Clemson, SC – Clemson bid farewell to Death Valley for the year in a game and a day fit for a postcard.
The game was decided by halftime, allowing fans to take in the scenery and reflect on the service of the military in a special environment.
Clemson has one of the best military appreciation days in the nation that starts before kickoff and continued throughout the day.
Former Marine and Clemson walk-on Alex Dalton carried the American flag down the hill, two jets soared over Death Valley in a deafening roar, and three parachutists landed in Death Valley with Clemson and American flags.
The Citadel’s first drive was promising for the Bulldog’s upset hopes until they failed to convert a fourth-and-3 past midfield.
Clemson overcame a 15-yard chop block penalty (Tavien Feaster) when Bryant threw a third-and-20 bomb to Deon Cain for a 53-yard touchdown.
The Citadel failed to make a meaningful drive in the half. Etienne rushed for a 7-yard touchdown, Hunter Renfrow caught his first touchdown since the national championship on a tunnel screen, TJ Chase scored his first career touchdown, and Alex Spence hit a 23-yard field goal.
On the luckiest and most impressive drive of the half, Clemson drove 81 yards in under a minute to score six and push the lead to 38-0 at the half.
Cooper threw a 39-yard pass to Higgins, and then didn’t find a receiver until DJ Greenlee caught a 10-yard pass on fourth-and-ten past midfield.
Higgins scored his first career touchdown on the next play as Zerrick’s pass bounced off of both him and the defender before he caught the 32-yard pass with five seconds left in the half.
The timeout events that are normally promotions are replaced with honoring veterans who conducted themselves with valor in combat.
Clemson ROTC’s C4 Pershing Rifles regiment brought Memorial Stadium to an utter and eerie silence through the ritual of the remembrance of fallen soldiers followed by the playing of Taps.
Halftime ended on a joyous note as Lee greenwood sang “God Bless The USA” in person backed up by Tiger Band.
Amari Rodgers returned the opening kickoff 36 yards to the 39-yard line, and Tavien Feaster ran the remaining 61 yards on a score to put the Tigers up 44-0.
Hunter Johnson and the Tigers scored again in under two minutes, aided by an on 41-yard deep ball that was on target to Deon Cain – putting him at over 100 yards receiving for the day.
Johnson’s deep ball was the best throw all day because it was thrown where Cain could catch it in stride as opposed to slowing down.
Etienne’s 7-yard score on the same drive placed him in sole possession of CJ Spiller’s record for rushing touchdowns by a freshman with 11. It took Etienne 84 carries, just over half of Spiller’s 161 carries.
Clemson posted a fifty-burger with one and a half quarters left of gameplay.
Tee Higgins caught another beautiful fly route from Hunter Johnson around midfield and outran the defensive back for a 78-yard touchdown, his second of the day.
The score gave him over a hundred yards receiving and put the Tigers up 58-0 with 3:50 left in the third quarter. Newly minted walk on backup kicker Drew Costa missed the extra point.
Senior backup kicker Christian Groomes kicked a 38-yard field goal to put the Tigers up 61-0 with 6:09 left in the game.
The Citadel’s backup quarterback Jordan Black completed a 61-yard pass to Webb before being brought down at the eleven-yard line. The drive ended in a shutout ruining 30-yard field goal by sophomore Jacob Godek with less than three minutes left in the game.
The Citadel’s odd onside kick was successful, but linebacker Shaq Smith intercepted Jordan Black’s pass to keep the score 61-3.
True freshmen Hunter Johnson and Tee Higgins in particular had two excellent games. Tee Higgins led the Tigers with 178 yards receiving with two touchdowns on six catches.
Johnson was the most efficient quarterback of the day, completing 7 of his 8 passes for 144 yards and the 78-yard touchdown to Tee Higgins.
The Citadel is ranked 166th in the nation on the Sagarin rankings, so take the dominance of the Tigers with a grain of salt.
They outgained the Citadel 662 to 216 and posted a season high in passing with 479 yards through the air by three different quarterbacks. The Citadel ran 62 plays (2.9 average) to Clemson’s 67 (9.9 average).
Clemson overcame mistakes today against an outmatched opponent, but similar mistakes for the rest of the year would cost the Tigers dearly.
Despite the quality of the opponent, Clemson controlled what they could control. They played an excellent game, and the younger players showed their skills to Tiger fans.
It was everything you could ask for in a sendoff game for the Seniors: a mostly filled and active student section, the rituals of Military Appreciation day, a refreshing win before Thanksgiving, and a beautiful day to watch the Tigers play in Death Valley.