After a huge 38-35 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs, the Clemson Tigers return to Death Valley on Saturday to face the South Carolina State Bulldogs before making their 12-day preparations for their Thursday night showdown against NC State. But the Tigers can’t be caught looking too far ahead of the FCS opponent.
What is there to know about this kind of Bulldog? They are in their 12th season under Buddy Pough, who since taking over has had only one losing season with the Bulldogs, which just occurred in 2012 as the Bulldogs went 5-6. The Bulldogs are coming off of a disappointing 27-20 loss in their season opener to Coastal Carolina. The Bulldogs will certainly be a huge underdog against a Clemson team coming off of a physical, adrenaline-pumping game with Georgia.
But the Tigers need to take care of business and play with the same kind of intensity as they with the Athens Bulldogs. They need to treat and play every single team with the same intensity as a Georgia. This includes a team like South Carolina State. A team like this can be dangerous, as Clemson’s goal is to not only take care of business early, but to emerge from the game healthy with no major injuries on either side of the ball.
And to do that, they can’t let a single player prolong their time on the field. And for South Carolina State on offense, that is senior receiver Tyler McDonald, who had four receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown in their loss against Coastal Carolina. They also got plenty of production in the running game from senior running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, who carried the ball 21 times for 151 yards and a touchdown. Red-shirt freshman and University of Kentucky transfer Justin Taylor is a solid No. 2 back, while the defense is spearheaded by junior linebacker Justin Hughes and senior Joe Thomas, who each had a game high nine tackles in their season opener. The Bulldogs do like to run an uptempo offense and get the ball snapped as quickly as possible and plan to have the Tigers’ defense on its heels as early as possible.
A game like this one will give the Tigers the opportunity to clean up some of the things that it couldn’t against Georgia. It will be an opportunity for Clemson receivers to continue to gain continuity and chemistry with quarterback Tajh Boyd and continue growing into their new roles. This is especially the case for a guy like Martavis Bryant, who has great potential as a big play deep threat opposite Sammy Watkins. This also gives fellow veterans Charone Peake and Adam Humphries another game to shake off the last bit of rust before the 12-day preparation for NC State.
It will also be an opportunity to see some of the younger players possibly get some much needed reps if the Tigers do what they need to take care of business. Mackensie Alexander has gotten to practice this week after missing a good part of fall camp with a groin injury, and getting him onto the field will help him ascend the cornerback position. The former No. 2 ranked defensive back was thought to be a factor in the competition at corner before his injury sidelined him. And seeing other freshmen like Ben Boulware, Jayron Kearse, Mike Williams, and TJ Green will only help. With the Tigers’ upcoming schedule, snaps will certainly be limited as the Tigers start to enter ACC play in the next few weeks.
Coming off of an electric and adrenaline-pumping environment, the Tigers need to enter this game with the same kind of intensity and mentality as though they’re playing the Georgia Bulldogs every week. And this game is no exception.