12/29: Quick Reaction: Clemson Clobbers ND in Cotton Bowl 30-3

Dallas, TX – The phrase “a game of two halves” is commonly said, but the Cotton Bowl was a game of two quarters. 

The first quarter was a defensive slugfest – neither team could take control despite the numerous opportunities. Clelin Ferrell’s early tackle, forced fumble, and fumble recovery of Ian Book near midfield was the first big play of the game. 

Clemson scored three points off the turnover (40-yd Huegel field goal), and Notre Dame responded by marching to the nine-yard line before settling for a 28-yard Justin Yoon field goal. 

Derion Kendrick returned Yoon’s subsequent kickoff to the fifteen-yard line, where he fumbled the ball. The original ruling was that Notre Dame recovered the ball, but the booth and the big screen in “Jerry’s World” overturned the call and stated that the fumble was out of bounds before Notre Dame recovered the football. 

The call was made by the thinnest of margins – no one knows if it was indisputably out of bounds or not. It was the first in a series of lucky events for the Tigers. Notre Dame suffered various injuries on defense, 

With star cornerback Julian Love absent, Lawrence threw a 52-yard sideline touchdown to fellow freshman Justyn Ross early in the second quarter. The extra point was blocked, and the score was an easily surmountable 9-3 lead for Clemson. When the Tigers next drive ended in a missed 49-yard field goal by Greg Huegel, questions still lingered. 

Clemson’s defense held on long enough to let the offense gain momentum, or Notre Dame buckled under the weight of injuries. Either way you spin it, Trevor Lawrence took control of the game, erased the questions, and never looked back. 

Notre Dame was exposed in the middle of the field by Lawrence’s second touchdown throw to Ross – a 42-yard throw to put Clemson up 16-3 with less than two minutes in the half.

Despite the star power of Lawrence and the passing attack, the ferocious Tiger defense kept Notre Dame in check throughout the first half. For one last time, they stymied the Irish’s scoring hopes and gave Clemson 48 seconds to score. 

When Renfrow’s 32-yard catch had a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty attached to it, the Tigers took their final time-out. They had nineteen yards and nine seconds to work with. 

Tee Higgins dropped a wide open touchdown pass earlier in the game, but he redeemed himself with an incredible catch of a spinning tipped ball in the back of the end zone. 

What was a 9-3 lead with 4:56 left in the first half was now a 23-3 lead entering halftime. Originally a slugfest, the Cotton Bowl was close to becoming a blowout. 

The third quarter was similar to the first – the main difference was the scoreboard. 

The first four drives of the half were fruitless, as Clemson couldn’t extend their lead and Ian Book couldn’t put the offense on his shoulders and come back from the deficit. 

As Notre Dame neared the red zone, Ian Book’s third-and-22 pass was snatched by Nolan Turner, with the sideline erupting for the lightly recruited safety. Three plays later, Etienne broke Wayne Gallman’s Clemson single-season rushing record with a 62-yard rushing touchdown to give Clemson a 30-3 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter.

In an odd and controversial occurance on the last play of the third quarter, Isaiah Simmons’ strip and scoop for a touchdown was ruled ineligible for review because it was labeled forward progress. While the outcome of the game was virtually decided, it was an interesting sequence of events that elicited cheers and boos throughout the stadium.

The fourth quarter was mostly uneventful as the Tigers finished the last fifteen minutes of football to ensure that they would play in the national championship for the third time in four years. 

12/29: Cotton Bowl Halftime Report

Score: Clemson 23 Notre Dame 3

Key Events:

Derion Kendrick’s kickoff return was initially ruled a fumble inside the ten, but it was overturned by a sliver (out of bounds) and thus Notre Dame lost a chance to make a 3-3 tie a 10-3 lead.

The game was a defensive slugfest until Julian Love left the game with an injury – Trevor Lawrence took advantage of his absence and threw a 52-yard touchdown to Justyn Ross, the first of three first-half touchdown throws. Clemson’s last touchdown with two seconds remaining may have been the dagger for the Irish.

Positives:

Trevor Lawrence has moved within the pocket well, evading defenders multiple times to fire off a pass. Justyn Ross has played exceptionally well as his current favorite target, with five catches, 137 yards, and two scores at the half.

Clemson’s defense held on while Clemson’s offense established a rhythm and built a lead – now the Tigers can play with their ears pinned back and even more aggressively.

Areas for Improvement:

Clemson’s pass protection is not doing Trevor Lawrence any favors. Despite his two scoring touchdowns, he has taken major hits that could impact his play in the second half.

The Tigers have made several poor plays on special teams: a barely overturned fumble on a kickoff return, a missed 49-yard field goal, a blocked extra point, and a punting average of 38 yards per punt make for a discouraging special teams performance.

What to Watch:

Clemson’s last touchdown with two seconds left in the half gave the Tigers a major boost into halftime. If Notre Dame wants to close the 20-point lead, they will need to have Julian Love and others healthy, and gain offensive momentum fast.

12/27: Cotton Bowl Preview

Unless Oklahoma wins the national championship, an undefeated team will win the national championship for the first time in the CFP’s five-year history. Furthermore, if Clemson or Alabama wins the champion will be the first 15-0 FBS National Champion. Two of the three undefeated teams will face off in the infamous stadium known as “Jerry’s World” as the Cotton Bowl hosts Clemson and Notre Dame. 

Each team has faced adversity throughout the year, but this will be each team’s toughest test. Notre Dame has the signature win against a highly ranked opponent that Clemson does not have – a 24-17 win against Michigan in the season opener. On the other hand, Clemson played an extra game when they defeated Pittsburgh in the ACC Championship game.

