Clemson was missing a lot of starters and the vibes surrounding the program were at a near low point for the Dabo Swinney era. #15 Notre Dame visited Death Valley and after a week of talking about “Tyler from Spartanburg” and what all was wrong with Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers program, the Tigers punched Notre Dame in the mouth and jumped out to a 24-9 halftime lead. Clemson held on for a 31-23 victory to improve to 5-4 on the campaign.
How did Clemson’s opponents fare as the regular season enters its final quarter?
Week One - Duke (6-3) - 24-21 Win over Wake Forest
After back-to-back losses, the Blue Devils survived in Durham on Thursday night with a 24-21 win over Wake Forest. Again without Riley Leonard, the Blue Devils turned to Grayson Loftis but again failed to find any success in the passing game. Loftis was only 7-19 for 86 yards plus one interception but it was a key late game touchdown that saved the day for the Blue Devils. Duke had only 267 yards to Wake’s 400 but they found a way to win and improve to 3-2 in the ACC and 6-3 overall. Duke now plays UNC followed by Virginia and Pittsburgh.
Week Two - Charleston Southern (4-5) - 35-21 Win Over Tennessee State
The Buccaneers handled Tennessee State at Buccaneer Field on Saturday afternoon to improve to 4-5. CSU was outgained 269 to 192 and only had seven first downs all game. The defense had seven sacks though and they recovered three fumbles and added one interception to give themselves short fields for the offense to capitalize on.
Week Three - Florida Atlantic (4-5) - 45-42 Loss to UAB
Florida Atlantic trailed by 21 points in the second half and scored 28 unanswered to rally for a fourth-quarter lead but the UAB Blazers hit a 26-yard field goal as time expired to prevail 45-42. The defeat drops FAU to 3-2 in American Athletic Conference play. LaJohntay Wester continued his stellar play, setting a program record with 219 yards and a total of four touchdowns. The junior wideout is a dangerous weapon that is proving to be one of the country’s most dynamic playmakers. Does anyone know a program that could use a wide receiver capable of making explosive plays?
Week Four - Florida State (9-0) - 24-7 Win at Pittsburgh
Fresh off of being ranked #4 in the first edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings, the FSU Seminoles got off to a sleepy start before dispatching the Pitt Panthers 24-7. The Seminoles racked up 501 yards with Jordan Travis throwing for 360 yards and a touchdown. Trey Benson had 97 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown. Pittsburgh was held to only 3.7 yards per carry and FSU coasted to the win. Jordan Travis is going to be a bit banged up all season and his lack of rushing success is keeping this FSU offense from reaching top gear. They now play Miami, North Alabama and Florida to close the season. The Seminoles are guaranteed a spot in the ACC Championship Game.
Week Five - Syracuse (4-5) - 17-10 Loss to Boston College
The wheels are all the way off the bus and the Syracuse Orange have crashed off the cliff. Dino Babers’ squad lost to the Eagles in a real slog of a game as Carlos Del Rio-Wilson starter at quarterback and was a complete disaster. In British parlance, Rio-Wilson had himself “a complete ‘mare”. He was just 7-17 for 37 yards with four interceptions. Four interceptions and seven completions! Boston College’s offense was far from good but the Eagles are 6-3 and going to a bowl game. Syracuse is a disaster and Dino Babers is in serious trouble.
Week Six - Wake Forest (4-5) - 24-21 Loss to Duke
The Demon Deacons have now lost five of six games and are just 4-5 on the season. With games against NC State, Notre Dame and Syracuse to close, it’s very possible Dave Clawson’s squad will not make a bowl game. Mitch Griffis was 16-19 for 241 yards with one interception and Wake Forest outgained Duke 400 to 267 yards but it was not enough.
Week Seven - Miami (6-3) - 20-6 Loss to NC State
The Hurricanes are now 6-3 after getting handled by the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Tyler Van Dyke was only 21-38 with three interceptions plus a lost fumble and he does not look healthy. The Hurricanes were only 4-15 on third down and 0-2 on fourth down. They outgained NC State and held the Wolfpack to only 231 yards but as Clemson fans certainly know, being sloppy with the ball will lose you games. Miami now has games at Florida State, against Louisville and at Boston College to close the season so a 6-6 finish is very much still a possibility for Mario Cristobal.
Week Eight - NC State (6-3) - 20-6 Win Over Miami
Congratulations to the North Carolina Wolfpack. It has not been pretty but the Pack are bowl eligible. They were outgained by Miami and beaten in nearly every statistical category but the Hurricanes turned the ball over four times and NC State scored ten points in the fourth quarter to seal the win. MJ Morris is not necessarily “good” but the Wolfpack have been winning with him at quarterback. He was only 11-21 for 123 yards and Brennan Armstrong was used as a battering ram running option with eight carries for 51 yards. Payton Wilson was a tackling machine with 16 stops on the day. The Wolfpack now have Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and North Carolina to close the season.
Week Ten - Georgia Tech (5-4) - 45-17 Win Over Virginia
Clemson’s next opponent, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, improved to 5-4 with a dominant 45-17 win at Virginia. The Yellow Jackets have won three of four after slipping to 2-3 earlier in the year with wins over Miami and North Carolina joining the win over the Cavaliers. It was the running game that set the tone as Tech rambled for 305 yards on 44 carries with five rushing touchdowns. Jamal Haynes had 119 yards, Haynes King had 83, Dontae Smith had 78 and Georgia Tech averaged 6.9 yards per rush. Virginia had three turnovers to GT’s zero and the Yellow Jackets outgained UVA 514 to 351. It was a comprehensive victory and this is a dangerous team. Both Clemson and GT will be fighting to gain bowl eligibility on Saturday.
Week Eleven - North Carolina (7-2) - 59-7 Win Over Campbell
The North Carolina Tar Heels rebounded from back-to-back losses with an easy win over the Campbell Fighting Camels. Great name, poor football team. The specifics from this cake walk hardly matter but Drake Maye threw for 244 yards with four touchdowns and Omarion Hampton added 144 yards with two scores of his own. North Carolina host Duke before traveling to play the Clemson Tigers on November 18.
Week Twelve - South Carolina (3-6) - 38-28 Win Over Jacksonville State
The Gamecocks improved to 3-6 but it was not a performance that will make many SC fans feel much better about their team. After four straight losses, they’ll gladly take the win but the South Carolina Gamecocks gave up 421 yards and were tied heading to the fourth quarter. There are several bad jokes about two teams with “Gamecocks” as the nickname but this is a classy joint and we’ll leave them unwritten. Jacksonville State surely regrets the four turnovers that cost them a chance to win this game. They held South Carolina to just 2.3 yards per carry as Xavier Legette had to rescue the home squad with 217 yards receiving and two touchdowns. South Carolina now gets Vanderbilt and Kentucky before hosting Clemson. They need to win out to reach a bowl game.