12 Ways to Win How Clemson Football's 2017 squad secured the program's third straight College Football Playoff appearance

Clemson opened the 2017 season in dominating fashion against first-time opponent Kent State at Memorial Stadium. The Tigers’ 56-3 victory was the highest-scoring output in a season opener since 1990, when Clemson defeated Long Beach State and head coach George Allen 59-0.

Linking a note to the 1990 season was prophetic because that 1990 team had one of the top defenses in Clemson history, just as the 2017 team does.

Kelly Bryant made his first career start and led the Tigers to 665 yards of total offense, the fifth-highest total in Clemson history and the most in a season opener. Bry-ant completed 16-21 passes for 236 yards and added 77 yards on just seven carries.

Travis Etienne had 81 yards on eight carries and scored a touchdown in his first college game. He was a big reason Clemson gained 353 yards on the ground.

The Clemson defense didn’t record a shutout, but it held Kent State to just 120 yards of total offense, including just one yard passing. Kendall Joseph led the defense with eight tackles, as the Tigers allowed 2.4 yards per play.

While Clemson and Auburn were both top-15 teams in both polls when they met on Sept. 9, few realized it would be a matchup of two of the hottest teams entering the bowl season.

By season’s end, both teams would be known for their defenses, and that was the case in this meeting at Memorial Stadium. The two teams combined for just 401 yards of total offense, a remarkable figure considering both squads would average well over 400 yards per game apiece at season’s end.

Clemson’s defense got the best of the incredible struggle with 11 sacks, second most in school history. Austin Bryant earned his entire four-year scholarship with the game of his life. The junior had four sacks to tie a Clemson record, as the Tigers held Auburn to 117 yards of total offense (38 rushing, 79 passing).

Kelly Bryant scored both of Clemson’s touchdowns on runs of three and 27 yards, and he completed 19-29 passes for 181 yards. Nine of the completions went to Hunter Renfrow, who had another outstanding game against a team from the state of Alabama.

Clemson faced its second consecutive top-15 opponent, but this time the game was on the road. It was the first time Clemson was involved in game as the defending national champion against a reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

The Tigers put the clamps on Lamar Jackson for the first three quarters before winning rather easily 47-21. It was the most points Clemson has scored against a top-25 team since the 2001 season, when Clemson won at Georgia Tech 47-44 in overtime.

Jackson had just 118 passing yards and 62 rushing yards through three quarters when Clemson had a 33-7 lead. He picked up 201 yards of offense in the fourth quarter.

Bryant earned considerable national acclaim with his season-high 316 passing yards and 26 rushing yards with two touchdowns for a career high 342 yards of total of-fense. One of the completions was a season-long 79-yard touchdown pass to Ray-Ray McCloud, who had a season-high seven catches for 115 yards.

Dorian O’Daniel had the first of his two interception returns for scores in 2017 with a 44-yard pick-six of Jackson in the third quarter.

Boston College showed it would be a much improved team in 2017 against the No. 2 Ti-gers. The Tigers and Eagles were tied 7-7 entering the fourth quarter.

But Clemson scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to come away with a 34-7 victory at Death Valley.

The Tigers took a 7-0 lead on a 94-yard drive in the second quarter that included a 12-yard run on a fumble play by guard Taylor Hearn.

Clemson outgained Boston College 213-37 in the fourth quarter, as the Tigers scored 27 points in the final quarter in a conference game for the first time since 1988.

Clemson had two 100-yard rushers in a game for the first time since 2015. Travis Etienne had nine carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns, as he nearly doubled the production of eventual ACC Rookie-of-the-Year A.J. Dillon, who had 18 carries for 57 yards. Etienne’s 50-yard touchdown run at the start of the fourth quarter gave the Tigers a two-score lead.

Kelly Bryant had his first 100-yard rushing game with 106 yards and two scores, while Tavien Feaster added 73 yards on 20 carries.

Clemson downed No. 12 Virginia Tech 31-17 in Blacksburg in another ABC primetime game. Dabo Swinney’s team became the first to record three wins over top-15 teams in the month of September in history.

Dorian O’Daniel was the national defensive player-of-the-week with his perfor-mance at Virginia Tech. The graduate student became the first Tiger in history with at least 10 tackles, a sack, an interception return for a touchdown and a recovered fumble in the same game.

The Tigers had a 24-3 lead after three quarters, as the Clemson defense once again shut down a rising star at quarterback. Clemson limited Virginia Tech’s Josh Jack-son to 198 passing yards and only three points through three quarters.

The victory marked Clemson’s eighth straight win over a top-25 team. It was Clemson’s 10th straight win overall and 19th in the last 20 games. Kelly Bryant improved to 5-0 as a starter, joining Tajh Boyd as the only Clemson quarterbacks to win their first five games as a starter.

One of Bryant’s big plays was a 60-yard touchdown pass to Tavien Feaster. Bryant finished the day with 94 rushing yards and 186 passing yards.

Clemson took a 28-0 lead before registering a 28-14 win over a Wake Forest team that would finish the regular season with seven wins and a bowl bid. The No. 2 Tigers im-proved to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the ACC with the victory in front of 80,567 fans at Me-morial Stadium.

Kelly Bryant, Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson all saw action at quarterback for the Tigers, who passed for 263 yards and rushed for 190 yards. Bryant hit Deon Cain on a 28-yard pass to open the scoring, and Adam Choice added a four-yard scoring run be-fore the end of the first quarter.

Travis Etienne scored on a one-yard run in the third quarter and Cannon Smith scored his first career touchdown on a 13-yard pass from Johnson early in the fourth quarter.

