, and it’s clear that the QB position in in good hands for at least the next couple of years, but he does not have yet Lawrence’s decision making and pre-snap read ability. It won’t be long though. As today the Tigers don purple uniforms for Military Appreciation Day, we at STS want to give a shout out of appreciation for all of you that serve or have served our great country. It is also Senior Day as Tiger greats like Travis Etienne, Amari Rodgers and Lawrence play their last game in Death Valley.

Pitt received the opening kickoff and took the touchback. The Tiger defense forced a 3 & out and after the punt, the offense took over at their 38. An incomplete pass and an Etienne run set up 3rd & 3. Pitt made a nice play to knock away the pass to Amari Rodgers and force the punt.

Pitt started their drive with a good run, but a couple of plays later Malcolm Greene intercepted a tipped pass and returned it to the Pitt 16. Etienne bulled his way to the 5 after a short pass to Rodgers. Lawrence hit E.J WIlliams for the score. At 11:36 in the 1st quarter Clemson led 7-0.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Clemson
Trevor Lawrence throws during the 1st quarter.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Another touchback gave Pitt the ball at the 25 but the Tiger defense forced another 3 & out. The Tigers took over at their 19 and Rodgers took a short toss out to the 37. Lawrence hit Williams over the middle to the Pitt 31. A short Lyn-J Dixon run and a dropped pass by Braden Galloway, set up 3rd & 8. Lawrence scrambled and tried to hit Galloway, but he was out of bounds. B.T. Potter came in and hit the 36-yard FG. Clemson led 10-7 with 9:26 left in the 1st quarter.

Pitt started at the 25 with a flea flicker that didn’t even come close to fooling the Tiger defense, especially Andrew Booth who picked it off. Rodgers picked up 5 yards and Cornell Powell picked up the 1st down out to the Pitt 48. Etienne took a short pass for 5 yards. Clemson then showed how to do the flea flicker, as Powell was wide open down the middle and scored. The score was 17-0 with 7:35 to go in the 1st quarter. The Tiger offense was showing no signs of rust.

Pitt started at the 25 again and did pick up a 1st down. But on the next play an open receiver let the ball bounce off his hands and Mario Goodrich said “Thank you very much!” and returned the pick to the Pitt 36. Rodgers made a nice 1st down catch to the 18, but a penalty moved the Tigers back to the 23. Etienne had a couple of runs, moving the ball to the 11. Lawrence ran it down to the 5 with a tough run up the middle. Targeting was called on the play and the Tigers had 1st & goal from the 3. Etienne punched it in At 4:55 in the 1st quarter, Clemson was up 24-0.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Clemson
E.J. Williams celebrates touchdown.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

The Tiger defense forced yet another 3 & out and Pitt had to punt again. Rodgers fielded the punt at the Clemson 18. A false start pushed them back 5, but Rodgers picked up the 1st down. Brannon Spector moved the ball into Pitt territory at the 42. Powell made a nice catch down the sideline to the 17. Dixon had a couple of runs moving the ball to the 4, and then nearly scored. On the next play, he did. The Tiger offense was humming along on all cylinders. With 5 seconds left in the 1st quarter, Clemson had a commanding 31-0 lead.

Pitt had their best start to a drive with a 1st down completion over the middle, but Tyler Davis got a sack and that deflated the drive. Rodgers fielded the punt at the Tiger 21. Etienne picked up 4 on 1st down and an obvious pass interference call wasn’t made on 2nd down. Lawrence was sacked on 3rd down. After the punt, Pitt took over at the Clemson 42.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Clemson
Baylon Spector makes a tackle.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt’s offense finally started clicking, and a pass interference penalty moved the ball to the Tiger 17. A sack pushed them back to the 16. On 3rd & 14, Pitt picked up 11 and settled for a FG. At the 9:11 mark in the half, Clemson led 31-3. The touchback put the Tigers at the 25, and then Lawrence hit Powell with a 70-yard strike to the Pitt 5. Lawrence rolled right and tried to hit Ajou Ajou in the end zone but he couldn’t pull it in. Tiger linemen were downfield anyway. Three plays couldn’t get it in, but a pass interference penalty in the end zone gave the Tigers 1st & goal from the 2. Chez Mellusi pushed the pile into the end zone. With 7:59 left in the half, Clemson led 38-3.

