12 Ways to Win Clemson Football 2016 Season review (...so far)

Clemson put together a 10-3 lead at halftime and hung on down the stretch in front of 87,451 fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Clemson used consecutive pass deflections from safety Jadar Johnson on “Hail Mary” pass attempts by Auburn to pull off the program’s first win at Auburn since 1950. Clemson’s defense stood up to the challenge of facing Gus Malzahn’s proficient offensive attack, with three sacks and interceptions by Johnson and linebacker Ben Boulware. Hunter Renfrow provided the play of the game, a spectacular catch in the back of the endzone in the fourth quarter on a perfect heave from Deshaun Watson on third-and-goal.

The Tigers opened their home schedule with a six-point victory over the Trojans, a team that would go on to be ranked in the top 25 later in the season. Clemson was led by Deshaun Watson, who passed for 292 yards and three touchdowns. Clinging to a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter, Clemson resorted to its bag of tricks on fourth-and-goal. Defensive end Christian Wilkins, who was lined up in the Tigers’ “Jumbo” package, went into the flat and was wide open for his first career touchdown catch that put Clemson ahead by 10 points. Clemson saw its eventual 17-point lead trimmed to six in the final minute of play, but the Tigers recovered Troy’s onside kick attempt to secure the victory.

A 31-point first quarter and 45-0 halftime lead propelled Clemson to its most lopsided performance of the 2016 season, as the Tigers defeated SC State by a score of 59-0. Deshaun Watson had three passing touchdowns, one of five Tiger quarterbacks to complete a pass in the game, a first in school history. His favorite target was sophomore wideout Ray-Ray McCloud, who had two receiving touchdowns. Defensively, Jadar Johnson helped preserve the shutout with a 41-yard interception return that he nearly took the distance for a touchdown. Clemson scored a non-offensive touchdown when Denzel Johnson recovered a fumbled kickoff return in the endzone.

Heading into the game in Atlanta, Clemson had not won against Georgia Tech on the Yellow Jackets’ home field since 2003. The five-game losing streak at Bobby Dodd Stadium came to a screeching halt on this Thursday night after a dominant defensive performance against Paul Johnson’s high-powered option offense. Brent Venables’ stingy unit allowed only 22 yards of total offense in the first half and just 124 for the game. On offense, Watson led an efficient attack with 304 passing yards and two touchdowns. His first touchdown pass went to Mike Williams, the first of the season for the wideout who was coming back from a neck injury that forced him to miss all but one series of the 2015 season.

Marcus Edmond tackled James Quick one yard shy of a first down at the three-yard line on fourth down with 33 seconds left in the game to lift Clemson to a thrilling 42-36 win over Louisville in a top-five clash. Watson was brilliant for the Tigers, who posted 28 points in the second quarter. The junior quarterback was 20-31 passing for 306 yards and five touchdowns. His favorite target was Deon Cain, who had two receiving touchdowns in the second quarter. But Louisville would not go away, scoring 26 straight points to start the second half. Facing a 36-28 deficit with under eight minutes to play, Artavis Scott’s 77-yard kickoff return was the spark the Tigers needed. Watson quickly found Williams for a 20-yard score, and on the ensuing possession put the Tigers ahead for good on a 31-yard scoring connection to tight end Jordan Leggett. That set up Edmond’s heroics on the Cardinals’ final drive.

Clemson followed up its big victory over Louisville with a convincing 56-10 win at Boston College to move to 6-0 on the season. Watson was nearly perfect on the night, directing the Tigers to over 500 yards of total offense. He had four touchdown passes on the night. Clemson led 21-3 after the first quarter thanks to three explosive plays of at least 50 yards. Gallman rushed for a 59-yard touchdown to open the scoring. Leggett capped the exciting quarter with a 56-yard catch and run. Clemson’s lead grew to 35-3 when Watson found Cain open for a pair of touchdown passes in the third quarter. Mark Fields punctuated the victory late in the fourth quarter with a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Marcus Edmond did it again. For the second straight home game, the cornerback made a game-clinching play, this time with his first career interception in the endzone in overtime to seal Clemson’s 24-17 win over NC State. A Wolfpack field-goal attempt sailed wide right into from 33 yards out with no time left in regulation, sending Death Valley into a frenzy. Watson calmly directed the offense to a quick touchdown on a perfect 10-yard strike to Artavis Scott, paving the way for Edmond’s second clutch play in as many home games. Watson passed for 378 yards in a physical game that saw Gallman leave with a mild concussion on the opening series.