Kendall Hinton, who played for injured quarterback John Wolford, led Wake Forest to two touchdowns in the final eight minutes of the game, but it was too little, too late for the Demon Deacons, who fell to 0-9 against Clemson since Dabo Swinney became head coach. Austin Bryant led the defense with 2.5 tackles for loss.

Clemson dropped to No. 7 in the AP poll after the loss to Syracuse, but got back on the winning track after an open date with a 24-10 win over Georgia Tech at Memorial Stadi-um.

For the third straight year, Clemson was dominant in terms of rushing defense against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets came into the Clemson game averaging over 300 yards per game on the ground, but had just 198 against the Tigers. Clemson gave up just 230 total yards, as Dorian O’Daniel had his third consecutive outstanding game against the Yellow Jackets. O’Daniel had 11 tackles and two tackles for loss in leading the Tigers in tackles against the Yellow Jackets for the third time in his career.

Clemson scored on its first offensive possession on a 38-yard pass from Kelly Bryant to Deon Cain. After a Georgia Tech field goal, Milan Richard scored his first career touchdown on a 20-yard reception from Bryant. It was a special touchdown for Richard, as his uncle, former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, was in attendance at a Clemson game for the first time since he faced the Tigers in 1982.

No. 6 Clemson handed No. 20 NC State its first ACC loss of the season in a 38-31 thrill-er in Raleigh. It proved to be a big victory for the Tigers, as NC State would have won the ACC Atlantic Division with a victory over the Tigers, as it finished 6-2 in the league, its best mark under head coach Dave Doeren.

Big plays were the difference in this game, as Ray-Ray McCloud had a career-long 79-yard punt return for a score, the longest by a Tiger in a road game in 17 years. Tavien Feaster scored on an 89-yard touchdown run on the last play of the third quarter to give Clemson a 31-21 lead. Feaster finished with 105 rushing yards on just seven carries.

Kelly Bryant had another outstanding game with 88 rushing yards and two touch-downs, including a one-yard run in the fourth quarter. NC State came back with a field goal to cut the margin to seven points and got the ball back with a chance to tie. But K’Von Wallace had an interception near the goal line on the last play of the game.

Clemson clinched the ACC Atlantic Division with a 31-14 win over Florida State at Death Valley. Dabo Swinney’s team won with another balanced attack, as Clemson rushed for 227 yards and passed for 151 yards.

Travis Etienne led the Tigers with 14 carries for 97 yards and two scores, while Kelly Bryant added 19 rushes for 60 yards and another score. Etienne scored on a 28-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that was set up by a 35-yard punt return by Ray-Ray McCloud.

Florida State cut Clemson’s lead to 17-14 in the fourth quarter on a 60-yard touchdown pass by James Blackman. After a Clemson fumble, Florida State got the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but Van Smith intercepted Blackman.

That theft set up a one-yard touchdown run with 3:05 left to give Clemson a 24-14 lead. The Tigers added another score with 35 seconds remaining, leading to the 31-14 win.

It was Clemson’s third straight win over the Seminoles, the first time Clemson has done that since 2005-07 era.

Clemson’s set the school record for wins at home by a senior class in a 61-3 win over The Citadel on Military Appreciation Day. It was Clemson’s 27th win in 28 home games for the six scholarship seniors who were playing their last game at home.

Clemson’s passing game was in high gear, as the Tigers passed for 479 yards, the second most in a game in school history. Three Tigers, Kelly Bryant (230), Hunter John-son (144) and Zerrick Cooper (105) all passed for at least 100 yards, the first time in school history that happened.

Clemson finished with 662 yards of total offense and 9.9 yards per play, even though the Tigers had the ball for just 23:31 on the clock.

Tee Higgins was an offensive star as well with six catches for 178 yards and two scores. It was the second most receiving yards in Clemson history by a freshman. Deon Cain added 140 receiving yards and a score, giving Clemson two 140-yard receivers for the first time in school history.

The victory gave Clemson its 10th win of the season, its seventh consecutive sea-son with at least 10 wins.

Dabo Swinney earned his 100th career victory in Clemson’s convincing 34-10 win over South Carolina in the regular-season finale.

Swinney joined Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops and Chris Petersen as the only coaches to win at least 100 games in his first 10 years as an FBS head coach.

Clemson held a 34-0 lead entering the fourth quarter before South Carolina scored 10 points in the final quarter against Clemson’s reserves.

Hunter Renfrow scored two touchdowns for the first time since last year’s national championship game victory over Alabama. He had six catches for 75 yards and the two scores. Tee Higgins had the most receiving yards for the second straight game with 84 on three key catches.

Kelly Bryant was outstanding again, completing 23-34 passes for 272 yards and two scores. He did throw an interception that ended a streak of 122 consecutive passes without an interception.

Clemson held South Carolina to just 207 yards of total offense, including just 10 first downs.

The key play defensively came in the first quarter, when Ryan Carter had a 12-yard interception return for a score.

Fueled by a balanced offensive attack and a stifling defensive performance, No. 1 Clem-son won its third straight and 17th all-time ACC championship, defeating No. 7 Miami (Fla.) 38-3 at Bank of America Stadium.

Offensively, the Tigers were sparked by Kelly Bryant, who completed his first 15 passes for 164 yards and finished the game with 252 yards and one passing touchdown on a career-high 23 completions after connecting with 10 different receivers. The ground game proved strong as well, as four different Tigers rushed for scores.

The Clemson defense held Miami to just 22 yards of offense in the first quarter and 214 for the game, while also forcing three Hurricane turnovers in the third quarter.

Travis Etienne put Clemson on the board first, darting four yards for a touchdown just under five minutes into the matchup. Adam Choice upped Clemson’s lead to 21-0 two minutes into the second quarter with a one-yard touchdown run.

Miami scored its only points on a 22-yard field goal by Michael Badgley late in the game.

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