To get the elephant out of the way – it is unlikely that Dexter Lawrence, Braden Galloway, or Zach Giella will play in the Cotton Bowl. Coach Swinney expressed his support for the trio as they tested positive for trace amounts of a banned substance likely found in dietary supplements (unmarked). Losing junior draft prospect Dexter Lawrence will hurt Clemson significantly in the Cotton Bowl, while losing current role players Giella and Galloway will hurt in 2019 as they will likely face a one-year suspension. While the suspensions are unfortunate, Clemson has depth at the defensive tackle position to handle the loss of Lawrence.

Both teams changed quarterbacks midstream from more run-centric players to more pass-centric players and subsequently transformed their offenses into complete threats. Both of senior quarterbacks lead their teams to signature wins (Notre Dame vs Michigan, Clemson at Texas A&M). Notre Dame’s junior Ian Book replaced Brandon Wimbush while Clemson’s true freshman Trevor Lawrence replaced Kelly Bryant. 

Notre Dame runs the ball slightly more than Clemson, and they tend to rely on one running back. Dexter Williams is Notre Dame’s starting running back, and he has averaged almost eighteen attempts per game in his eight games. Clemson utilizes more running backs than Notre Dame, as Etienne only carries the ball 13.5 times per game. 

 In the passing game, both teams are formidable but the storyline is flipped. Clemson passes more than Notre Dame and uses more receivers (eight WRs with ten or more catches), whereas Notre Dame relies on their three main wide receivers more often. What Notre Dame has that Clemson lacks is a true threat from the tight end in the passing game – Alize Mack has 34 catches on the year, which is almost double the seventeen catches Clemson’s tight ends have combined in 2018.

While both defensive and offensive lines for both teams are quality, Clemson holds the advantage in the trenches. Clemson’s incredibly deep defensive line will cause problems for any offensive line, especially one that is good but not elite like Notre Dame’s. 

The Irish have an excellent passing defense, but in order to take advantage of it they will have to make Trevor Lawrence uncomfortable in the pocket (see the first half of the Boston College game). While the Irish have two excellent defensive ends in Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem, it takes more than two linemen to generate a pass rush for sixty minutes. 

Notre Dame’s back seven is among the best in the nation, with Julian Love as an elite corner and Jerry Tillery as an elite linebacker. Their linebackers are capable of containing Clemson’s run game, and their secondary is a big reason why they boast an elite passing defense. This will be the Tigers’ toughest test on defense, as there is no weak link to exploit.

The pundits and bookies think that Clemson should win this game easily, and on paper it looks as if they should. Championship football is usually close though, and in that case special teams plays a vital role. The Tigers have been up and down on special teams this year, and they need an elite performance on special teams to win if the game is close.  

Oddshark’s projected score is Clemson 45.8 – Notre Dame 31, and Clemson is favored by 12.5 points. The over/under is 56.5, and sixty percent of the bets have been placed on the over. 

Prediction: Clemson 31 Notre Dame 17

Michael Dean Perry Named Brian Dawkins Award Winner

CLEMSON, S.C. — Former Clemson All-American and six-time NFL Pro Bowler Michael Dean Perry was named the recipient of the Brian Dawkins Lifetime Achievement Award at the Clemson’s annual football banquet on Sunday night. Since 2013, Head Coach Dabo Swinney has presented the Brian Dawkins Clemson Lifetime Achievement Award to a former Clemson player who exemplifies excellence in the areas of integrity, scholarship, athletics, service, leadership, commitment, dedication, courage, resilience and spirit.

Recipients must be out of school at least 10 years to qualify. Dawkins, who played 16 years in the NFL and was named to nine Pro Bowls and was a finalist for many public service awards, was the first recipient.

Perry played for Clemson between 1984-87 and recorded a still-school-record 61 career tackles for loss. Twenty-eight of those tackles-for-loss were sacks, still tied for second most in Clemson history on a career basis.

During his senior year, he helped the Tigers to a second-straight ACC Championship and a 10-2 record. He had 24 tackles for loss, including 10 sacks from his defensive tackle position and was a finalist for the Outland Trophy, which is given to the top interior lineman in the nation by the Football Writers Association of America.

Perry was also named the ACC Player of the Year in 1987, one of just three Clemson defensive players to win the award. He was also named the team MVP on defense.

In 1988, Perry was the 50th selection in the NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. In just his second year, 1989, he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-Pro selection. He also was named first or second-team All-Pro in 1990, 1991 and 1994.

The native of Aiken, S.C. played 10 seasons in the NFL and finished with 61 career sacks, ironically, the same as his tackle-for-loss total at Clemson. He was named to the Pro Bowl six times (1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1996) during his NFL career, second among former Clemson players, trailing only Dawkins.

Overall, Perry played 148 NFL games, 127 as a starter. His 61 sacks are third among former Clemson players in the NFL and his 13 caused fumbles are fifth. He had 534 solo tackles during his NFL career.

At the conclusion of his career, Perry was named to the Clemson Centennial team in 2000, and was inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame the same year. He was also named to the All-Decade team for the 1990s by Pro Football Reference. In 2005, Perry was named to the state of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, and in 2016 was inducted into the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame.

Perry and his wife, who live in Charlotte, operate A1 Transportation Company, which specializes in wheelchair transportation.

