College football has officially started for the Clemson Tigers. Week one began with the Tigers facing Wake Forest on the road. Several questions and high expectations were facing Clemson entering the game as the number one team in the country. The Clemson Tigers were able to easily dominate from the first snap until the final whistle and put away Wake Forest 37-13.
Tigers Dominate Wake Forest in Opener
Entering the game, Clemson had two big questions on the offensive side of the ball. The first, and most important, was the offensive line. The Tigers’ offensive line was able to dominate the front four of Wake Forest from the first snap. This allowed for Travis Etienne to rush for 102 yards and averaged six yards per carry. This shows a dip from his almost eight yards per carry last season but is not enough to make anyone worry about production or blocking. The offensive line was also good enough to hold Wake Forest to two sacks and zero quarterback hurries. This young line showed they are more than capable of performing at a high level.
The second question facing the Tigers in game one was how the receiving corps was going to replace Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. The answer was complicated before the game and simple after. Clemson is simply going with a plug-and-play mentality. The receiving group has been blessed with wonderful recruiting classes in recent years and it showed against Wake Forest. Of the 13 athletes that caught a pass, nine were wide receivers. Amari Rodgers and Joseph Ngata stepped into major roles and combined for nearly 140 yards. Braden Galloway also made some contributions from the tight end position to catch five passes for 60 yards. After the first game, there are no issues with the receiving corps for the Tigers.
Brent Venables’ defense has taken some hits in the past years. Several athletes have left for the draft or transferred to other programs. This year, COVID-19 has taken a few more players and makes it difficult for Venables to simply reload his defense. Venables’ defense had to begin the game without four starters. One of those starters, James Skalski, was able to play in the second half. Skalski was ejected from last year’s national championship as the result of a targeting penalty.
Even with a depleted starting lineup, the Tigers defense was still fairly dominant. The Deacons saw that the defensive back positions for Clemson were going to be the weak spot. Clemson’s defensive backs responded by allowing only 182 yards to Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman before he was replaced in the fourth quarter. Hartman was also sacked four times by Clemson who allowed for 37 total rushing yards. The defense might have given up 13 points in the second half, but they were dominant before the lead was insurmountable.
Clemson was not able to travel with their entire roster to Wake Forest. Only 80 of the 120 athletes were able to make the trip, but that did not stop Swinney from playing as many as possible. Three quarterbacks found playing time as Taisun Phommachanh and DJ Uaigalelei spent most of the second half sharing snaps. All four running backs were able to receive carries and 13 athletes registered at least one reception.
It is already well-known that Venables rotates players on the defense consistently. This week exemplified how well his rotations work. 26 players were able to make at least one tackle. Of those 26, 10 recorded at least half of a tackle for loss. There are simply not enough plays for everyone to get their fair share. Luckily, there was plenty of experienced gained this week and plenty more to come if the Tigers continue to cruise through the season.
The Tigers were able to dominate Wake Forest from the kickoff until the final whistle. That was expected and it should be no surprise that the offense only scored 37 points. Trevor Lawrence had a strong command of the offense making NFL-level reads and throws. The defense also overcame a lot of losses before the game to hold the Deacons scoreless for the entire first half and without a touchdown for three quarters. There are not any red flags after the first game. Hopefully, this will be the trend and the season will progress just as expected for the Clemson Tigers.