By Michael Crouchley
CLEMSON — After suffering a season-opening loss to Georgia last weekend, the Clemson football team got back on track against a very different set of Bulldogs on Saturday.
The Tigers’ game against South Carolina State — an FCS team that plays in the MEAC — didn’t carry the same pedigree as last week’s top-five showdown, but No. 6 Clemson took care of business at Memorial Stadium, coming away with the 49-3 win.
Regardless of the opponent, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was happy for his team to get back in the win column.
“It was a good day for us, we did what we needed to do,” he said. “I’m proud of the guys and how they worked this week. We had great energy out of the gate, and we just played a lot cleaner.”
Saturday’s game also marked the first game in nearly two years that Clemson played in a packed Death Valley, after attendance was limited last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There was just so much enthusiasm and energy,” Swinney said. “It was really emotional to be honest with you after what we went through last year. We’ve won a lot of games here at Death Valley — and our fans are a big reason why.”
Legendary Clemson running back, and current Tigers running backs coach, C.J. Spiller was honored at halftime for his selection to the College Football Hall of Fame. If that wasn’t enough, Spiller was probably also pleased with how his running backs performed on the field, as the Tigers ran for 242 yards in the win.
Clemson ran for just two total yards on nine carries against Georgia, and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said establishing the running game was a priority on Saturday.
“I think it was important that the running backs got more opportunities to touch the ball and get more rhythm,” he said. “We were able to run it when we wanted to run it. I thought the backs ran hard, and I was pleased with those guys.”
The Tigers (1-1) hit the ground running against the Bulldogs — literally and figuratively.
Clemson wracked up 56 rushing yards on the first drive of the evening, with a 4-yard touchdown run from Uiagalelei opening the scoring. After a S.C. State (0-2) three-and-out, Clemson marched down the field again with Will Shipley’s 7-yard touchdown run doubling the Tigers’ lead.
The Tigers added two more touchdowns on their next two drives as well. The first coming on a 2-yard Kobe Pace touchdown run, and the second coming on an 11-yard pass from Uiagalelei to Justyn Ross after a 51-yard punt return from quarterback Will Taylor, closing out the first quarter.
S.C. State’s defense managed to cause some trouble for Clemson in the second quarter.
After a Clemson three-and-out to start the second quarter, R.J. Mickens got Clemson the ball back with an interception. The Tigers didn’t keep it for long however, when S.C. State’s Chad Gilchrist got a pick of his own on the pass from Uiagalelei.
After forcing a punt, Clemson got back in the end zone with a 5-yard touchdown run from Uiagalelei capping off a six play, 84-yard drive.
The Tigers’ offense had more trouble on their next drive however, when a Michel Dukes fumble gave S.C. State the ball deep in Clemson territory. The Bulldogs were able to capitalize, getting on the scoreboard with a 27-yard field goal from Dyson Roberts to make the score 35-3 — and that score would hold until halftime.
Clemson seemed to find its rhythm again coming out of the half.
After forcing an S.C. State punt, Clemson’s ensuing drive lasted eight plays and was capped off by a 13-yard touchdown run from Shipley — his second of the game.
Clemson added seven more points on its next drive, when backup quarterback Taisun Phommachanh found Lyn-J Dixon for a 14-yard touchdown pass.
Neither team scored in the fourth quarter, as Clemson cruised to the 49-3 win.
The Tigers now have a win under their collective belt, and they will now shift the ACC opener against Georgia Tech next Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
“Now it’s all about ACC play for us,” Swinney said. “Next goal for us is to win the division, and that starts this week.”
Clemson 49, South Carolina State 3
SCSU 0 3 0 0 — 3
CU 28 7 14 0 — 49
CU — Uiagalelei 4 run (Potter kick), 11:38
CU — Shipley 7 run (Potter kick), 7:20
CU — Pace 2 run (Potter kick), 3:21
CU — Ross 11 pass from Uiagalelei (Potter kick), 2:21
CU — Uiagalelei 5 run (Potter kick), 6:43
SCSU — Roberts 27 kick, 0:19
CU — Shipley 13 run (Potter kick), 9:39
CU — Dixon 14 pass from Phommachanh (Potter kick), 3:52
First Downs 9 26
Total Yards 235 504
Rushes-Yards 34-103 36-242
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 6-1
Com-Att-Int 10-27-1 23-39-2
Passing Yards 132 262
Penalties-Yards 10-70 5-35
Punts-Avg 11-40.8 3-43.7
RUSHING — S.C. State, Flowers 11-53, Hill 6-32, Fields 5-15, Walker 5-5, Anthony 6-4, James 1-(-)6; Clemson, Shipley 8-80, Pace 7-68, Dixon 4-27, Uiagalelei 5-23, Taylor 5-20, Rencher 4-14, Dukes 2-7, Phommachanh 1-3.
PASSING — S.C. State, Fields 10-24-1 132, Hill 0-3-0 0; Clemson, Uiagalelei 14-24-1, 171, Phommachanh 7-10-1 75, Helms 2-5-0 16.
RECEIVING — S.C. State, Vereen 4-96, Flowers 2-20, Bailey 2-10, Massey 1-8, Ellis 1-(-2); Clemson, Ross 3-52, Ngata 3-51, B. Collins 3-36, Allen 2-24, D. Collins 2-18, Ajou 2-16, W. Swinney 2-11, Dixon 1-14, Stellato 1-12, Ladson 1-11, Williams 1-10, D. Swinney 1-4, Dukes 1-3.
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