CLEMSON – Clemson set itself for a trip to Georgia Tech next week by successfully stuffing a second option-oriented offense for the second time in three games Saturday.
The Tigers held run-heavy Georgia Southern to 246.5 yards below its rushing average, which effectively paved the way to a 38-7 victory in front of 79,844 sun-drenched fans at Memorial Stadium.
That exposure to the option, which is employed so heavily by Georgia Tech, could pay dividends as the Tigers make preparations for their first Atlantic Coast Conference game of the season.
“The option ffense isn’t easy to defend because every option team isn’t the same,” Clemson defensive end Austin Bryant said. “It’s a challenge each time you play those option teams. But we were locked in in our preparation this week and I think it showed.”
Bryant had two sacks, as did fellow defensive end Clelin Ferrell, and 28 different players made a tackle, leaving defensive coordinator Brent Venables feeling positive.
“I was pleased with our effort and our attitude …it wouldn’t have made a difference if we were playing the Denver Broncos or Mary Poppins State,” Venables said.
Mary Poppins State has suddenly emerged as a popular fictional opponent for the Tigers, but the reality out of Saturday is that No. 2 Clemson is off to a 3-0 start for a fourth consecutive season and for the seventh time in eight years. The Tigers also are 46-4 in their last 50 games dating back to the 2014 season.
Some other takeaways from Saturday:
► Kelly Bryant’s status: One point of concern that emerged concerned starting quarterback Kelly Bryant, who left the game late in the first half and did not return. He landed hard with his chest on the ball after being tackled on a run with just under seven minutes left in the half.
Bryant, who completed 7 of 10 passes for 68 rushed and rushed six times for 27 yards in the first half, returned to the sideline at the outset of the fourth quarter and told Swinney he was “OK.”
“As of right now we’re told it’s just a chest bruise and we feel he’s going to be OK,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said.
► Committing turnovers: Clemson didn’t have a turnover in the first two games of the season, but began playing catch-up in that regard against Georgia Southern. Quarterbacks Bryant and Trevor Lawrence each were intercepted and running back Adam Choice lost a fumble.
“We were really good through the first two games,” Scott said. “We had some good drives going, but turnovers are drive killers. We wanted to get 80 plays offensively and we ended up with 77, and we had three turnovers. Each of those turnovers cost you a minimum of three plays right there.”
► Justyn Ross is an emerging star: Although just a freshman, the 6-foot-4 wide receiver continued to flash his skills. He had a 57-yard touchdown reception that included a couple of nifty moves to help him go the distance and finished with three catches for 103 yards.
“He’s one of those guys that when he gets his opportunity, he makes the play,” Scott said. “He’s really coming into his own. We really challenged him this week in learning the playbook and understanding everything about his position. And he went out and made some plays.”
► Sharing the wealth: Ross wasn’t the only receiver to have a good day. Quarterbacks Bryant, Lawrence and Chase Brice completed passes to 14 different receivers.
“It’s nice,” said Lawrence, who completed 12 of 19 passes for 194 yards. “Everyone on the field is a great player, so you can go anywhere with the ball at anytime. It’s really good to have that freedom.”