CLEMSON, S.C. (WIS) - In its only non-conference game of the year, Clemson wanted to put on a show in from of their home crowd.
With 18,609 fans watching while socially distanced in the stands, the top-ranked Tigers made quick work of The Citadel with a 49-0 win over the Bulldogs.
“Really proud of our team today,” said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. “I talked all week about just respect for the preparation process regardless of who you play. That’s kind of something you talk about all the time. We’ve got a really young team so we’ve got a lot of reinstalling of just our culture and things that we believe in and things that created a lot of consistency for us. It was good to see that maturity today.”
Clemson opens the contest scoring the first touchdown of the day. The Tigers marched 75 yards in seven plays in just over two minutes and capped the drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Lawrence to Frank Ladson Jr. to make it a 7-0 game.
The Tigers only needed one play to add points to the scoreboard. Lawrence tossed a 44-yard touchdown pass to Amari Rodgers pushing Clemson ahead 14-0 with 9:41 left in the first.
With two minutes left in the quarter, the Tigers added to their lead. After starting the drive with great field position in Bulldog territory, Lawrence orchestrated a 45-yard drive that ended with him rushing for a score from two yards out making it 21-0.
The defense got in the scoring, too, in the first quarter. Thanks to a forced fumble by Myles Murphy, James Skalski was able to scoop up the ball and return it 17 yards for a touchdown. With that, Clemson took a 28-0 lead.
“I think you’ll remember last year, I botched a fumble recovery vs. [Texas] A&M. So, I had to redeem if I ever got the chance again,” Skalski joked. “Whenever you play a triple-option team and you’re a linebacker, you envision that happening. So, I had it in my hands and what do you know? [Myles]Murphy made a good play and I scooped and scored.”
Clemson racked up 169 yards in the opening quarter and their domination continued in the second.
After a great punt return by Travis Etienne to put Clemson inside the Citadel 10-yard line, D.J. Uiagalelei punched in his first college touchdown on a 1-yard draw play to make it 35-0 Clemson.
“It was super cool," Uiagalelei said. “The offensive line made great blocks and they made it easy for me to be able to get in the end zone. Hat’s off to them.”
Three minutes later, Lawrence returned to pad his stats a little more. In the Tigers' third drive of the period, the junior fired a 54-yard pass to Ladson for his second touchdown catch of the day extending the lead to 42-0 with 9:55 left in the half.
“He’s just been consistent,” said Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott. “He’s locked in. He’s owning the plan. He’s got the details down. So, he’s what you would expect from a third-year guy in the system. He’s just in complete control and now, he’s out there one step ahead of everybody because, one, he’s got the skill and he’s got complete control and understands all the details.”
Lawrence finished the day going 8-of-9 passing for 168 yards for three passing touchdowns and a rushing score.
Uiagalelei added another score on a 6-yard run with 5:13 to go in the half pushing the lead to 49-0. He finished the day 8-of-11 for 75 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
“I think naturally, because of his size, he was able to show it in live situations,” Elliott said of Uiagalelei when asked about his abilities to be an offensive weapon in goal-line situations. “Obviously, in practice, he wears a purple jersey. We’re not able to put him in those tough situations. You always want to protect the quarterback in practice, but he’s definitely very reminiscent to Tajh [Boyd]. I think he’s the closest to that style of runner that we’ve had in the last several years. So, it’s going to be fun down the stretch and in the years to come to design some stuff and kind of get back to our roots of that kind of quarterback.”
Clemson posted 298 yards in the first half while holding the Bulldogs to just 36 total yards. In all, the Tigers recorded 405 total yards.
The Citadel continued to struggle on offense in the second half. The Bulldogs posted just 23 total yards in the third quarter but had 103 in the final period. They finished with 162 total yards.
Clemson now has 17 straight wins over The Citadel. The win is also their 24th straight win in the month of September.
Clemson has a bye next weekend and will return to action at home against Virginia on October 3.