By Caleb Johnson
CLEMSON- On a day Clemson set out to celebrate seniors along with the military, the #2 ranked Tigers celebrated copiously more. Hunter Renfrow, T.J. Chase, and Tee Higgins each brought in their first touchdown of the season. Freshman Travis Etienne dashed his way through C.J. Spiller’s freshman touchdown total of 10, and the Tigers breezed through The Citadel on their way to a 61-3 win.
“To see our seniors go out like that was really special. Guys to leave here 27-1 at home is just remarkable” Coach Dabo Swinney replied after the 2017 senior class finished the day with the highest winning percentage of a single class in school history.
The Citadel, operating out of the triple option, started the game running 10 consecutive offensive plays without a pass. They strung together two first downs on their first possession before turning the ball over on 4th down.
Clemson took over on downs and began their 58 point mauling of the Bulldogs on a 53 yard wide open throw from Kelly Bryant to Deon Cain. Based purely on speed, Cain easily outran Bulldog defensive back Ben Roberts with a simple go route for the 7-0 score.
On The Citadel’s next drive, QB Dominique Allen would throw his first and second pass of the game, the latter ending up in the hands of Trayvon Mullen for his second INT of the season. Allen would not complete a pass all game. In fact, The Citadel would complete only one pass all game from backup QB Jordan Black.
Clemson’s second drive relied solely on the back of Travis Etienne, as the Tigers went 6 plays and 49 yards into the end zone to go up 14-0. Etienne effortlessly ran through Bulldog defenders who draped themselves like bull riders hanging on for dear life. The score would tie C.J. Spiller’s freshman touchdown record at Clemson (10) which Etienne would later break in the 3rd quarter.
The Citadel’s next possession would vanish in three measly runs up the gut, including a holding penalty amassing -1 yards and a near punt block by Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons.
Clemson’s following possession is almost spoiled by a weak shot down the field from Bryant which narrowly escaped the hands of Citadel’s Wally Wilmore. The ensuing play Kelly Bryant would be LIT UP on a play action pass, in and out of the hands of tight end D.J. Greenlee. The Tigers worries would last no longer than a play as Bryant would find Hunter Renfrow for his first TD of the year. Clemson up 21-0 with 59 seconds remaining in the first.
Kelly Bryant’s first true mistake in the game would not come until less than nine minutes left in the 2nd quarter when Bryant held onto the ball way too long and was dropped for a six-yard sack. The Tigers would settle for a field goal and Bryant’s day (17/22 230yards 3 TDs) would come to a close up 31-0.
Zerrick Cooper would be the first Clemson QB to enter the game for mop-up duty, but not the last. Cooper lead 2 drives, one for a score to Tee Higgins, to send the Tigers into halftime with the commanding 38-0 lead.
Third String Hunter Johnson took it upon himself to finish garbage time aka the 2nd half by tossing 7/8 for 144 yards and a score. The lone touchdown from Johnson was a 78 yard SportsCenter Top10 nominee caught in stride, one-handed, by Tee Higgins.
Finally, 2:50 in the 4th the Bulldogs put together a 5 play 59-yard drive, including a 61-yard bomb from Jordan Black to Raleigh Webb, that ended in a Jacob Godek field goal 61-3.
“To see our seniors go out like that was really special. Guys to leave here 27-1 at home is just remarkable.”
Clemson finished the day stockpiling 662 total offensive yards, 183 on the ground and 479 through the air. The one-loss Tigers will face rival South Carolina next weekend in Columbia, SC.