Brian Dawkins Award Recipients

  • 2013: Brian Dawkins, 1992-95
  • 2014: Bill Smith, 1977-81
  • 2015: Warren Forney, 1991-95
  • 2016: Jerry Butler, 1975-78
  • 2017: Jeff Davis, 1978-81
  • 2018: Mark Richardson, 1979-82
  • 2019: Michael Allen, 1995-98
  • 2020: Michael Dean Perry, 1984-87

In addition to Perry’s selection for this honor, Clemson’s list of awards presented at the team’s annual awards banquet on Sunday evening is included below:

OFFENSIVE AWARDS

Solid Rock Award
Most solid, consistent and dependable player at each position
QB Trevor Lawrence
RB Travis Etienne
WR Tee Higgins
WR Justyn Ross
TE JC Chalk
OL John Simpson
OL Tremayne Anchrum

Hustle Award
Consistent effort and served as an inspiration to teammates
WR Diondre Overton
OL Gage Cervenka
OL Sean Pollard

12th Man Award
OL Matt Bockhorst
RB Lyn-J Dixon
WR Diondre Overton

Iron Man Award
Dependable player with resilient persistence and leadership
OL Tremayne Anchrum

Most Improved Offensive Player of the Year
OL Jackson Carman
TE Luke Price

Rookie of the Year
OL Jordan McFadden
WR Joseph Ngata

Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year
S Elijah Turner
DE Greg Williams
LB Landon Holden

Offensive Special Teams Player of the Year
WR Amari Rodgers
OL Gage Cervenka

Tiger Pride Award (MVP)
RB Travis Etienne
WR Tee Higgins
QB Trevor Lawrence

Future Impact Players
WR Frank Ladson Jr.
TE Davis Allen
RB Chez Mellusi
OL Will Putnam
WR Brannon Spector

Paw Award
Most blue collar/unselfish player
OL Sean Pollard
WR Amari Rodgers
QB Chase Brice
WR Diondre Overton

Most Improved Special Teams Player of the Year
P Will Spiers
LB Baylon Spector

Specialist of the Year
LS Patrick Phibbs

DEFENSIVE AWARDS

Solid Rock Award
Most solid, consistent and dependable player at each position
CB A.J. Terrell
S Tanner Muse
S K’Von Wallace
DT Tyler Davis
DE Justin Foster
LB James Skalski
LB Isaiah Simmons

Hustle Award
Consistent effort and served as an inspiration to teammates
DE Logan Rudolph
S Tanner Muse

12th Man Award
S Nolan Turner

Iron Man Award
Dependable player with resilient persistence and leadership
CB A.J. Terrell
S Tanner Muse
LB James Skalski

Most Improved Defensive Player of the Year
CB Derion Kendrick
S K’Von Wallace
LB Chad Smith

Rookie of the Year
DT Tyler Davis
CB Derion Kendrick

Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year
OL Hunter Rayburn
WR Max May
QB Patrick McClure

Defensive Special Teams Player of the Year
S Nolan Turner
LB Isaiah Simmons
LB James Skalski

Tiger Pride Award (MVP)
LB Isaiah Simmons
CB A.J. Terrell
S Tanner Muse

Future Impact Players
CB Sheridan Jones
S Lannden Zanders
LB Jake Venables
DE K.J. Henry
DT Ruke Orhorhoro

Paw Award
Most blue collar/unselfish player
LB Chad Smith
DE Logan Rudolph
S Denzel Johnson

STRENGTH AWARDS

NSCA Strength and Conditioning All-Americans
S Tanner Muse
S K’Von Wallace
OL John Simpson
OL Tremayne Anchrum

Dedication Award
OL Gage Cervenka
LB Landon Holden
WR Amari Rodgers
LB James Skalski

All-In Accountability Challenge Champion Captains
OL Tremayne Anchrum
WR Diondre Overton

All-In Accountability Challenge Champion Team Members
DT Tyler Davis
OL Will Edwards
WR Hamp Greene
WR Tee Higgins
RB Ty Lucas
OL Jordan McFadden
WR Joseph Ngata
WR Amari Rodgers
WR Justyn Ross
WR Will Swinney
S Ray Thornton III
S Elijah Turner
DE Greg Williams

Most Inspirational Player of Year
WR Amari Rodgers

ADDITIONAL AWARDS

GPA Awards
Overall: WR Max May
Senior: S Elijah Turner
Junior: WR Will Swinney
Sophomore: WR Will Brown
Redshirt Freshman: WR Drew Swinney
Freshman: LB David Cote

True Tigers of the Year
CB Derion Kendrick
RB Ty Lucas
QB Ben Batson
LB Baylon Spector

Spiritual Leadership Award
WR Will Swinney

Tim Bourret Award
Best represents himself, his teammates and Clemson University in the media
QB Trevor Lawrence

P.A.W. Journey Professional of the Year
WR Carter Groomes

P.A.W. Journey Service Above Self Award
OL Sean Pollard

P.A.W. Journey P.A.T. Man of the Year
OL Tremayne Anchrum

Team Captains
OL Tremayne Anchrum
OL John Simpson
OL Gage Cervenka
WR Diondre Overton
S K’Von Wallace
S Tanner Muse
LB Isaiah Simmons

No. 3 Clemson Falls to No. 1 LSU in CFP National Championship 

NEW ORLEANS — No. 3 Clemson lost its first game in more than two years, falling to No. 1 LSU 42-25, in the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Clemson’s seniors closed their careers at 55-4, suffering their first loss since dropping the 2017 Sugar Bowl in the same stadium. Clemson closes the year at 14-1, while LSU joined Clemson (2018) as the only two programs in the modern era to finish 15-0.

The loss snaps Clemson’s 29-game winning streak. The 29 consecutive wins is tied for 12th longest win streak in College Football history, and is the longest since Florida State won 29 straight between 2012-14. It is the Tigers first loss in 742 days.

Trevor Lawrence completed 18-37 passes and rushed for a one yard touchdown in the first quarter. Travis Etienne finished with 78 yards on the ground, while catching five passes for 36 yards. Justyn Ross was the Tigers’ leading receiver, catching five passes for 76 yards.

In the contest, running back Travis Etienne became Clemson’s all-time leading rusher, passing Raymond Priester’s former mark of 3,966 yards. Just a play later, Clemson struck first, with Lawrence finding the endzone on the ground, capping a 5-play, 67-yard drive that took just over two minutes. After an LSU scoring strike, kicker B.T. Potter put Clemson back on top with a career-long 52-yarder, which also marked the longest made field goal in CFP Championship Game history.