Pitt’s offense couldn’t do anything and punted it away. Rodgers fielded it at the Clemson 16. A couple of Etienne runs set up 3rd & 4. Darrien Rencher caught a pass in the flat and took it out to the 30 for the 1st down. A couple of incompletions and a screen pass to Rencher couldn’t move the chains. Pitt fielded the punt at the 25.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Clemson
Darien Rencher gets loose.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt started off moving the ball but Xavier Thomas got a strip sack. The Tigers couldn’t recover it, though. Pitt recovered and moved into Tiger territory at the 41. A few plays later a Pitt receiver made a beautiful catch to score. You’ll see that one on the highlight reels. With 1:13 left in the half, the score was 38:10. After a sack, Lawrence hit Powell on the sideline for a 1st down, but review ruled that he had stepped out of bounds before the catch. A short pass to Rodgers on 3rd & long didn’t get enough yardage and the Tigers punted. Pitt returned it to midfield and were moving the ball, but the clock ran out on them.

Michel Dukes returned the second half kickoff out to the 20. Lawrence was sacked on 1st down and fumbled. Pitt recovered. Two plays later, they were in the end zone. Only 36 seconds into the half, Pitt made it a 38-17 game.

Starting at the 25, Clemson committed a hold and got pushed back to the 15. A couple of plays later, with the help of a Pitt penalty, it was 3rd & 2. Lawrence hit Rodgers over the middle to move the chains. Etienne rumbled out to the 45. He then took a flare pass to the Pitt 43. Lawrence tried to hit Powell on a deep route, but he was double covered and the ball was knocked away. Dixon took the ball on 2nd down and moved it to the 30. Lawrence then hit Rodgers in end zone, but the Tigers were called for an ineligible receiver downfield. Rodgers was also called for a personal foul. A Lawrence run and a Powell catch over the middle set up 3rd & 2. On a designed run, the Turf Monster jumped up and toe tackled Lawrence. Potter’s 41-yard FG attempt was wide left. Pitt started at the 24 but the Tigers delivered another 3 & out Rodgers fielded the punt at the Clemson 30.

A short Etienne run and a short Galloway catch made it 3rd & 5. Galloway made a catch on the sideline, but landed just out of bounds. Pitt fielded the punt at their 25. They started off well, but a holding penalty took the air out of the drive and they punted.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Clemson
Cornell Powell makes a catch.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Starting at the 11, a pass to Davis Allen and an Etienne run got a 1st down out to the 23. Lawrence picked up another 1st down with a nice scramble. Dixon then juked his way out to midfield. Rodgers picked up 8 on 1st down, but Dixon was stopped for a loss and the Tigers faced 3rd & 5. Lawrence picked up the 1st down with a run to the Pitt 38. On the next play, he hit Galloway on the sideline for an apparent touchdown, but review showed that Galloway stepped out at the 3. Etienne finished it off on the next play. With 52 seconds left in the 3rd period, Clemson led 45-17. On 3rd & 2 on the Pitt drive, Goodrich snagged another Clemson interception.

D.J. came in at QB. Mellusi got loose up the middle for 14 and then another 9 to the Pitt 16. On 3rd & 1, Dixon picked up a couple of yards to move the chains. On 3rd & 11, Powell picked up 7 and the Tigers faced 4th & 4. D.J. hit Mellusi in the flat and he took it in for the score. With 10:48 left, Clemson led 52-17. Pitt returned the kickoff to their 41. They weren’t able to do much and punted. Will Swinney fielded it at the Tiger 14.

Clemson’s reserves couldn’t move the chains and punted. Pitt didn’t do much with their possession either. In fact, the rest of the possessions were uneventful, until reserve LB Kane Patterson picked up a fumble and ran it down to the Pitt 1. Rencher couldn’t punch it in on two tries, and Clemson came away with a 52-17 win.

Clemson’s offense sure looked good most of the day. It continues to be clear, though, that the offensive line has issues, especially against good pass rushers. The defense very clearly benefited from the return of James Skalski and Tyler Davis. What weaknesses did you see in the Tigers’ play today? Let’s discuss it in the comments section below. Check back with us for in-depth reviews of today’s game and previews of next week’s game at Virginia Tech. As always, thanks for stopping by.