Clemson trailed Florida State 28-20 entering the fourth quarter but showed its mettle late in a 37-34 come-from-behind win to stun the Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium. Leggett provided the go-ahead touchdown with 2:06 remaining. It was Clemson’s first victory in Tallahassee since 2006 and only the second win for the Tiger program at Doak Campbell Stadium since the Seminoles joined the ACC in 1992. Watson put together a masterful fourth quarter, again passing for 378 yards to go along with two touchdowns. Leggett, the ACC Receiver-of-the-Week, had five catches for 122 yards, a Tiger tight end record. Florida State threatened on its final possession, but consecutive false start penalties put the Seminoles behind the chains, and Dexter Lawrence and Ben Boulware finished the game defensively with sacks on consecutive plays to thwart the comeback.

Clemson posted double-digit points in all four quarters to shut out Syracuse 54-0 on Military Appreciation Day at Memorial Stadium. The Tigers produced 20 second-quarter points to pull away to an impressive 30-0 lead at halftime. Watson passed for 169 yards and two touchdowns but gave way to backup Nick Schuessler after suffering a shoulder injury. All Schuessler did was come in and pass for a career-high 177 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Clemson totaled 565 yards of offense and held Dino Babers’ up-tempo attack to just 277 yards. Deon Cain once again snagged two touchdowns, part of a five-catch, 125-yard effort. Defensively, the Tigers posted three interceptions, one of which was returned 64 yards for a score by freshman Tanner Muse after several deflections.

Wayne Gallman rushed for a season-high 161 yards and two touchdowns to lead Clemson to its second straight ACC Atlantic Division title with a 35-13 win at Wake Forest. The win put the Tigers in the ACC Championship Game in Orlando, Fla., and gave the program its sixth consecutive 10-win season. Clemson finished with an unblemished road record (5-0) for a second straight season. Gallman’s 42-yard rushing touchdown was the first of four consecutive for the Tigers, who led 28-0 just minutes into the second quarter. From there, the Tiger defense took over. Clemson held Wake Forest to just 197 total yards, recording four sacks on a cold and windy night at BB&T Field.

Clemson put together its most complete effort of the regular season in all three phases of the game en route to the largest margin of victory in the annual in-state rivalry since 1900, as the Tigers defeated the Gamecocks by a score of 56-7. Deshaun Watson set a Clemson record in the series by tossing six touchdown passes, including three to Mike Williams. The two connected twice in the opening quarter, when Clemson built a 21-0 lead. The Tigers led 35-0 at halftime when Artavis Scott snagged a fade pass in the corner of the endzone in the final 10 seconds. The Tigers amassed 622 yards of total offense and 40 first downs, also Clemson records in the long-running series (114 meetings). Defensively, Clemson shut down the Gamecocks to just 218 total yards in the largest margin of victory in history by an ACC team over and SEC team.

The Tigers earned the distinction of being Clemson’s first back-to-back ACC champions since the 1986-88 era with a seven-point win over the Hokies at Camping World Stadium. Deshaun Watson accounted for five touchdowns and Cordrea Tankersley snagged two interceptions, including the game-clincher on fourth down inside the final 90 seconds, to lead Clemson to its third ACC crown in the last six years. Watson found Jordan Leggett early and often, as the Tiger tight end secured two touchdown catches in the first half. After the Hokies narrowed Clemson’s lead to seven in the fourth quarter, Watson went to Hunter Renfrow and Deon Cain for 76 yards worth of spectacular plays to provide the Tigers a little breathing room. Still, Virginia Tech had a shot to tie the score in the final moments until Tankersley jumped a route following an all-out blitz by the Tigers on fourth down.

Created By
Jonathan Gantt


Photos by Carl Ackerman, Dawson Powers, David Platt, Justin Pondexter, Allen Randall and Bradley Moore Graphics by Jeff Kallin Text by Philip Sikes Videos by Nik Conklin, Max Huggins, Andy Turner, Brad Cohen and Daniel Jones

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