After a stop, Tee Higgins took his first career rushing attempt, a reverse from Etienne, 36 yards across the field and dove in for a score with 10:38 to play in the second quarter. On that drive, Clemson went 96 yards on just four plays in taking the 17-7 lead. From there, LSU closed the first half scoring three touchdowns in the final 9:17, including a 95-yard drive that gave them a 28-17 lead heading to the half.

Clemson made a statement out of halftime, sacking Burrow on third down to end their first drive, and going 50 yards on six plays punctuated with an Etienne rushing score and an Amari Rodgers two-point conversion to climb back in it. However, LSU scored a pair of unanswered touchdowns to take a 42-25 lead with 12:08 to play in the contest, a lead they would hold for the remainder of the game

 

CU200113.htm

#3 Clemson vs #1 LSU (01/13/20)


Scoring Summary

Scoring Summary (Final)
2020 CFP National Champions

1/13: Clemson’s Magic Runs Out, LSU Wins Title

New Orleans, LA – A horrific version of déjà vu.

The early magic favored Clemson. Lawrence was the ice-cold assassin, and Burrow was the frustrated signal caller. Isaiah Simmons was Venables’ weapon of choice, and the three-down-odd-front was the method of delivery.

 

After a promising but fruitless first drive, Clemson didn’t miss their second chance. Lawrence was the man of the hour as he scrambled the last yard into the end zone and heart of Purple Tigers everywhere. Just as impressive was the down-the-seam-throw to newly liberated Braden Galloway.

 

Even Clemson’s struggling special teams had glimpses of glory: Clemson’s third drive ended in a 52-yard BT Potter bomb while the first two three-and-outs were made possible by Spiers’ excellent pop-punts.

 

Clemson marched an all-too familiar 96 yards to break another straw on the proverbial camel’s back. Ross, Etienne, and Higgins all had chunk plays on the lightning-fast four-play drive. Tee’s 36-yard reverse simultaneously exposed the LSU defender’s lack of effort and his own grit, giving Clemson a ten-point lead twenty minutes into the game (17-7).

 

The magic of Clemson ran out and the magic of LSU began.

 

First, Burrow deciphered Venables’ puzzle, as the master of adjustments was the victim of adjustments.

 

One key mismatch was star sophomore receiver Jamaar Chase against junior AJ Terrell. It was an inverse relationship, it seemed as Chase’s draft stock rose with the fall of Terrell’s stock.

 

Chase was a key factor, but Burrow was the engine that made the NFL-ready machine of Brady’s offense go. The previously impenetrable Clemson defense was the latest victim, as they surrendered 21 straight points to end the half.

 

Hope wasn’t lost yet. Burrow succumbed to the Clemson pressure to begin the second half. Conversely, Clemson captured one last bit of magic in a touchdown drive (Etienne rush) capped off by a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to three.

 

Those were the last points the 2019 Clemson Tigers would score.

 

Not to say that they didn’t have their chances. LSU would only score once more in the third quarter, squandering opportunities such as the ejection of Clemson’s James Skalski, a dropped Justin Jefferson touchdown pass, and a missed Cade York field goal from 45.

 

Clemson never capitalized. The normally vicious Tigers were outscored 35 to 8 to end the game – final score 42-25. The normally dominant defense allowed Heisman winner Burrow to score six touchdowns, as Lawrence was held scoreless through the air. Clemson was 1-11 on third down (LSU 4-14), ran 65 plays (LSU 81) and had 394 total yards (LSU 628).

 

Clemson needed magic to beat LSU, but the magic never came. LSU was simply better in 2019. Clemson is a powerhouse, maybe even a dynasty. It doesn’t bring solace for now, but it is worth keeping in perspective that Clemson’s magical decade was incredible. The best thought: next decade could be even better.

1/13: Halftime Report: LSU 28 Clemson 17

Key Moment: Joe Burrow threw a spectacular 56-yard pass to Jamaar Chase to start the Cajun offensive explosion with ten minutes left to play in the half.

Stat of the Half:  In the first 20 minutes of the half, Clemson outscored LSU 17-7. In the last ten minutes of the half, LSU outscored Clemson 21-0.

Positives:  Clemson has shown that they can do all of the things necessary to beat LSU in all three phases of the game. Lawrence and passing friends have looked unstoppable and Venables has frustrated Burrow.

Room for Improvement:  Clemson dominated the game in the first quarter but only had one score to show for it, and then they cooled off in the second quarter. From poor tackling to out-of-sync offensive play, Orgeron and company have come back with a vengeance.

Keys to the Second Half: 

For lack of better wording – can Clemson put it all together? Like Ohio State, Clemson was on the verge of gaining a commanding lead but never finished the kill shot. Momentum is favoring LSU, and Clemson has to do something fast. LSU has Clemson figured out – can Clemson re-adjust?

1/10: 2019 National Championship Preview

Overview: Legions of millennial college football fans remember the 2006 Rose Bowl as the era-defining game, and this National Championship game has the potential to do so for the next generation. While Ohio State was more well-rounded, LSU has come into form at the right time and is more dynamic than the Buckeyes.

 

The story of the year has been the sensational coaching of Joe Brady and Steve Ensminger that has enabled the talented Burrow to have arguably the best single season ever for a college quarterback. WRs Chase and Jefferson have racked up over 1400 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns individually, while three other players have at least 40 receptions and 399 yards. Burrow’s statistical accumulation is second-to-none: a 77% completion percentage, 10.9 yards per attempt (Lawrence has 9.6 for reference), and 59 total scores.

 

LSU’s defense is not as good as Ohio State’s, but it has peaked at the right time. Players returning from injury and adjustments have allowed the opposing Tigers to allow just 45 points combined in their last three games (two against top five opponents).

