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Clemson impressive in season opener

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JaQuanas Grant, Staff

A Mid-American Conference team facing the FBS 2016 National Champions at home is not a recipe for success. Kent State did the best they could. The Golden Flashes used a playbook similar to that of Georgia Tech with a lot of option trees, but defensive coordinator Brent Venables has been training his defense to defend against that since he got here. It didn’t really help that the Golden Flashes didn’t even attempt a pass until after half time. 

Kelly Bryant took the starting job and ran with it, literally, posting impressive numbers in his first game as the starter. His 16-22, 236 yards, one touchdown and one interception look good on paper and played well on the field, but he made some small mistakes that he needs to fix before the big game with Auburn. 

Bryant’s interception was a tipped ball in the end zone that perfectly landed in a defensive back’s hands. Most will say it was bad luck, but the throw shouldn’t have been made. There was a fairly obvious pass interference call on the defense which is why he might have thrown in that direction, but you are never guaranteed that call. Bryant tried to put the ball in an incredibly tight window and he paid for it. 

It seemed like the Clemson offense was going to be more run-focused than in previous years because they were being managed by a more run-first type of quarterback, but the stats show a more balanced offense. The stats don’t reflect the truth though, because there were more rushing plays than pass plays and a couple of pass plays went for huge chunks of yards. 

Bryant tended to tuck his head down and run before going through all of his progressions first. Twice, he ran without seeing his checkdown pass was wide open. He is a fairly good runner, so most of the time this won’t be as much of a problem, but if he doesn’t see a receiver get open downfield because he tucked and ran too early, other defenses will make him pay dearly for it.  

Florida State’s quarterback Deandre Francois sustained a particularly nasty leg injury late in his game because he kept running the ball. Eventually those things happen. Deshaun Watson had multiple injuries his freshman year, but he became much more judicious running the ball and did not have a bad enough injury to keep him out of a game for the next two years. 

The running backs, whose job it is to run the ball, fared incredibly well in their first non-scrimmage game time of the year. Clemson scored six of their eight touchdowns on the ground and the offensive line constantly created big holes for the backs to run through. 

CJ Fuller was the starting half back and he actually looked like the worst one out there. Both Tavien Feaster and freshman Travis Etienne ran for more yards at a high per yard average which just speaks to the depth Clemson fields on offense. Feaster had a disappointing year last year,\but could be a breakout candidate if Fuller misses time for any reason. 

Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers both made their career debuts for the Tigers on Saturday. Higgins had his first touchdown reception, but it was called back for offensive pass interference. 

He seemed to have pushed off of the defender for some extra space, but otherwise he looked fairly good. Neither player will start, but they will be rotated in frequently. Rodgers just screams Artavis Scott 2.0, so if he can get his quarterbacks to trust him, Rodgers might be another budding star. 

The defense was as good as advertised in their season debut. Not as many starters were lost on this side of the ball as the offense had, but it didn’t matter much anyway. Brent Venables can get any defense ready for any game, and despite the lack of talent on Kent State, this game was no different. 

One stat some keen onlookers might notice is the lack of sacks the defense had. Zero sacks, in fact. The reason for this was that Kent State almost never threw the ball. A total of five pass attempts were made and only one was completed. It is difficult to pick up a sack when they don’t stay in the pocket long enough to record one. That pass completion resulted in exactly one yard of

passing offense. 

That is the lowest amount of passing yards any FBS team has recorded in a loss in at least five years. 

Expectations should be tempered. Auburn is not Kent State. 

Even with Deshaun Watson, Clemson nearly lost last year’s game in Jordan-hare Stadium, and although it is at home, Auburn has a stable quarterback and plenty of pass rushers to disrupt Kelly Bryant. It won’t be as easy as Kent State made it seem. 

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