No. 2 Clemson pounds Furman 48-7, QB question unanswered
By JEFFREY COLLINS, Associated Press
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — One game against an overwhelmed opponent isn’t enough to push the highly touted freshman quarterback at Clemson past the veteran starter.
Freshman Trevor Lawrence threw three touchdown passes and scored on all five of his drives to help No. 2 Clemson beat Football Championship Subdivision Furman 48-7 on Saturday.
But senior starter Kelly Bryant had a touchdown pass of his own. Lawrence completed 10 passes and Bryant completed nine.
“Both missed some throws. Both made some great throws,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said after rattling off their stats and emphasizing how similar they were.
It was the romp everyone expected as Clemson overmatched the Paladins. Clemson is 33-0 against FCS teams, only once winning by less than 10 points.
Swinney said he let his quarterback rotation go as planned. Bryant played the first quarter, Lawrence played the second quarter and they each got two drives to start the second half.
Lawrence was 9 for 15 for 137 yards. His best pass was a 40-yard strike where only Cornell Powell could get to it when Furman jumped offside and the freshman recognized he had a free play. Several of Lawrence’s incompletions were behind receivers or overthrown.
“It’s made me better,” Lawrence said about having to compete for the job after four years as a star in high school, breaking several records set by Deshaun Watson, the former Tigers star who shoved aside a veteran as a freshman to start in 2014.
Bryant, who started every game in Clemson’s playoff run last year, went 9 for 15 for 137 yards. Bryant threw several passes at the feet of his receivers. He did show some nice moves on a 35-yard touchdown run — mobility Lawrence doesn’t quite have. Bryant has thrown for 15 touchdowns and run for 15 TDs in his career.
Bryant also was one of the first players to congratulate Lawrence when he scored his first college touchdown.
“I’ve been in his shoes,” Bryant said. “My first touchdown, Deshaun congratulated me.”
With all the talk about depth with a Clemson team that brought back 15 of 22 starters, plenty of newcomers took advantage of their opportunities. Freshman receiver Justyn Ross and freshman tight end Braden Galloway caught the Tigers final two touchdowns. Freshman Lyn-J Dixon led the team with 89 yards on six carries, his Clemson debut was a 16-yard run and he followed it with a 61-yard run the next play.
“Honestly, with that many young wideouts, I wasn’t watching the quarterbacks,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said.
One other story line coming into this season for Clemson is the front four on defense — who may all end up as NFL first-rounders. They dominated Furman’s option attack. The Paladins gained just 163 yards and the one touchdown came with 1:18 left after Clemson emptied its bench on a steamy afternoon.
“We didn’t have a shutout. We didn’t allow zero yards. So we’re always improving,” said defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, who skipped a likely high draft spot to return after Clemson’s loss to Alabama last season in the playoff semifinals.
Furman: Nobody appeared to be injured. The Paladins picked up $360,000 for their short trip to Death Valley. The ride back to Greenville is about 30 miles and the bus has air conditioning.
Clemson: A no pressure, no injury opener was just what the Tigers wanted. Freshman running back Lyn-J Dixon ran six times for 89 yards in an impressive debut. Kicker Greg Huegel returned from a knee injured suffered in practice last September to make five extra points and two field goals, including a 49-yarder. The Tigers haven’t lost to a Southern Conference team since 1952 (the year they left for the Atlantic Coast Conference) and are now 33-0 against FCS teams, winning by less than 10 points just once.
The No. 2 team in the country beating a FCS team by 41 isn’t going to move the poll needle much — unless No. 1 Alabama loses.
Furman: The Paladins get to face someone their own size when they head to Elon.
Clemson: Everyone will get a better idea if this year’s Tigers should be a favorite to make a fourth straight playoff appearance as they head to Texas A&M.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25