Just what the Tigers needed

Saturday was the kind of game coaches tend to dread.

Players enjoy them because there are a lot of chances to showcase themselves, and a lot of players get those chances.

Fans love them because, well, fans love blowouts.

And it was just the kind of game Clemson needed.

Licking their wounds a little bit after a season-opening loss at Georgia, the Tigers had an easy day, start to finish, Saturday against South Carolina State. There were a lot of big plays, a lot of points and lot of positives to come out of the game, and a lot of players got into the contest.

But most importantly, to the coaches at least, the players played well. And that doesn’t always happen in these games featuring an overmatched opponent.

Sometimes these games are sloppy as teams can come out a little bit sluggish, or maybe the game can get sluggish the minute the stars take their spots on the bench and the little-used reserves take the field. But there was none of that Saturday.

The Tigers were sharp from the start and stayed that way throughout the game, and that was seen in every phase of the contest.

STRONG SOUDT: Cole Stoudt took some heat after the loss to Georgia, and it wasn’t really his fault. Sure, he missed some throws at times, but there were other key issues in that game (namely, the second-half playcalling) that led to the Tigers’ downfall.

Stoudt did some good things in the first half of that game, and he carried that over into Saturday’s game against South Carolina State. He completed 22-of-31 passes for 302 yards and a touchdown (with no turnovers) and helped spark the Clemson offense to a 735-yard day. Stoudt is never going to be Tajh Boyd (or maybe even Deshaun Watson), but he can still be pretty good in this offense. He knows the system well after sitting and waiting for his turn for three years, and he can be efficient running the offense.

He just has to make good, quick decisions and make the throws on time. He did that for the most part Saturday.

SPEAKING OF WATSON: Dabo Swinney seemed a little irked that there were so many questions about his star freshman quarterback after Saturday’s game. But those questions aren’t going to slow down if Watson continues to play like he has the first two weeks. The sky is the limit for Watson, and it’s human nature for fans and media members to want to see him play (and keep asking about him). Again, Stoudt is a good player, and he’s going to have a good year as a senior, but Watson has something special about him, and it’s easy to see that.

He completed 8-of-9 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers finished with 467 yards through the air. He also ran for 20 yards on five carries and always seems to make the right read on which option to take.

So Stoudt is going to continue to be the starter, and rightfully so, but keep an eye on Watson because he’s going to be that good. Yes, he’s the future, but he can also help the team win this season because there are some things he brings to the offense that Stoudt just doesn’t.

Swinney and Chad Morris once again said they have a plan in place for their quarterbacks, and there’s no reason to doubt that. It’s just going to be fun to watch how that plays out the rest of this season.

OTHER YOUNG STARS: Saturday proved to be a showcase for the young talent on the Tigers’ offensive roster. In addition to Watson, freshmen Wayne Gallman and Adam Choice had big days in the backfield, while another freshman, Artavis Scott, lit things up on the outside with a little bit of help from Demarre Kitt. Gallman had 10 carries for 77 yards, while Choice had 12 for 74 and a touchdown as the running game rolled up 268 yards on 51 attempts.

Scott had six catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns, while Kitt had one catch for 16 yards. Don’t forget about sophomore tight end Jay Jay McCullough, who had three catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. He is an athletic specimen, and if the coaching staff can get him involved in the offense on a more consistent basis, he could take off.

THAT'S BETTER: A week after being embarrassed in the fourth quarter at Georgia, Clemson’s defense came up with a dominant performance Saturday.

Yes, it was against an FCS program, but the Tigers never gave these Bulldogs any breathing room, allowing just 44 total yards (and only 7 rushing).

Clemson routinely forced long-yardage situations on third down and then shut down those tries, holding the Bulldogs to 2-of-15 on third down. That’s the kind of performance fans, coaches and the players themselves should expect from a top defense, especially against an overmatch opponent.

After a tough fourth quarter against Georgia, the defense can build off of Saturday’s play, especially with Florida State, North Carolina and Louisville coming up on the schedule in the next few weeks.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.

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