Sup y’all? I’ve been thinking about expanding my Clemson football coverage for STS and decided to give this article a shot.
While a devout hater, I’m also an advocate for the underdog. It’s a bit of a contradiction, but such is life. Each week I shine a ray of light on an underappreciated performance. It might be on offense, it might be on defense. Hell, it could even be on special teams if I’m feeling frisky. On Saturday, when the game wasn’t at commercial (which was approximately 15 minutes), the announcers were fixated on who wasn’t playing for Clemson and barely mentioned the guys who were stepping up to hold down the fort.
Yeah, we all know Travis is the best running back in ACC history (and it’s not particularly close). We know D.J. was synthesized on another planet that specializes in genetically superior quarterbacks. We know Murphy and Bresee are freaks of nature.
I want to celebrate the other guys.
I want to celebrate the grinders who have stuck with the program when sticking with the program wasn’t easy. These guys may not get to hear their names on draft day (some may, I’m not a fortune teller), but the least I can do is give them piece of the spotlight in a weekly article.
So without further ado, I humbly present...
Drew’s Unsung Hero - Vol 1 - Boston College Edition
This one was easy. In fact, this entire article series may be a front for me to talk about Cornell Powell.
People forget how highly touted Powell was coming out of J.H. Rose High School in Greenville (the one in North Carolina). Rivals considered him the 4th best receiver in the entire 2016 class, and had him as a borderline 5* prospect (other recruiting services weren’t quite as bullish on Mr. Powell).
It’s been a long, tumultuous path at Clemson for Cornell. At different points in his five year odyssey I forgot he was on the roster, but I’m glad he stuck it out, because he came up big when the Tigers needed him most.
In a game where Clemson had 4 functional wide receivers and a freshman starting his first game under center, Powell needed to step up, and he came through with the best game of his career. You have to go all the way back to 2016 for Cornell’s career high in receptions as a Tiger. He snagged 5 Deshaun Watson passes for 44 yards in a 26-7 victory over Georgia Tech. He shattered that record on Saturday with an 11-catch, 104-yard performance that helped the Tigers overcome an 18-point deficit in a game where everything that could go wrong did.
I can’t give y’all 11 receptions, but I’ve chosen a few choice cuts for you to enjoy.
2nd Quarter - 3rd & 10 - :40
This is the unsung hero catch of the game.
If you’ll recall, Clemson had just blundered its way into giving up its third defensive touchdown of the game. UPSET ALERT was scrolling across the bottom of every television. U of SC fans swarmed the local McDonald’s with free wifi to send out tweets celebrating the demise of the Tigers. The entire city of Columbus, Ohio held their collective breath in hopes that the Buckeyes might be spared yet another CFP beating. Clemson needed to do something before halftime to turn the momentum of the game and close the gap.
Enter Cornell Powell
This wasn’t a great throw by D.J. He unleashed a rocket in the general vicinity of Powell. If you listen closely, you can hear the sonic boom as the ball exceeds the speed of sound. This is an amazing, Tee Higgins/Mike Williams level catch, and Powell makes it with ease.
Without this catch, the 50 yard B.T. Potter field goal doesn’t happen.
3rd Quarter - 3rd and 7 - 14:08
Clemson desperately needed to come out of the locker room and put points on the board after the abomination that was the first half of football. On top of that, I can’t drink at the moment, so I needed a touchdown to calm my fraying nerves. Much like his catch to continue the scoring drive at the end of the first half, Cornell came up with a clutch third down reception to keep the inaugural drive of the 2nd half alive.
I (along with every Clemson fan that understands football) have been pleading with Tony Elliot to find the middle of the field, and those remonstrations finally paid dividends on this Powell slant route. This is a veteran catch. He snaps off a crisp slant, provides D.J. with with a target, and takes the ball straight up the field for a first down.
A few plays later, D.J. rumbled for a touchdown and the comeback was underway.
3rd Quarter - 3rd and 8 - 7:28
The final catch in my highlight package is another crucial 3rd down completion. The Tigers have been looking for a “3rd and Renfrow” stand-in to work the middle of the field since Hunter retired from college football and took his game to the senior tour. On Saturday, Cornell was that dude.
This is another drive extending third down catch, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I’ve seen this play before. Cornell snaps off another sharp slant route, runs his defender into Spector (that’s totally what happened guys!), and makes the contested catch. Personally, I think he got shorted on the spot, but this play made Dabo’s decision to go for it on fourth down a no-brainer. If he doesn’t pull it down, Clemson tries to kick the field goal, and with the way our kick blocking has worked this season, a Clemson field goal attempt may have been B.C.’s best opportunity to score in the second half. Instead, D.J. powered ahead on a keeper for a first down. A few plays later, DJ pulled the Tigers within a point on a laser beam to Amari.
I humbly present my initial Unsung Hero Award article to Mr. Cornell Powell. It has no monetary value, but my millions (possibly billions, it’s tough to get a read on the China and India markets) of readers around the globe will now shower praise upon Cornell for his play against Boston College and the unwavering Tiger spirit that allowed him to fight through the darkness in order to receive his moment in the spotlight.
He may have four L’s in his name, but he refused to let Clemson take one on Saturday.
Well Done, Cornell.