=== Tigers welcome Paladins to Death Valley ===
Clemson, SC (Sports Network) - The No. 11 Clemson Tigers will have a final
tuneup this weekend against the Furman Paladins at Memorial Stadium before
beginning Atlantic Coast Conference play next weekend.
Furman is coming off a disappointing 24-21 loss to Samford in its last
contest. A 27-yard field goal from Cameron Yaw with 37 seconds left in
regulation proved to be the difference and dropped the Paladins to 0-2 on the
Clemson is off to a 2-0 start this season after a statement win over Auburn
(23-17) and a dominant 52-27 win over Ball State. The Tigers gave a glimpse of
how explosive they can be in the game with 45 of their points coming in the
first half, including a second quarter in which the Tigers put up 32. Clemson
also opened last season 2-0 en route to an 8-0 start.
Even though Furman and Clemson do not share a common conference or even a
common level in the NCAA (Furman is an FCS program) these teams do have a long
history. In fact Furman is Clemson's oldest rival with the teams first meeting
way back in 1896. Clemson won that game 14-6 to set the tone for a series that
the Tigers have dominated with a 41-10-4 record all-time against the Paladins.
It wasn't just the score that was tight in Furman's defeat against Samford, as
the teams were almost identical in terms of offensive production. Furman
finished with 359 yards of total offense in the game which was just behind
Samford which had 366.
The Paladins favored the run in the contest with 43 rushing attempts netting
the squad 158 yards. Jerodis Williams led the way with 98 yards on 20 carries
and a touchdown. Furman also got the majority of its first downs on the ground
with 10-of-19 coming on run plays. The other nine were broken up among pass
plays and penalties.
Through the air the Paladins did wind up with 201 yards, but quarterback
Dakota Derrick completed only 11-of-25 passes and was intercepted three times.
The offensive line didn't do him any favors allowing three sacks. The
inability to consistently complete passes hurt the team, especially on third
down where the Paladins went 3-for-13 on conversion attempts. Will King was
the most dangerous receiver on the field for Furman with 89 yards and a score
on four receptions.
Defensively speaking Furman did a solid job against Samford in allowing an
almost mirror image of its own offensive production. Samford had three less
first down (16) than the Paladins and also converted only 4-of-15 attempts on
third down. The defense was unable to create pressure on Samford's quarterback
Andy Summerlin who completed 23-of-37 passes for 216 yards and a pair of
scores. The pass defense also made a costly error on the final drive with a
pass interference penalty on a third and 12.
In terms of individual performances Mitch Mcgrath and Gary Wilkins led the
team with 10 tackles each, while Matt Solomon had eight tackles and a team-
high two pass breakups.
The big news for the Clemson Tigers this week is that star wide receiver Sammy
Watkins will return to the lineup. Watkins was considered a dark horse Heisman
candidate before being suspended for the first two games of this season. The
sophomore wideout is coming of a freshman campaign in which he caught 82
passes for 1,219 yards and 12 scores, all team-highs.
Even without Watkins, the Clemson offense has been impressive in the early
season thanks to a stable of offensive playmakers. Chief among them may be
the second receiver on the depth chart, DeAndre Hopkins. The junior caught six
passes for 105 yards including three touchdowns in the win over Ball State
"It just felt great to come out and make plays for my team," Hopkins said,
"Coach (Chad) Morris trusts me to put the ball in my hands. I just wanted to
come out for my team."
Quarterback Tahj Boyd will now have even more weapons to work with after he
completed 19-of-23 passes for 229 yards and three scores in just the first
half of play against Ball State. Watkins' return could also open up the
running game a bit for Andre Ellington, who is coming off a 1,000-yard season
but had only 41 yards against Ball State on 13 carries.
Overall Clemson racked up 526 total yards in the win, converted 12-of-18 third
down chances and capitalized on all five red zone trips with touchdowns. The
Tigers are now the top-ranked offense in the ACC (527 ypg).
The defense for Clemson was slightly less successful but with a number of
starters being pulled early on that is to be expected. Overall the Tigers
allowed 380 total yards to Ball State, the majority of which (252) came on the
ground. The offense did make the most of Ball State's mistakes though with a
pair of interceptions in the game, while also holding the Cardinals to a 3
for-14 conversion rate on third down.
Stephone Anthony led the team with nine tackles and an interception. DeShawn
Williams was a force up front in the game with the only sack for the Tigers
and two total tackles for loss.
"We're getting there. It's like (defensive coordinator Brent) Venables said,
we just have to keep going," Williams said while acknowledging there is room
to improve especially against the run, "We have to get ready for ACC play. I
know we will. We have too much pride to let people run on us. We'll be ready
09/12 10:46:55 ET