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Tigers Survive: Clemson has close call against Troy Trojans, win 30-24

Kim Montuoro

Clemson got more than they bargained for on Saturday when they squared off against Troy in the first home game of the 2016 football season.
While the pregame showed how excited the fans were to have the National Finalist football team back at home for the first time since the loss to Alabama, that excitement quickly turned into worry. The Tigers were barely able to carve out a 30-24 victory that left Death Valley stunned throughout most of the game.
However, as all the players and coaches reiterated after the game “a win is a win” so the important thing is what can be taken away from the matchup as a prediction for the upcoming weeks.
Offensive Line:
The offensive line had a really hard time in the beginning. Watson was scrambling more than anyone liked and the run game was virtually nonexistent, with only 25 yards in the first half. They settled into the game in the second half but with how they struggled against an average Troy defensive line, it seems they have a long season ahead of them.
Receiving Corps and Deshaun Watson:
WRU? Sure didn’t look like it on Saturday. The offense looked completely out of sorts as a whole but the most shocking thing was that none of Clemson’s nationally acclaimed receivers could hold on to the football. The team had seven dropped passes and Head Coach Dabo Swinney was not pleased with them. “[Watson] needs his playmakers to make plays … he can’t throw it and catch it,” Swinney said after the game.
Deshaun Watson did not have his best game on Saturday by a long shot. While this was partly due to his receivers, some of the blame must land on the Heisman-hopeful quarterback as well. He has a career-high 53 pass attempts but only completed 27 of them for a mere 292 yards. He also threw two interceptions, one of which appeared to be caused by a miscommunication between him and his receiver.
Watson will have to be a leader and right this ship quickly if the Tigers want to remain a serious contender for a playoff spot.
Special Teams:
Surprisingly, it wasn’t Clemson’s special teams holding them back. Minus a few bad punts from Andy Teasdall, they played well. Greg Huegel was 3-for-3 on field goals and the Tigers had a few nice returns. However, the play of the game (or rather the play that should have been) was Ray-Ray McCloud running a punt back 74 yards only to drop it as he was crossing the goal line. The Tiger fans have waited a long time to see special teams plays like that one and will have to wait a while longer for one to be counted as a touchdown.
Swinney was upset with McCloud’s mistake, saying, “You see what Ray-Ray [McCloud] is capable of, just an incredibly boneheaded play.” McCloud did try to redeem himself and ended up being the team leader in reception yards with 86 on seven catches. If he can mature and stop making mistakes, McCloud could be a huge playmaker for the Tigers down the stretch.
While the defense was the largest question mark for Clemson entering the season, they have been one of the bright spots for the team so far this season. While they didn’t play a perfect game, they kept the Tigers in the game while the offense was struggling to move the ball. “Defensively —man — what a game. I thought they played outstanding for 58 minutes,” Swinney said. The other two minutes were at the end of the game where Troy was able to score two quick touchdowns to bring themselves within a touchdown and extra point of winning.
The Tiger defense forced three turnovers in the game, all of them interceptions and all by different players: Jalen Williams, Dorian O’Daniel and Kendall Joseph.
They still have a lot of things to clean up, especially the run defense and the excess penalties, but thankfully they put forward an admirable performance, if they hadn’t then the outcome of this one may have been very different.
Watson and the Tiger offense will have to find their rhythm quickly because after taking on SC State at home next Saturday, they travel to Atlanta to battle Georgia Tech on September 22.
Stars of the Game:
Hunter Renfrow- Renfrow bailed out his quarterback on a bad throw by coming down with a touchdown catch. He was injured on the play but came back into the game later on. There is no word on his status for next week.
Christian Wilkins- While no receivers could catch the ball, Wilkins could. With the Tigers barely holding on early in the fourth quarter, Swinney called in the big guns, putting Wilkins in on offense. Sure enough, he found himself open in the end zone and caught the pass from Watson to put Clemson up by 10. He also had seven tackles and a batted pass in the game.

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