pace for the score

Sophomore running back Kobe Pace (20) drags two defenders across the goal line as he scores his first touchdown of the 2021 football season, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021 at Clemson Memorial Stadium against the South Carolina State Bulldogs.

There was a lot to be happy about on Saturday night when the Clemson Tigers’ football team hosted the South Carolina State Bulldogs for the fifth time in school history. Coming off an offensive disappointment against Georgia, the Tigers flipped the switch to defeat South Carolina State 49-3. Clemson had its first full capacity game in Death Valley since 2019 showcased some things to be hopeful for this season, as well as areas that may need improvement. 

Paws Up: Clemson Running Game 

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney prepared for this matchup with one thought on his mind: run the football.  

The Tigers executed a lethal rushing game all night long, and the damage was done predominantly by sophomore running back Kobe Pace and freshman running back Will Shipley. Pace and Shipley combined for 148 total yards and three touchdowns.  

The most impressive run of the day came with 9:38 left in the third quarter when Shipley busted through the Bulldog defensive line and willed his way into the end zone. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has been impressed with the true freshman’s performance. Swinney described him as “violent, explosive, and relentless for every inch.”  

Shipley scored his first two career touchdowns on Saturday night against South Carolina State. With the ground game looking this promising, the Tigers need to find a way to pair that with a reliable passing game. 

Paws Down: Clemson Passing Game 

Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei had an underwhelming performance against South Carolina State. While Clemson accumulated many of their yards on the ground, Uiagalelei had multiple opportunities to influence the game with his arm. He had several inaccurate throws in the first half. 

Uiagalelei overthrew a wide-open Justyn Ross in the end zone and threw an interception in the second quarter. Uiagalelei’s game was primarily comprised of short outlet passes without any consistency.  

He finished the game 14-24 with 171 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for 23 yards and two touchdowns. While Uiagalelei’s performance was not lousy, more will be expected of him as Clemson begins ACC play. 

Paws Up: Third Down Defense 

Clemson’s defense shined on third down against South Carolina State. The Bulldogs were just 2-16 on third down conversions, compared to Clemson’s 8-13. South Carolina State struggled to move the ball downfield and could not break into Clemson territory at any point during the first quarter. Overall, this was a dominant performance on third down from the Tigers.  

Paws Down: Clemson Pass Rush 

Neither Clemson nor South Carolina State were able to record a single sack all game. A solid pass rush was not necessary on Saturday night, simply because South Carolina State could not keep up on offense. However, this is an area that Clemson must improve in if they plan on defeating more talented teams throughout the season. 

Paws Down: Ball Control 

Clemson failed to effectively control the rock against South Carolina State, fumbling for a grand total of six times and losing one of those fumbles. South Carolina State did not fumble once. These fumbling issues may not have been crucial to the outcome of this game, but the Tigers often looked lackadaisical on Saturday night. This inability to protect the football might be attributed to Swinney’s decision to get nearly every bench player into the game for some repetitions. 

Paws Up: Justyn Ross 

Clemson fans were thrilled to see Ross catch his first touchdown back from injury on Saturday night. Ross was out for the entirety of the 2020 season after having spinal surgery.  

His 11-yard touchdown, an out-route pass from Uiagalelei, pleased Swinney. “It was awesome to see Justyn Ross have a really good day. He beat himself up all week and it’s special to see him get into the end zone,” said Swinney. Ross will continue to be a key piece this season for the Tigers offense. 

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