The first half of Clemson’s game against Florida Atlantic was exactly what Dabo Swinney and Tiger fans wanted to see heading into a massive clash against Florida State on September 23. Clemson started quickly and put the Owls to sleep early in the game, establishing a dominant halftime lead. The second half was dull but by and large, Clemson did a lot of things very well and avoided the catastrophic errors that had categorized the first two games of the season. What plays shaped the result in week three?
Nate Wiggins House Call
Florida Atlantic started with the ball and got one first down. Journeyman quarterback Casey Thompson, older than several starters in the NFL, took the snap on third and 12 at the 38-yard line and was flushed from the pocket by Justin Mascoll. Thompson forced a throw that Nate Wiggins was waiting on. Wiggins pounced, intercepted the pass, and took off down the sideline. The junior cornerback was untouched as he galloped into the end zone for the game’s first points. It was the second straight game with a pick six for the Clemson defense.
Klubnik to Tyler Brown
Clemson’s first offensive possession ended with a perfectly thrown pass from Cade Klubnik and a touchdown for Tyler Brown. With the ball on the Florida Atlantic 30-yard line, Klubnik saw a blitzing defender and hung in the pocket as he lofted a pass into the end zone. The ball dropped right into the arms of redshirt freshman Tyler Brown for the score to make it 13-0. Tyler Brown is quickly becoming Clemson’s most dangerous wide receiver. Of note, Robert Gunn III missed the extra point and fans can officially worry about the kicking game.
Khalil Barnes Makes an Impact
This is actually two plays made in a short period of time but both by freshman safety Khalil Barnes. With FAU trailing 13-0, the Owls tried a fake punt with a short pass to the tight end. Barnes was the first man to the pass catcher, slowing him down so that Brannon Spector could knock him out of bounds one yard short of the first down marker. Clemson missed the ensuing field goal attempt (again, kicking is a problem). On the very next play from scrimmage, Khalil Barnes made a terrific play to intercept a pass after Clemson defensive lineman DeMonte Capehart impacted the pass with pressure up the middle. Barnes later nearly had another forced turnover as he ripped the ball from a receiver’s hands and recovered it. Replay review showed the ball hit out of bounds before being recovered, but what a showing by Khalil Barnes.
Capitalizing on Turnovers
Complementary football is something Dabo Swinney often harps on and Clemson did that really well on Saturday. The interception by Khalil Barnes led to a short touchdown pass from Cade Klubnik to Jake Briningstool to make the score 20-0. On Clemson’s next possession, the Tigers had good field position and Klubnik beat a blitz to find a wide open Adam Randall. Clemson ran to the line and used tempo to catch the Owls unprepared as Phil Mafah scored from 19-yards out to make it 27-0.
Clemson led 34-0 at the half and had 255 yards of offense. It was a very encouraging 30 minutes of football from the Tigers.
Tyler Brown Continues to Impress
The third quarter was a slog with neither side able to do much with the ball. Dabo Swinney wanted to get the backups into the game but it appeared he was waiting on the first team offense to do something positive in the second half before pulling them. Tyler Brown woke things up with a big punt return followed by a great catch on a third down play to keep the drive alive. Brown then finished the drive with his second score of the night, a touchdown on a quick slant to make the score 41-0. In total, Brown had three catches for 49 yards along with two punt returns for 47 yards. With Cole Turner announced out for the season, the emergence of Brown is now a necessity for Clemson’s offense.
Clemson ended up playing a total of four quarterbacks and coasted to the final whistle for a 48-14 victory.