Story by David Hood
Death Valley: Clemson didn’t expect to be trailing Charleston Southern 14-7 late in the first quarter Saturday, but rebounded with a 42-0 shutout in the second half to defeat the Bucs 66-17 in the home opener.
Clemson improves to 1-1 on the season and will host Florida Atlantic next week at 8 pm on the ACC Network. CSU falls to 1-1 and will host William & Mary next Saturday at 4 pm.
Two early turnovers – one a fumble on fourth down and another an interception that turned into a pick-six helped the Buccaneers score two early touchdowns and take a 14-7 lead on the Tigers. Clemson led just 24-17 at intermission but scored four touchdowns in the third quarter to break away.
Cade Klubnik was 28-of-37 for 315 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Phil Mafah had nine carries for 73 yards to lead the rushing attack and Beaux Collins had a breakout game with a seven catches for 137 yards. Clemson outgained CSU 679-73 and held a 37-4 edge in first downs.
It didn’t take the Tigers long to put points on the board. Charleston Southern won the toss and deferred. The Tigers drove 68 yards in 10 plays, scoring on a 10-yard to the middle from Klubnik to Antonio Wiliams for a 7-0 lead.
Another weird series of events led to a tied game. Clemson faced a 4th-and-1 at their own 29 and elected to go for it. Klubnik, in the shotgun, simply fumbled the snap away, and it was recovered by Charleston Southern and returned to the Clemson one. JD Moore ran it around the right end for an easy score to tie the game at 7-7 midway through the first quarter.
Clemson took the ensuing kickoff and drove down to the CSU 38. Facing a 3rd-and-12, Clemson’s offensive line allowed pressure to get to Klubnik, and it appeared he tried to throw the ball out of bounds. It was intercepted at the hash, however, by Leon Thomas, who returned it 67 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 CSU lead.
The Tigers responded without a turnover on the next drive, however, and Phil Mafah capped a seven-play, 57-yard drive with a one-yard run to tie the game at 14-14 late in the first quarter.
The Clemson defense forced a three-and-out and Antonio Williams returned the punt 27 yards to the CSU 39. Five plays later, Klubnik tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Wiliams for a 21-14 lead with 12:27 remaining in the half.
CSU put together a drive that ended with a field goal by Sam Babbbush, making it 21-17, and the Tigers added a 23-yard field goal by Robert Gunn at the end of the half to lead 24-17 at intermission.
The Tigers scored 28 points in the third quarter, including a 69-yard scoring toss from Klubnik to Collins, and 14 more in the fourth to close out the scoring.
The Tigers played 117 players in the contest, including four quarterbacks.