Tigers and Bulldogs clash in Death Valley duel
Clemson, SC (SportsNetwork.com) - With the ACC slate now over, the seventh- ranked Clemson Tigers will attempt to bolster their BCS Bowl resume, as they finish off the regular-season with a pair of non-conference games, starting with this weekend's clash with the Citadel in Death Valley.
Dabo Swinney's Tigers finished one game behind Florida State in the Atlantic Division standings thanks to a humbling loss at the hands of the Seminoles in mid-October. The only blemish on Clemson's record, the team has won three straight games since then, to move to 9-1 overall (7-1 ACC). Last week, Clemson was too much for Georgia Tech to contend with in a 55-31 decision.
This marks the season finale for the Citadel. Kevin Higgin's Bulldogs have struggled with consistency this season and the result is a meager 5-6 overall record, which includes an even 4-4 mark in the Southern Conference. Still, the Citadel has closed the year strong with three straight wins, including last weekend's 31-10 win at home over VMI.
There is a great deal of history between these two teams, as this marks the 37th all-time meeting. Clemson has dominated the series, with a 30-5-1 edge, including wins in 15 straight meetings. The last matchup took place in 2008 and resulted in a 45-17 romp for the Tigers.
The Citadel is a one-dimensional offensive squad that relies almost entirely on the run with its option attack. To their credit, the Bulldogs rush the ball effectively, averaging 282.1 yards per game on 5.4 yards per carry.
Quarterback Ben Dupree has almost double the rushing yards than passing yards on the season. The senior signal caller has rushed for a team-high 939 yards, with 18 rushing TDs to his credit. Tailback Darien Robinson has gotten his share of yards and carries on the season as well, with 921 yards and seven scores, adding two more in the Citadel's limited passing attack (91 yards per game).
The Bulldogs have had their ups and downs defensively in 2013, allowing 26.6 ppg. The team lives by the run and dies by it as well, yielding 167.3 yards per game on the ground, as foes are netting 4.2 yards per carry.
Linebacker Carl Robinson leads the team in tackles with an impressive 92 stops on the year. Fellow linebacker James Riley ranks second at 75 tackles. Defensive end Justin Oxendine (44 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks) and defensive tackle Derek Douglas (36 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks) have been the top playmakers along the line.
Outside of the loss to Florida State, Clemson has moved the football up and down the field on everyone this season. The Tigers are averaging 511.4 yards of total offense, with great balance between the run (173.7 ypg) and the pass (337.7 ypg).
It starts with senior quarterback Tahj Boyd, who has rewritten the record books at Clemson with a stellar career. This season has just been more of the same, as Boyd has completed 66.7 percent of his passes, for 2,960 yards, with 24 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.
Swinney knows that Clemson's climb to national prominence of late can be greatly attributed to Boyd.
"To get a guy like Tajh Boyd at that time when (our pitch) was, 'Hey, here's the plan, here's the vision. You're going to have to take a leap of faith if you come here.' That's just the type of guy that Tajh Boyd is," Swinney said. "I never doubted that he would be a special player, but as far as his total development as a man, he's far exceeded what you could ever expect."
It has definitely helped to have an All-American on the outside as well. Star wideout Sammy Watkins has bounced back from a less than stellar sophomore campaign to once again dominate, as he leads the team in receptions (71), receiving yards (1,086) and TD catches (9). Martavis Bryant (34 receptions, 698 yards, 4 TDs) has settled in as a viable second option downfield.
While Boyd's ability to throw the ball is Clemson's strength on offense, the team gets plenty of production from tailback Roderick McDowell (737 yards, 5.2 ypc, 4 TDs) and Boyd as well (8 TD runs).
The Clemson defense has suffered some bumps in the road this season, but for the most part, the unit has really performed well. With 95 TFL and 31 sacks on the season, the team puts a premium on getting off the ball and making plays upfield.
Leading the way in that regard is defensive end Vic Beasley (32 tackles), who has been a fixture in the backfield with 17 TFL and 10 sacks on the season. Linebackers Stephone Anthony (95 tackles, 11 TFL, 4 sacks) and Spencer Shuey (92 tackles, 4.5 TFL) have made plays all over the field.
It's Senior Day for the Tigers, and it always means something special to Swinney.
"Senior Day is always one of those really, really special times that get frozen in time when these seniors have their last moments in Death Valley, a place they spent so much time in," he said. "And what a special group they've been. It's been a very, very special group to coach and just be around for the last four or five years. I would definitely say that those guys are leaving quite a legacy here at Clemson."
11/20 10:57:06 ET