No. 1 Clemson blasts Charlotte 52-10 for 19th straight win

Sports

Clemson’s Travis Etienne, right, rushes out of the tackle of Charlotte’s Alex Highsmith, with blocking help from Jackson Carman (79) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was happy with the final score. He was even more pleased with how many of his players contributed to the top-ranked Tigers 19th straight victory.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw touchdown passes in little over a quarter while reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Travis Etienne had his first scoring run of the season Clemson’s 52-10 win over Charlotte on Saturday night.

“There were just a lot of good things,” Swinney said.

For him, it was watching a school-record 111 people in Tiger uniforms running onto the field in the blowout win. Swinney played five quarterbacks. Nine running backs had carries. All of them, Swinney said, have a special moment in their lives.

“You got a lot of guys who can say they played for the Tigers,” Swinney said. “No one can take that away from them. That’s cool.”

And there were no sideline beefs or bad feelings from starters like Lawrence or Etienne – Heisman Trophy contenders coming into the season – watching others take their playing time.

“I think it’s just the culture that we have,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said.

Scott asked Tee Higgins, who had a 58-yard touchdown catch on Clemson’s first series, if he wanted to go back in. But Higgins wanted the backups to get experience.

“It’s just very unique in the year 2019 to be at a place where your stars aren’t worried about their stats,” Scott said.

Lawrence and the Tigers (4-0) put the first matchup between these two teams away in a hurry. After Lawrence’s touchdown pass to Higgins, K’Von Wallace scored on a 66-yard interception return to give Clemson a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes. Lawrence came out of the game after throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass to Cornell Powell on the first play of the second quarter.

Charlotte (2-2), which had been averaging 47 points a game, had no chance to rally against Clemson’s defense.

The 49ers were stuffed on a fourth-and-short on their 48 at one point. When Charlotte got inside the Clemson 10, the Tigers rallied to hold the 49ers to their only first-half points on Jonathan Cruz’s 24-yard field goal. Clemson already led 31-0 by then.

The Tigers scored on every drive of the first half.

Clemson extended its program record for consecutive wins after breaking the old mark a week ago at Syracuse.

The most exciting moments may been at halftime when a fake Clemson team ran down the hill — copying Clemson’s traditional entrance — to the crowd’s cheers as part of a movie based on ex-Tigers player Ray Ray McElrathbey, who took in and raised his younger brother Fahmarr while on scholarship.

The second half could have used a little movie magic to spice things up.

This marks the fifth straight season the Tigers have opened 4-0.

Lawrence went 7 of 9 for 94 yards before spending the final three quarters watching his teammates complete the blowout.

Etienne played about a half and had his first touchdown in three games. Backup runner Lyn-J Dixon also had a scoring run.

Charlotte, which revived football in 2013, fell to 0-5 against Power Five opponents and 0-3 against ranked teams. That count doesn’t include a 73-0 defeat by Clemson’s “B” team in 1948. Charlotte shut down its football program after that 1948 season before playing again in 2013.

Tailback Benny LeMay ran for 81 of Charlotte’s 153 yards against a Clemson defense that had yielded just 75 yards rushing per game this season.

“They have a great team and they have superior athletes,” LeMay said. “That’s one thing we knew was going to be a factor in the game.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Charlotte: The 49ers have posted some strong numbers on offense that could keep them competitive in Conference USA play. But first-year coach Will Healy has some work ahead to keep up with teams like Clemson.

Clemson: The Tigers did what they were supposed to against Charlotte. You can bet, though, that the coaching staff will seize on every mistake or missed assignment this week as Clemson prepares to get back to ACC play.

MOVIE TIME

Clemson defensive lineman K.J. Henry acknowledged how strange it was as halftime grew closer to see a few dozen players in Tiger uniforms standing atop the hill at Memorial Stadium, just as he and his teammates do at every home game. “It was really interesting. You don’t see that a lot,” Henry said. “You saw the fake Dabo Swinney up there, getting everybody excited. It was funny.”

HEAD TO YOUR ROOM

Dabo Swinney said his son, Will, just tried to make too much happen when he muffed a punt in the third quarter. Will Swinney catches everything back there, his dad-coach said. “It was just a classic example of trying to do too much,” Dabo Swinney said.

UP NEXT

Charlotte returns home to start Conference USA play against Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

Clemson goes to North Carolina on Saturday.

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