 

Talent: This game is foremost a duel between Burrow (the frontrunner 2020 1st overall pick) and Lawrence (the presumptive 2021 1st overall pick) – two likely franchise quarterbacks for the next decade. Other top draft-eligible prospects include CB Kristan Fulton (14 per TDN), S Grant Deplit (16), Edge K’Lavon Chaisson (21), WR Justin Jefferson (48), RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (68), and IDL Rashard Lawrence (91). Outside of the draft-eligible list, First-Team-SEC standouts include WR Ja’Marr Chase, true freshman CB Derek Stingley, and center Lloyd Chushenberry.

 

Oddshark: LSU is favored by 5.5 points, and 56% of bets are in favor of LSU. The over/under is 69.5 points, and both sides are at 50%. The projected score is Clemson 45.9 LSU 42.8, in sharp contrast to the general public’s perception that LSU will win heavily.

 

William’s Take: Both teams are the two most impressive in the country and have a flair of ‘destiny’ on their side. It’s a coin-flip game that is the most anticipated game of the (last) decade. My gut reaction since the Fiesta Bowl has been that Clemson will pull off the victory in a barn-burner. Prediction: Clemson 56 LSU 52

Tigers Rally To Top No. 2 OSU 29-23 in Fiesta Bowl

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Trevor Lawrence connected with Travis Etienne with 1:49 left in the fourth quarter to give No. 3 Clemson the lead and Nolan Turner intercepted Ohio State’s Justin Fields in the endzone with 37 seconds remaining, as the Tigers (14-0) erased a 16-point first half deficit to defeat No. 2 Ohio State 29-23 in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl- College Football Playoff Semi-Final in Glendale, Ariz.

Clemson will now head to New Orleans, La. for a chance at its third College Football Playoff Championship. The Tigers will face off against No. 1 LSU on Monday, Jan. 13 on ESPN. It will be the Tigers’ fourth championship game appearance in five years.

The win extends Clemson’s nation’s best 29 game win streak. The Tigers trailed 16-0 in the first half, before two touchdowns in the second quarter cut into the Buckeye lead, 16-14. Clemson scored a touchdown in the third quarter to take a 21-16 lead into the fourth quarter. Ohio State retook the lead with 11:46 remaining, 23-21. With 1:49 remaining, Lawrence found Etienne for a 34-yard touchdown to reclaim the lead. Nolan Turner recorded Clemson’s second interception of the contest, picking off Fields in the endzone to seal the 29-23 victory for the Tigers.

Trevor Lawrence completed 18-of-33 passes for 259 yards and two passing touchdowns. The sophomore ran for a career best 107 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown rush in the second quarter, the longest rush of his career. Lawrence threw a touchdown pass in a 24th consecutive game, which is the longest active streak in the nation.

Travis Etienne recorded his third and fourth receiving touchdown of the season, taking a pass from Lawrence 53 yards to the endzone in the second quarter, and a 34-yard touchdown in the final minutes of the game to put the Tigers ahead. Etienne lead Clemson in receiving with three receptions for 98 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions.  Etienne finished with 36 rushing yards, and one rushing touchdown.

The Clemson defense intercepted Ohio State’s Fields two times, one by Butkus Award winner Isaiah Simmons and one to seal the game by Nolan Turner. Prior to the game, Fields had only thrown one interception on the season.

12/28: One More Chance: Clemson Topples Buckeyes 29-23

Glendale, AZ –  Many dreams have died in the cold winter of the Arizona desert, on the poorly kept turf of State Farm Stadium. The most infamous of these were the 18-0 Patriots, but the question in the air tonight was who would advance to face the legendary LSU and Burrow.

 

Trevor Lawrence down and in pain off of a Shaun Wade (debated) targeting call. Down 16-0, nothing had gone Clemson’s way. JK Dobbins dominated Venables’ unit, and only two goal line stands prevented this from being a 28-0 blowout. A shanked field goal, an anemic offense, the loss of Tee Higgins, and now Trevor Lawrence was down.

 

Debate the targeting call, take your stance on it. It didn’t matter: the sleeping giant from the Blue Ridge Mountains was wide awake, ready to pounce.

 

Lawrence was only shaken up, and the ugly drive was finished by an impressive juke-and-run by Etienne for eight yards and dignity. 16-7, three minutes to play in the half.

 

The defense that Day’s men had shredded between the twenties clamped shut, delivering a three-and-out and seventy seconds for Lawrence.

 

A great block by John Simpson here, a nice juke there to shake off a defensive back, and Clemson’s leading rusher of the game (and sole 100 yard rusher) ran 67 yards to pay dirt. Touchdown – Trevor Lawrence. A 16-point deficit that felt like 36 was snapped into a two-point deficit.

 

Midway through the third quarter, number 9 was called and delivered. The cross-slip-screen had been set up all game, Etienne capitalized and raced 53-yards to give Clemson its first lead of the night, 21-16.

 

In the middle of a period of offensive stagnation, a controversial-by-region call occurred.  Star cornerback Jeffrey Okudah appeared to strip Justyn Ross of the football and take it to the house. Upon further review, it was ruled an incomplete pass to the dismay of those North of the Mason Dixon and the delight to those below.

 

Ohio State went for the jugular. Previously opting to go for field goals, they scored on a 4th-and-1 play action play, verticals down the seam. 23-21, twelve minutes to go.

 

Down two points after swapping scoreless drives, Clemson had three minutes to drive 94 yards. Lawrence tto Ross for 11, Lawrence rush for 11. Lawrence pass to Rodgers for 38. Fittingly, a Lawrence touchdown pass down the field to Etienne to take a 27-23 lead with 109 seconds left.

 

Lawrence rolls right, throws across his body, nails Tee Higgins in the back of the end zone to stretch the lead to 29-23.

 

Some said there was too much time left for Fields, and it appeared that way. Just like the first drive of the game, Fields and company marched right outside the red zone.

 

Fields picked on Nolan Turner one too many times. Perceived as the ‘weak link’, he was targeted throughout the game with success. But the two-star Alabama player so reminiscent of Swinney had other plans, and he started by snatching Buckeye Nation’s dreams of glory – intercepting the five-star transfer quarterback in the end zone.

