Five things we learned about Clemson’s rout of Georgia Tech on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta:
Clemson’s defense allows margin of error the offense hasn’t really needed
There were a couple of empty possessions by Clemson in the first half because of turnovers and the Tigers still put up 52 points by halftime. So far this season, Clemson has been able to light up the scoreboard despite leaving points out of the field.
And yet there hasn’t been a close game yet.
That’s because the defense is so dominant. Virginia had 23 points a few weeks ago and that seemed alarming. After that, Miami’s highly touted offense had 10 against Clemson. Georgia Tech had only one big play against Clemson starters in the first half to account for more that half of the Yellow Jackets’ total yards at the break.
“I was just really proud of our guys coming out and responding to an early turnover by the offense,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “Just having the right mindset going on the road, morning game (noon kickoff). … Really just a good, strong, tough mindset that we can control what we can control.”
How to watch Clemson vs. Georgia Tech live
Date: Monday, Sept. 5 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium — Atlanta
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Clemson’s top backup quarterbacks injured
With the game a rout well before halftime, it would have been a good time for Clemson backup quarterbacks D.J. Uiagalelei and Taisun Phommachanh to get some valuable time on the field.
But Uiagalelei, normally second in line behind Lawrence, did not play because of injury. Phommachanh was only in there long enough to go 2-for-6 passing before he suffered a fracture in his left (non-throwing) hand. In their absence, walk-on Hunter Helms went 5-for-7 for 74 yards with two touchdowns. Emergency quarterback Will Spiers, the punter, also got in the game completed two of three passes
Phommachanh “had a small broken bone. … I don’t know (if he will miss any time). I just know he’s got a little break in there,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “I think if he was at any other position, he would be able to play. But I don’t know, for a quarterback, what type of cast he would have to have on to be able to grip the ball like he needs to. Obviously, he doesn’t do a whole lot with his left hand, but you still need to be able to grip the ball and position the ball a little bit. So I don’t know. We’ll just have to wait and see.
“… (D.J.) was sore. He got beat up a little bit in the game last week. We just wanted to hold him.:
Clemson might have best group of tight ends in country
As if the Tigers’ potent offense needed more firepower besides quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne and all the wide receivers, the tight ends are adding another element.
Davis Allen scored his second touchdown in two games. Last week, Braden Galloway scored twice. After no touchdowns from tight ends last year, Clemson has five from that position. J.C. Chalk, the third-stringer, had a touchdown in the season opener. These guys are all top-notch blockers and also playmakers down the field.
“For each position, we’re going to have little trinkets where we are going to try to isolate those guys,” offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “Fortunately, we’ve been able to call it into the right look. We did that down in the red zone to get Davis Allen into the end zone.”
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Clemson’s offense has added another explosive weapon
It might take him a little while to get up to speed, but wide receiver Joseph Ngata was on the field Saturday and that’s more good news for the Tigers.
Ngata saw his first action since he was sidelined in preseason because of COVID-19 and other health-related issues. He seemed to be the next big-time playmaker to join Amari Rodgers as they replaced Tee Higgins (drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals) and Justyn Ross (out with injury).
Swinney has said that Ngata “is as good as we’ve had here.”
Fans should see plenty of that potential in the near future.
Swinney: “Ngata got a few snaps. But when the game kind of got out of control, we just kept him out.”
Clemson has double-jumbo goal line package that will be tough to stop
Swinney was asked if the Tigers had a formation with some defensive linemen that they could use in the backfield on offense.
He just smiled and said, “Maybe. We’ll see.”
On Saturday afternoon, we saw.
Clemson lined up from the 1-yard line with a couple of 300-pounders joining Lawrence behind the offensive line. Nyles Pinckney was at fullback and Bryan Bresee at halfback. Georgia Tech called a quick timeout before the snap to talk about what do to. But the Tigers didn’t change the play.
They came back with the same formation, Pinckey took the handoff and bulldozed into the end zone. Bresee faked like he was getting a pitch, still the offensive highlight of his freshman season so far.
Elliott: “When we showed it and there was a timeout, we knew they were going to be able to sub out and have their big people in there. But we told them, ‘Hey, it starts up front. You guys control the line of scrimmage. Nyles, you understand that you have a protect the ball and use your size to your advantage.’ (Georgia Tech) gave us a bubble right to where we were running. Obviously, I don’t think they knew we were running right there.”