Tigers Romp Bulldogs, 54-0

CLEMSON - Clemson coach Tommy Bowden challenged his team to be a little tougher against S.C. State. It appeared they answered that challenge, at least for this week.

From the outset No. 23 Clemson proved it was not only the more talented team Saturday, but it also proved it was the more physical team as the offense pounded out 416 total yards, while the defense stuffed S.C. State's potent offense in a 54-0 rout inside Death Valley.

"That shutout means a lot," Clemson safety Michael Hamlin said. "It shows us that we are capable of doing whatever we put our minds to."

The shutout also gave Hamlin a little more bragging rights than he expected. The Clemson safety was not only going against S.C. State Saturday, but he was also going up against his two younger brothers – Markee and Marquais – who play in the Bulldogs' secondary.

"I won a lot of bragging rights," he said. "I'm sure those guys knew we had the upper edge, and I don't think they will be too upset about it, but now I can go down to South Carolina State and brag a little bit."

The only thing the Tigers can't brag about is the way quarterback Cullen Harper played at times. Though the senior completed 15-of-24 passes for 151 yards, he also threw two interceptions and now has four through the first quarter of the season to only three touchdowns. He threw six interceptions all of last year.

"I just have to learn from them," Harper said. "I rather make mistakes now than later on down the stretch. I just have to use these games to learn, and I will get better."

The offensive line also had trouble adjusting to some of S.C. State's shifts up front, allowing three sacks and several more pressures.

So what to the Tigers really take away from Saturday's victory?

"The score shows we are pretty focused," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "We showed a little bit maturity and leadership and not playing down to a 1-AA opponent as far as effort energy and enthusiasm. Those would be signs that we made improvement."

The Tigers (3-1) definitely showed improvement on the defensive side of the ball. They held S.C. State to 152 total yards, including minus-10 yards rushing. They also forced four turnovers, three that were interceptions.

"You always take these games with a grain of salt because you are going down a division, but one of the measuring sticks is do you do what you are supposed to do? As a 1-A team, I don't know if we are a Top 25 team or not, I know we are this week, but what should you do? I think the score was what you should do," Bowden said.

"Stopping the run, I don't know how much we will get out of that because the level of competition from here on out picks up a little bit."

James Davis, who earlier in the week thought the Bulldogs would rollover if Clemson got on top early, got the Tigers going with three first half touchdowns on runs of 1, 5 and 1 yards.

"I just think we played well," said Davis, who rushed for 95 yards to go with his three scores. "That has to be our mentality. If we can score on that first drive, it kind of gets us going and that helps us out for the rest of the game."

Davis opened the game with a 25-yard run off right tackle and then another for 23 more before finishing things up with a 1-yard plunge for a 7-0 lead just 2:45 into the game.

Clemson scored 23 second-quarter points to put the game away. First Davis capped a 9-play, 60-yard drive with a 5-yard run and then later scored his third touchdown of the afternoon with a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal.

"I stayed patient, I knew my time would come," Davis said. "I've just got to keep working hard."

S.C. State's time never came. Its only real scoring opportunity came in the first quarter when kicker Blake Erickson missed a 39-yard field goal wide right. A fake field goal attempt at the end of the second quarter also resulted in nothing.

"We just went out and did what we were supposed to do," Hamlin said. "We just went out and hit them right in the mouth. We wanted to keep them out of the end zone."

After Davis made it 21-0, it only got worse for the Bulldogs (2-2) after that.

Center Raymond Harrison snapped the ball over the head of backup quarterback DeWain Clark. The ball rolled into the end zone where Clark knocked the ball forward, resulting in a penalty and safety for a 23-0 Clemson lead.

The Tigers made the score 30-0 when Harper, who completed 15-of-24 passes for 151 yards, capped a 7-play, 50-yard drive with a one-yard sneak in the end zone with 3:42 left in the first half.

Safety Chris Clemons added insult to injury in the third quarter when he took a Malcolm Long pass back 32 yards for a Clemson touchdown and a 37-0 lead. Mark Buchholz added a 27-yard field goal moments later for a 40-0 advantage.

Backup quarterback Willy Korn had a one-yard scoring run and threw five yards to tight end Michael Palmer for another in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring.

"We did what we needed to do today," Bowden said. "We were focused and played with a lot of energy, and that's all we can ask for right now from the players."

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