 

One more play. The seconds hung in the air, media and players alike waiting to rush the field after the kneel. Outscoring the Buckeyes 29-7, coming from the brink of termination – the dam of these emotions burst with eight seconds on the clock.

 

The opportunity to play in one more game. One more chance at a ring. One more chance to prove the doubters wrong. One more display of gut and will. Another game in hostile territory, against another group of Tigers seemingly destined for glory. One more duel for the ages.

 

 

 

 

12/28: Fiesta Bowl Halftime Report

Score: Ohio State 16 Clemson 14

Key Moments: The game was all Ohio State and teetering on the edge of a blowout before Shaun Wade was ejected due to targeting Trevor Lawrence. After the call, Clemson scored two straight touchdowns in the waning minutes of the first half to make it a one score game.

Positives: Clemson’s red zone defense and Buckeye mistakes have caused Ohio State to settle for field goals twice. Trevor Lawrence has singlehandedly kept the Tigers offense alive by out-dueling Fields so far. The Buckeyes let Clemson hang around a tad too long, and the Tigers pounced.

Negatives: Before the targeting call, everything was wrong. After the targeting call? Clemson could do no wrong. Its really that simple.

Keys to the 2nd Half: Who wins the chess match? What could have been a 28-0 game and was 16-0 has turned into an interesting battle. Clemson needs to keep the momentum and out-coach Ryan Day in the second half. Don’t count the Tigers out.

12/25: Fiesta Bowl Preview

Overview: Even though the fourth seed has won the playoff twice, the playoff was originally intended to settle the dispute between the 2nd and 3rd place teams from 2011. This is the most anticipated playoffs since its inception, as Alabama has failed to make it and three of the four teams have a serious shot at the title.

 

These are the two most complete and dominant teams in the playoffs. LSU is excellent, but their defense is nowhere near as dominant as Clemson or Ohio State’s. Both teams allow just under four yards a play, but the Tigers gain 7.5 yards per play to the Buckeyes 7. Ohio State scores a couple more points per game (48.5 to 46.5) but Clemson allows a couple less points per game (12.5 to 10.6).  The statistical advantages that favor Ohio State are third down conversions (57 vs 47 percent), red zone defense (64 vs 72 percent), and field goals (83 vs 62 percent).

 

Clemson’s advantage is their pass-rush vs Justin Fields: he is hobbled and holds onto the ball longer than he should. Combine that with Clemson’s excellent secondary that can force coverage sacks going against Ohio State’s not-elite pass catching corps, and Fields could be in for a long day at the office.

 

Talent: Ohio State is truly even with Clemson in terms of talent, and it stems from both player development and the Buckeyes three top five recruiting classes in the past four years. Edge defender Chase Young is TDN’s top eligible draft player for 2020, and cornerback Jeffrey Okudah falls not far behind at 7. Opposite Okudah is the 27th ranked player in corner Shaun Wade, while running back JK Dobbins is 41. Quarterback Justin Fields, JK Dobbins, both starting guards, Chase Young, linebacker Malik Harrison, and Okudah all made at least one first team All-Big Ten Team (Coaches or Media).

 

Oddshark: This is the tightest game Clemson has seen this year by far. Clemson is favored by two points, and the bets are almost even (48% Clemson, 52% OSU). The over/under is 63.5, and 63% of bets are on the over. The projected score is Clemson 44.9, Ohio State 41.6 – it looks like it could be a shootout in the desert.

 

William’s Take: This is a pick ‘em, go with your gut game. My gut says Clemson because of the Brent Venables factor, but this could go either way. Prediction: Clemson 42, Ohio State 41

2020 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl Clemson Offensive Press Conference

QUOTES FROM TONY ELLIOTT, JOHN SIMPSON, TRAVIS ETIENNE, TREVOR LAWRENCE

Enjoying the rain?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Come out to Arizona, and think it’s going to be all sunshine. It has been

great, though. They were telling us it never rains here, and then we come out, and it’s going to rain all week. But it’s been great. Never been out here, so it is cool to see — it’s just so much different.

Trevor, what’s different as preparation for this year as opposed to last year?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: I think it’s similar. It’s just — the difference is it’s a different team that we’re playing, and that comes with new challenges. And also just preparing the same way, it’s just hard because you have so much time. So really, just staying on it and being consistent every day and every week. Do what you need to do.

Trevor, what have you seen with the Ohio State defense that really impresses you? TREVOR LAWRENCE: I think just everywhere. They’re good at every part on defense, and especially their D-line. Obviously, everyone talks about their D-line. And not even just Chase Young. All of those other guys you have up front, a lot of other guys, too. They’re pretty deep up front. Linebackers are a really good group. And then DBs, both corners and the safety are really good players. I think everywhere, there’s not really a weak link. That’s going to be a challenge.

How would you rank this defense against any other you’ve seen this year?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Definitely the best. We have the same defense that’s good this year. We’re really excited about that opportunity to go against them and see what we can do.

Trevor, does it bother you that you guys were defending national champs, went undefeated, yet come back as the three seed?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Not really. It gives us a little fuel and something to work for. We’re still — if people think we’re the third best team, so that’s just how it’s going to be until we prove it. Since we’ve got the opportunity, we’re not upset. We’re happy to be here and happy to have the opportunity to prove ourselves.

How’s it been having Jackson Carman — had a good year. How secure do you feel he’s blocking for you?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: For sure. He’s been great. Just a four-year starter. One of the best offensive linemen to come through Clemson. He’s done great. He’s filled that spot really well. He’s had a great year. The whole line up front has done a really good job. I think we’ve only had — I don’t know how many sacks, not many though. Seeing how they’ve worked in the off-season coming into this year, and how they’ve gelled together has been really cool.

