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Dominant first half lifts Clemson past FAU

Toby Corriston
Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins recorded a 36-yard pick-six on FAU’s first offensive drive of the game. The interception gave the Tigers an early 7-0 lead and marked Wiggins’ second career pick-six, the first of which was a 98-yard return against North Carolina in the 2022 ACC Championship game.

Propelled by a dominant first half, Clemson defeated Florida Atlantic 48-14 at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.

From the first drive of the game, Clemson (2-1, 0-1 ACC) took control on both sides of the ball in the first half. The Tigers scored a touchdown on four of their seven drives in the first half and finished the game with 367 total yards. Defensively, Clemson held FAU (1-2) to zero points and 94 total yards in the first two quarters.

The Tigers struck first when junior cornerback Nate Wiggins intercepted FAU quarterback Casey Thompson for a 46-yard pick-six, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game. 

After Clemson’s defense forced a punt on the ensuing drive, Clemson reached the end zone again when quarterback Cade Klubnik connected with true freshman wide receiver Tyler Brown for a 30-yard score — Brown’s first career touchdown as a Tiger. On the Tigers’ next drive, Klubnik also threw a touchdown to tight end Jake Briningstool, the junior’s first receiving touchdown of the season.

Clemson entered halftime up 34-0. Despite FAU putting together two scoring drives in the second half, the Tigers’ first-half performance, as well as two additional scores after the break, ultimately made any chance of a comeback insurmountable for the Owls.

“We got done what we needed to get done,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “That was our main objective, just get better as a team and play our best game and play complimentary football.”

Before he was eventually pulled in the fourth quarter, Klubnik completed 16 of 27 pass attempts for 169 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 35 yards rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.

“I just felt like we played like us. It just felt like we played free, and it was fun,” Klubnik said.

Brown, meanwhile, finished with 49 yards on three receptions, two of which were touchdowns. Brown’s second score came at the 2:56 mark in the third quarter when he caught a 2-yard pass to give the Tigers a 41-0 lead. He also had a 46-yard punt return.

“It’s just a blessing, man,” Brown said of his performance. “First night game at Clemson, Death Valley; it feels unreal. I’m still trying to comprehend it right now. But we got to keep going.”

As for the Tigers’ defense, safety Khalil Barnes filled in for the injured Andrew Mukuba at nickel and was all over the field. Barnes finished with six total tackles (one for loss), one forced fumble, two pass breakups and one interception.

Along with Barnes’ interception and Wiggins’ pick-six, linebacker Wade Woodaz also got his hands on the ball midway through the third quarter, picking off FAU quarterback Daniel Richardson and returning it 59 yards.

The Tigers will be back in action next Saturday when they host No. 3 Florida State in what will be one of the top college football games of the week.

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About the Contributors
Justin Robertson
Justin Robertson, Associate Editor
Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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