Clemson jumped out to a 31-0 lead and went on to crush Charlotte 52-10 Saturday night at Memorial Stadium. The victory was Clemson’s 19th in a row and the 14th consecutive win by 14 or more points.
The Tigers played a school record 111 players in the blowout victory. Here are five things we learned from the win:
1. Clemson isn’t worried about individual awards
The Tigers started pulling key starters after the first play of the second quarter. Star quarterback Trevor Lawrence only played three series, while running back Travis Etienne and receiver Tee Higgins didn’t play in the second half. Lawrence and Etienne were viewed as Heisman candidates going into the season, and Lawrence was even the Heisman favorite according to some oddsmakers. Lawrence is pretty much out of the conversation after four games. He is averaging 231 passing yards and has seven touchdowns, with five interceptions. Clemson had a chance to pad Lawrence’s stats against the 49ers while playing its first non Power 5 team and didn’t do so at all.
“I think it’s just the culture that we have,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “it’s just very unique in the year 2019 to be at a place that has a culture where your stars aren’t worried about their stats. ... They know it’s a long year. They can go in there and play well and then be able to get on the sidelines and kind of rest up and let the other guys play.”
2. This team is continuing a tradition against lesser opponents
Clemson has prided itself in the past on having a program that plays to a certain standard, no matter the competition. With that said, the Tigers lost a ton of leadership off of last year’s national title team, and having a team that doesn’t overlook anyone year-in and year-out is tough. Clemson’s new leaders did their job leading up to Saturday’s game against Charlotte, a game that the Tigers entered as 42-point favorites. Clemson was in control from start to finish and completely dominated in every way.
“This was kind of the next test coming off of a physical game against Syracuse last week. Coming out to play a game where maybe we’re expected to win big,” Scott said. “And to be able to go out there and get off to a fast start was really big. That’s something we really challenged the offensive guys is coming out strong there in the first half.”
3. Derion Kendrick must control his emotions
Clemson’s starting cornerback drew a personal foul penalty in the second quarter to keep a Charlotte drive alive, and Tigers coach Dabo Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables were livid with the sophomore. Kendrick was locked up with a Charlotte receiver when he gave an extra shove late and was whistled for a late hit on third down.
“The guy was shoving and holding him eight yards out, and good for him, but we’re coaching you,” Venables said of his message to Kendrick. “You can’t retaliate and get frustrated; your responsibility and job is to play. It was just a frustration play, but a teachable moment.”
4. Clemson’s linebackers are still failing to make some plays
Isaiah Simmons has been a superstar this season, but the rest of Clemson’s linebackers have had some good moments and not-so-good moments. Clemson missed too many tackles against Charlotte and did not fit some runs right as far as plugging holes. The 49ers finished with 153 rushing yards.
“Getting better but still got work to do. But we’re definitely getting better. We’re improving,” Venables said of his linebackers. “That comes from experience and straining and continuing to develop your team through fundamentals, spending quality time doing the little things well at practice and having ownership. ... Seen a steady improvement but still working.”
5. Swinney wants to play as many players as possible
Clemson played a school record 111 players against Charlotte, including a walk-on offensive lineman who wasn’t cleared to play until earlier in the week. Tigers walk-on receiver Jake Herbstreit, the son of ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, was inserted into the game on defense late when it was clear the Tigers wouldn’t go back on offense. Clemson “could’ve score 100 points” if it wanted to, according to Swinney. But the Tigers were more concerned with making sure everyone got to play.
“The backups, the third-teams, and the walk-ons, they all deserve that opportunity because they work every bit as hard as anybody in the program,” Venables said. “It’s good to be able to have an opportunity to reward them.”