What’s your thoughts about Chase Young?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Just a great player. He’s physical. He’s fast. He’s a big guy, really athletic. Everything you want in a defensive end. Just has a really good knack for finding the ball, getting to the quarterback. Always seems to be in the right place. That’s just a testament to how he prepares, I’m assuming, and the kind of player he is.

As a quarterback, how does a defensive lineman — how does that game preparation change during the week?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: I think it’s just being conscious of that. More conscious of than we are in some other games, where he didn’t play guys that were quite as good as him. You have that in the back of your head. Then also just knowing what to do with protections and things like that. Just always kind of considering him. Really, there are other things, too. You can’t put too much into one guy, because that will mess up your offense, but you do have to keep him in the back of your mind for sure.

When you talk about the people — coming in as a three-seed, is that something you guys talk about amongst yourselves — the disrespect, for a lack of a better word?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: A little bit. When it came out that we were the three-seed, we talked a little bit about it. But at this point, we got our chance to prove it, and we’re happy for that. We’re grateful for that. We’re glad to be here, and we have a chance to prove it, so we don’t talk too much about that anymore.

Trevor, how has your game improved in your second year as quarterback?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: I think I’ve gotten a lot smarter. I know a lot more football. I’ve played a lot more. Just been in a lot of different situations, so I can pull from that. As far as decision-making, I feel I’m doing a better job this year besides a few plays. Overall, I feel like I’m making a lot more plays out on the field, and really giving my guys a chance to make the catch more than I was last year.

Now that you are in your second year, does this playoff feel any different than the feelings that you felt exactly this time a year ago?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: It feels different. I was just saying, I think it’s just kind of knowing what’s going on more. Like media, for example. Last year, I didn’t know what I was doing as I was coming in here. Didn’t know what to expect. I have a year under my belt. I’ve experienced it. I’ve done the bowl experience. I know what to expect. But other than that, it is still fun and exciting

Trevor, can you tell us more about the Fiesta Bowl week experience? What’s new compared to last year? 

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Yeah. We went to the Cotton Bowl last year, and that was a great bowl. That was a lot of fun. This year it has been different being out in Arizona, and the hotel is really nice. It is like a villa, so there are different little, I guess, like villages of little houses, instead of like your normal hotel. That’s super cool. And then just — it is always fun to have some free time to go to the mall or whatever and hang out. That has been cool. Also just the weather out here. Besides last night and today, it has been good. It has felt great. It is a nice change.

Do you have any specific plans for Christmas? Is your family here yet?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: They’ll be out here on Friday. We do Christmas like, breakfast, brunch as a team. And we’ll do a Secret Santa, and they usually give us a gift bag in the morning. That’s what we did last year, so we’ll see. We’ll have a little Christmas brunch as a family.

Jackson Carman — becoming an elite tackle. What’s he done so good this year?

TONY ELLIOTT: Jackson has really matured off the field. Not that he was in a bad situation, but he’s really just taken ownership. He’s not relying on his talent. He’s starting to focus on the details and the fundamentals. He’s an extremely smart, young man. Sometimes — when you’re smart, sometimes

you overthink things and you try to do too much. That’s what I’ve seen the biggest in him. He’s not overthinking things. He’s really trusting his technique, and he’s not just relying on talent. That’s a tribute to the maturity that’s taken place over the last year with him.

 

TONY ELLIOTT:

Have you been around (Jackson Carman) enough as far as conversation where you get a sense he’s relishing the chance to play Ohio State?

TONY ELLIOTT: Oh, he’s excited! This goes back to before — he got into Clemson, and before he made a decision to come to Clemson. I think he’s been following Chase Young since Chase Young was in high school. These guys are competitors. They want to compete against the best. He and Tremayne [Anchrum] are both excited for an opportunity.

This is what you want. Especially those guys who aspire to play at the next level. You’re talking about potentially — he’s good enough to be a number one overall pick. You have a chance to showcase your talent on the biggest stage versus the best player in the country, these guys are both excited.

Can you make a name for yourself with Jackson [Carman] coming in his college career or the next level —

TONY ELLIOTT: Potentially. I don’t want the guys to focus on that. I just want them to focus on playing their best game, because that’s what it is going to take. If you get caught up in the hype, if you’re too excited — because at the end of the day, emotion isn’t going to win this game. They play in one of the best venues in college football. They play in one of the best conferences in college football. They’re not going to be overwhelmed by the moment.

It is the team that can manage all of the distractions, all of the hype associated with the game, and lock in and play the best fundamental football that’s going to win. So these guys will be excited, but at the same time, don’t want to take that excitement away from them. We want to challenge them in the right way.

For the offensive linemen, focusing them on the game plan rather than the vendetta of, I want to beat this guy.

TONY ELLIOTT: Our guys have done a great job. If you just look at the success these guys have had offensively, it is because they’ve been able to block out the distractions. I don’t anticipate they’ll get caught up in the moment. They’re not going to make it personal. At the end of the day, we’re successful as a program because there’s no entitlement. It is not about one individual. It is about the team. Playing together as one. Everyone pulling the same direction. So I think the offensive line understands that that’s our strength offensively, is those guys in the trenches, and their strength is the defensive line. It is a matchup between strength on strength and the guys that, like I said, that can block out the noise, not get caught up in the hype of the game, but focus on the game plan and the technique. That at the end of the day, the game plan doesn’t matter if you don’t have good fundamentals.

How much more zone are they playing — they’ve made a lot of improvement from last year, giving them big plays. I’ve read they’re playing more —

TONY ELLIOTT: They’re about — if I had to put my finger on it, they’re probably about 55, 45, 60/40 between zone and man. But they do play a lot of man coverage, and they’re good enough to do it. But then also they can mix it up. The great thing about it is they’re able to disguise it. So you don’t know until post-snap whether it is actually man coverage or whether it is zone coverage. That changes something, especially when you’re going through your progressions for the quarterback. A little bit more zone.

