Clemson took the opening kickoff and drove down the field to the LA Tech red zone, but came up just short and settled for the early field goal. The Tiger defense forced a quick punt and we got to see DJ work some magic on the next drive, juking a defender for a first down and tossing a 41-yard pass to Joseph Ngata, who made probably the best catch of his career in a diving effort near the goal line.
Will Shipley punched it in a few plays later for his fifth TD of the year, and Clemson was up 10-0.
The Bulldogs tried to get tricky and sneak a double pass in on their next possession but Clemson was unphased, as RJ Mickens pulled in a fantastic catch for the interception to flip things back to the Tiger offense. DJ converted a nice run to move the chains but was sacked on the subsequent third down, and LA Tech began their third drive of the quarter from Clemson’s own 39-yard line after a decent punt return.
The Bulldogs tried to kick a rangy field goal, but it was blocked and recovered by Barrett Carter who unfortunately fumbled moments later, gifting LA Tech another possession. A bust in the secondary led to LA Tech’s second field goal attempt of the night, this one good from 35 yards.
A fantastic contested catch from Antonio Williams gave the Tigers an opportunity to put another touchdown on the board, but the offense sputtered and once again fell back on Potter’s excellent kicking to tack on 3 more points.
Parker McNeil moved the ball well and picked apart the Clemson secondary to put the LA Tech offense in a goal-line situation, but head coach Sonny Cumbie elected to take the field goal and made it a one-score game with 3 minutes left in the half.
Clemson and LA Tech traded short possessions and the Tigers stumbled into halftime up 13-6.
Clemson came out swinging hard, grabbing a quick Jeremiah Trotter interception followed by a 32-yard Shipley TD run on the very next play.
McNeil started moving the ball well again but a tipped pass by Barrett Carter allowed Malcolm Greene to intercept the LA Tech QB for the third time. Shipley and DJ moved the ball well, including a first-down catch by Adam Randall, the first of his Clemson career. Shortly after that, Phil Mafah found the endzone to cap what was one of the better Tiger drives of the night.
Tech tried to go for a desperation fourth-down conversion from their own territory to keep the game from completely slipping away, but the Clemson defense was flying high now, and Crosby’s run was stopped short.
On the very next play, DJ then pump-faked and threw a nice pass to a wide-open Beaux Collins who took it into the endzone to make it 34-6, seemingly putting the game away for good.
Cade Klubnik entered the game with just under 3 minutes remaining in the quarter but couldn't get much going on his first entrance.
A big catch and run from Tech’s Griffin Hebert ended the third quarter with Clemson comfortably up big.
The Bulldogs finally found the endzone on a short TD run from Crosby to make it 34-13.
Cade had an impressive throw to Kobe Pace while rolling to his left but it was ruled caught out of bounds, and his second drive ended with another punt.
LA Tech, refusing to go away quietly, once again drove down the field with some sharp passing from McNeil. After scoring on a 13-yard pass to Tre Harris, Clemson received the ball only up two touchdowns, with the game seemingly creeping back into uncertainty.
Thankfully, Shipley and Mafah decided not to let anything too funky happen and immediately ripped off several nice runs to put the Bulldogs’ spirits down again. DJ then threw a beautiful corner route toss to Antonio Williams for the freshman’s first career touchdown.
A bizarre miscue from Tech’s center resulted in an easy fumble recovery for Kevin Swint, which turned into a quick touchdown run by Kobe Pace to finally ice things in Death Valley.
A familiar face in Hunter Johnson came in to lead the Tigers in their last series of the night, and the game ended with a final score of 48-20.
DJ continues to look in control of the offense, albeit with a few mishaps thrown in here and there. The receivers and offensive line have bigger question marks than DJ for me right now - we need to see better play from both those groups if we expect Clemson to run the table this season.
Nate Wiggins and Sheridan Jones were both held out in this one (along with a number of other defensive starters) but the secondary still gave up far more yards than you’d like to see, especially against a team like LA Tech. In fairness, Parker McNeil is a quality signal-caller, so I tip my hat to him.
Shipley continues to be the best piece of our offense. Give him the ball.