Clemson-SC State rewind

CLEMSON – When you watch a game at home or in the stadium, you miss stuff. You're watching with eight or 83,000 of your closest friends, you're cooking, enjoying yourself, watching the wrong thing, and something important slips by.

That's why I've started doing this feature – a weekly rewind of Clemson football, the good and the bad. It helps me pick things up, and I think it'll help you, too.

Without further ado, here's what I picked up from Fox Sports Net's broadcast of Clemson 52, South Carolina State 13.

Following last week's high-wattage ABC duo of Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit, we get the new duo of Wes Durham and Brian Stann. Durham, of course, was the longtime Georgia Tech voice before transitioning to TV this season; he remains as the radio voice of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.

I had never heard of Stann before Saturday, but some of you might know him: he is a decorated military veteran and former Navy player who also enjoyed a successful career as a UFC fighter. The big story early on? Effort after last week's emotional win over Georgia.

The crew tells us that Dabo Swinney knows good effort: "I know it when I see it, and I know it when I don't."

Durham says that Germone "Harper" is back for the opening kick. That's OK. He'll get to know him a little later on.

It can be easy to see when information is gleaned from pregame interviews with coaches. Last week, Chad Morris told us that Tajh Boyd slowed the offense down by not looking at the sideline quickly enough between plays. What does FSN make a point of almost immediately? Tajh looking at the sideline.

Sophomore safety Travis Blanks is clearly playing with effort. He rips the ball right out of a S.C. State tailback's hands. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables is fired up, too. A roving sideline mic catches him telling his defense that "this is our ground!"

Even though Clemson leads 10-0 early, the FSN crew isn't that impressed, saying "Clemson is playing down to the competition while South Carolina State is playing up," playing off a long drive ending in a field goal, and another that sees Rod McDowell stuffed on fourth and 1 at the SC State 13.

Still, 12 minutes into the game, Clemson is up 17-0.

Just good teamwork on Martin Jenkins' 52-yard interception return for a score – a good hit of SC State QB Richard Cue by Spencer Shuey and excellent blocking on the return by Blanks and "Sam" linebacker Quandon Christian.

Defensive end Vic Beasley didn't have a lot of snaps, but he showed up when he batted down a pass. He's an impressive specimen on the line. Boyd did struggle a bit early, with a third-down pass thrown behind Sammy Watkins.

The camera catches him speaking animatedly with backups Chad Kelly and Nick Schuessler.

"Some frustration in the body language of Tajh Boyd now, who can't be happy with their third-down conversions," Durham intones.

Sideline reporter Jenn Hildreth reports that there's "no panic, some frustration on the sideline. Dabo Swinney came over to the offense and said, ‘Guys, we need to score.'

The defense didn't need such motivation. An excellent tipped pass by Christian falls right into Darius Robinson's hands for an interception, and he turns it into a 35-yard touchdown return. Excellent block by Christian as well to clear his path.

Stann says it's "a case of a Clemson player making a play." (As most plays typically are). Clemson's defense played well Saturday, but showed the occasional crack. Early in the second quarter, Cue zipped what should have been a 15-yard gain to Tyler McDonald. Thanks to poor coverage by Blanks and missed tackles by Blanks and Robert Smith, it was a 63-yard touchdown. Tailback Zac Brooks had only six carries for 31 yards, but he ran hard when he had the ball. I like Brooks between the tackles. He's clearly bulked up since arriving on campus a year ago. It's easy to see how Boyd got the wind knocked out of him on that second-quarter hit. He was hit high-low by a pair of SC State linemen and spun to the ground.

No matter: it's Cole Stoudt time. He leads an impressive drive that showcases a nice sideline throw to Martavis Bryant.

Durham: "Saturday's frustrating night for Martavis Bryant has clearly gone by the board; he's having a great day today."

The drive culminates in a solid third-down touchdown throw to Charone Peake in the back of the end zone. Stoudt kept the play alive and knew Peake had a height advantage over his defender, throwing it high enough for him to snag. Also, great job by Peake touching his feet down inbounds.

Still, more S.C. State praise from Stann: "If you think SC State didn't come here to win, this defense is out here playing as hard as it possibly can."

I'm not sure why Rod McDowell was still in the game up 31-7 with three minutes left in the half. He took a big hit from an SC State defender, who makes some inadvertent helmet-to-helmet contact, making McDowell's head snap back as he hits the ground.

"Oooh," Durham says as he sees the hit again. "The South Carolina State Bulldogs are flying around like they have nothing to lose and despite what the scoreboard says, they're fighting every single play," Stann says, trying to get every color commentator cliché in.

D.J. Howard steps in for McDowell and finishes the drive with a 19-yard scoring run, completely untouched. Excellent downfield blocking.

The FSN slate of ACC games is not great, but Durham sells next week's game – Wake Forest-Louisiana-Monroe – like it's Falcons-Saints on Monday Night Football.

Clemson leads 38-7 at the half, and Swinney doesn't like Hildreth's suggestion that Clemson "played down to SC State.

He looks at the scoreboard. Back at Hildreth.

"Well, it's 38-7," he says. "The defense has been outstanding, two pick-sixes, a caused fumble, points off all of them. I'm proud of the guys who stepped in and played well……"

Props to the FSN crew for getting some local flavor at Mac's Drive-In "right around the Clemson campus" (or, you know, halfway to Pendleton).

Hildreth says Mac's was "very accommodating" and says the crew was told they had to get milkshakes. "Mac, when he was here, he used to be grumpy," she said. "Because he didn't want to make a milkshake, he just wanted to watch the football game." (Which accounts for 12 days out of a year).

Boyd is done for the day after halftime, and Stoudt is pushing tempo. Stann says "they might be going even faster than they do with Boyd." Hopper/Harper is a star of the second half. Stoudt has good chemistry with him. On Clemson's final score with 11 minutes left in the game, he takes a big lick but hangs onto the ball for a 26-yard touchdown.

Defensively, freshmen Ben Boulware and Shaq Lawson always appear to be around the ball; they're active defenders.

Kelly makes his Clemson debut midway through the third quarter, and clearly isn't worried about his surgically repaired ACL, picking up six yards on a quarterback keeper.

In a game like this, you're guaranteed to get some filler. So we get an in-stands interview with Tajh Boyd's mom, as well as a recounting of Swinney's rise to head coach.

Durham informs us Swinney went "4-3, with a win in the Gator Bowl" in 2008.

Nebraska might have something to say about that. As you might expect, there were a couple ugly moments with defensive backups. McDonald added a 51-yard touchdown catch that appeared to be a bust in coverage by safety Jadar Johnson and corner Jerrod Williams, and also some poor tackling on a long run by tailback Charles Brown.

Overall, however, those are small quibbles on a day like Saturday when the outcome was never in doubt.

Chalk it up to some minor early-season growing pains – for both Clemson and the FSN broadcast team.

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