Like I said, it is about 50/50, but again, we won’t know until we get out there. They may have something different planned for us.

JOHN SIMPSON:

Travis [Etienne] doesn’t seem to get as much attention as he deserves. Being one of the guys who blocks for him, how much do you appreciate what he does this year? 

JOHN SIMPSON: I appreciate what he does a lot. He’s kind of like us, this star-studded offensive guy. We don’t really get that much recognition, but we’re here and we’re doing really good.

How have you seen him —

JOHN SIMPSON: He’s gotten faster. He’s gotten more physical. He knows that he’s a good player. When you have confidence, you just play better. I think that’s what it is.

What do you think of the Ohio State defense?

JOHN SIMPSON: I think Ohio State’s defense is very good. Those guys, they’re very talented everywhere. They’re not no slouches. They don’t have slouches anywhere in that defense. I think they’re really good.

How does a player like Chase Young kind of — how is he different than the players you’ve prepared for all year?

JOHN SIMPSON: Chase Young — I’m not going against him, but, like (laughing) —

For your line in general.

JOHN SIMPSON: We’re just practicing our game plan, getting ready to play him. He’s a physical guy. He’s a really good — he has a really good get-off, and just practicing against our scout team and trying to get a little bit better.

What’s your thoughts of the whole defensive line?

JOHN SIMPSON: They’re really good, they’re really talented. I feel a like a lot of them are overlooked because of Chase Young. They’re talented throughout the whole line. They’ve got some playmakers.

You’ve got one or two games left in your career at max. How much motivation is that for you to leave it all out on the field for one or two games?

JOHN SIMPSON: It means the world to me to play at Clemson. It was a great opportunity. I’m going to take advantage of it. I’m going to play my heart out every snap. Do what I’ve got to do, you know?

Have you thought about what the future is going to hold for you beyond these one or two games?

JOHN SIMPSON: I haven’t really thought too much about it. I’m trying to focus on the task at hand, and that’s playing this game. Like I said, these are my brothers. I don’t want to let them down. I don’t focus on the future. I just try to focus on one day at a time. Like today, we have open Tuesday. Takeaways, no giveaways. (laughing). We’re just going to play our game and practice and prepare and get ready.

Is this a great opportunity for you to showcase how good you are?

JOHN SIMPSON: Oh, absolutely. Playing against these really good defensive linemen, having the opportunity. I can showcase my talent. I think it is a really good opportunity.

There was a lot of talk earlier in the year about Trevor’s [Lawrence] intentions.

JOHN SIMPSON: I think he’s had a really good year. He’s tough. He’s a really good player. A lot of people don’t see that. It is football. People make mistakes. But obviously he’s got over it. He’s not worried about that no more, so we’re just going to play our game and do what we’ve got to do.

You’ve had a great career at Clemson. Is it everything — is Clemson everything you thought it would be when you came here?

JOHN SIMPSON: Absolutely. I knew it was going to be tough to play at a high level. That’s what I wanted. I want to play on a team that is the best ever. I did. I’m still on a team that’s competing to be the best ever. It is a blessing to be here.

TRAVIS ETIENNE:

What was your favorite Christmas gift growing up?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: My grandma gave us walkie-talkies. Me and my little brothers probably used those all throughout the year. We would play hide-and-seek with the walkie-talkies.

What’s your favorite PlayStation game?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: Probably right now, probably 2K. I just beat Chez Mellusi last night and Darien Rencher. They were really upset about that. Probably 2K I play whenever I have free time.

What’s your thoughts on the OSU defense that impresses you?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: Just the overall defense. Great personnel. Tremendous players. Fast, strong. Everything that you live for. At this time, you expect nothing less. You expect the best of the best. They definitely have that. It will be a great challenge for us. Just go out there and execute every single play.

What are the things that — when you’re going against a defense like this, what are things you have to do as an offense if you’re going to have success?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: Take care of the ball. Not turn over the ball. Just execute each and every play. Stay above the change. You can’t put yourself in a tense situation — a second and long, third and long, because you can’t win games behind the change. You want to stand by the change and not turn the ball over. Basically what I’m saying is don’t beat yourself. Just execute.

Do you enjoy the opportunity to go head to head with a back like J.K. Dobbins?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: Definitely. Any competitor, definitely. You want to go against the best. He’s one of the best in the country. We’re definitely going to be out there, fighting awesome, just hoping to play our best game.

How well do you know J.K. [Dobbins]?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: Well, me and J.K., we met one time at Hilton Head. We met at that camp. We were there for a weekend. We became friends at that camp, but outside of that, we haven’t really, like — he’s in Ohio. I’m at Clemson.

How much have you followed what he’s done this year?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: I don’t follow much football outside defense, the film that I watch. I don’t have time to watch the games.

What’s caught your eye when you have you been watching this Ohio State film?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: Just their personnel. Their DB, their safety, backers. Just their front. They’re fast. They’re fast, big, long. So they present a huge challenge in just them having guys that they have and how athletic they are and how fast they are. You’re definitely not going to be able to just — execute at the end of the day. Not going to just go out there and just beat them. They present a huge challenge. You definitely are going to have something up your sleeve. A game plan, things like that. We definitely have to be ready.

Does their speed stand out compared to other teams you’ve played this year?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: Most definitely. Very fast team. Just watching them on kickoff, you can see how fast they get down the field. Their speed definitely stands out.

You guys haven’t been tested since really North Carolina. In a close game. How much are you looking forward to — obviously they’re a great team. So is Ohio State. We’re going to see how good we are. Is there that kind of mentality at all?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: I feel going to the game is about how we play. We have to go out there and execute and play to the best of our ability. At the end of the day, we play to the best of our ability. We will be able to live with the scoreboard whether it is a “W” or an “L.” At least for us, it is an offensive reason to execute and put us in the best position possible.