CLEMSON, S.C. (WIS) - On Saturday night, fans will have their eyes glued to the action at Truist Field at Wake Forest, but there won’t be any fans in the stands.
Clemson’s season opener will take place in what will likely be a less than hostile environment Saturday when they travel to face the Demon Deacons on the road.
“[It’ll be] like practice,” said Clemson wide receiver Amari Rodgers. “That’s what we’ve been saying to each other. We’ve got to bring the energy in practice. If you can’t bring it in practice, how are you going to have it in the game because it’s going to be the exact same? No crowd. It’s just going to be us and our coaching staff on our sideline and Wake Forest on the other sideline. So that’s why we bringing that energy in practice now.”
Although the decision was made just a few days ago, it doesn’t change the mission for the Tigers -- win the opener. Under head coach Dabo Swinney, the Tigers have won five straight season openers 10 of their last 11 as they look to add to that success Saturday night.
“Openers are always the toughest games to me because, really, you have no tape,” Swinney said. “You’re basing everything on last year -- last year’s schemes, last year’s personnel. There’s always new people you have not seen any tape. You have more time to prepare for the first game than you do any other game. So, to me, it’s always the toughest game to get ready for, but we’re excited about it.”
Rightfully so. Clemson will trot out five All-ACC preseason selections when they take on the Demon Deacons including junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence and senior running back Travis Etienne. Lawrence finished last season with 3,665 yards and 36 passing touchdowns to lead Clemson to a 14-1 record and an appearance in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game against LSU. Etienne was just dangerous on the ground during his junior campaign recording 1,614 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns on 207 carries.
These two players were a big reason why the Tigers averaged close to 44 points per game a year ago. However, that was last year’s offense and this year’s offense has a few new faces. Still, Lawrence expects things his teammates to perform well.
“We expect a lot of ourselves,” Lawrence said. “That’s why we’ve been able to play at such a high level because we do expect to play really well. Coach Swinney always says you don’t have to play perfect but you do have to play well and that’s just been kind of our motto.”
While the offense was lighting up the scoreboard, the Clemson defense was shutting down opponents week by week.
The Tigers gave up an average of 13.5 points per game to opposing teams a year ago. They’ll be tested by a program that rattled off eight wins last year.
“You look at what they’ve done at home,” Swinney said. “They’ve been a very tough team to beat at home.”
Clemson will take on Wake Forest on the road at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Check your local listings for television availability.