No. 1 Clemson notched its 16th straight win, beating Georgia Tech in its opening game of the season. The Tigers routed the Yellow Jackets 52-14. Although Clemson did air it out, showing glimpses of its 2018 dominance, their running game was where heads were turned.
Here are some key takeaways from Clemson's first win of the season:
- QB Trevor Lawrence had some moments, but the dominance came on the back of star RB Travis Etienne
- If Georgia Tech wants to compete in the ACC this year, it must capitalize off of turnovers
- Clemson's first-down rush defense must improve if it is to go undefeated for the second straight year
In the first quarter, Georgia Tech was granted everything it could have hoped for — an opening three and out and a forced fumble and recovery in Clemson's territory early in the first half. Unfortunately for the Yellow Jackets, they couldn't capitalize as Clemson's first punt was muffed, leading to the Tigers first touchdown. Georgia Tech also went three and out after the early Clemson turnover.
The second quarter ringed a tune similar to the first. Holding Clemson to a punt to start the quarter, Georgia Tech then turned it over. Etienne walked it in for a 14-yard touchdown on the next play.
That wasn't the only time Etienne scored, as his three touchdowns and 205 rushing yards made him the star of the show — and on only 12 carries. If it weren't for Lawrence, Clemson's Heisman hype would be much more focused on the leader of their ground game.
Georgia Tech also found some success in the run game, as Clemson's revamped defensive line struggled during early-down run plays, as 107 of its total 157 rushing yards came on first down. The Tigers thrived later in possessions, though. They held Georgia Tech scoreless until the third quarter, including a couple impressive 4th-down stands — one where Georgia Tech was inches away from scoring.
Another surprising struggle of Clemson's was turnovers. Outside of Lawrence's two interceptions half of the total interceptions he had during all of last season — Entienne's coughed it up in the first half, giving Georgia Tech early hope.
Although the score was definitely in Clemson's favor for the whole night, it might be hard to continue this kind dominance if those mistakes continue to be this consistent. The schedule gets a bit more difficult now as the Tigers host a ranked Texas A&M squad and then travel to take on No. 22 Syracuse.
SIZZLIN' TAKES: 9 bold predictions for the 2019 college football season
The Aggies also played Thursday, winning in the same vein as Clemson, beating Texas State 41-7. The Aggies put up 478 total yards, including 246 rushing yards. Clemson will have to keep on eye on a couple of A&M running backs as both Isaiah Spiller and Jashaun Corbin rushed for over 100 yards.
As for Syracuse, the Tigers will hope this year will be much different than the past two. Last year Syracuse put a scare into Clemson, as the Tigers squeaked out a victory, 27-23, thanks to a late touchdown drive by back-up quarterback Chase Brice. In 2017, the then-undefeated Tigers were upset by the Orange in Syracuse, 27-24. This season the Tigers will be back in the Dome in Week 3.
Clemson will host Texas A&M next week. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.