No. 25 Clemson, QB Klubnik bounce back to roll past FCS foe Charleston Southern 66-17
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Cade Klubnik heard the boos and saw the scoreboard with No. 25 Clemson trailing Charleston Southern. He knew before anyone told him, things had to change.
Klubnik gave up a fumble deep in his own territory and then an awful interception, both of which led to Buccaneers’ touchdowns and a 14-7 deficit.
“I just had to come back and refocus. I just had to play like me or let external factors, the fans and what people say hurt my soul,” Klubnik said. “I just didn’t let that happen.”
The sophomore rallied his team with a career-high 315 yards and four touchdowns in a 66-17 rout that sure didn’t look like one in the opening half.
“I kind of went out and just played loose again,” Klubnik said.
Antonio Williams had touchdown grabs of 10 and 5 yards while Phil Mafah ran for two short touchdowns as the Tigers (1-1) improved to 38-0 all-time against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision.
The Tigers and Klubnik bounced back from an opening-week meltdown, losing 28-7 at No. 21 Duke. But miscues and poor execution from that game were on display the first two quarters here.
A fumble by Klubnik deep in Clemson territory led to Charleston Southern’s first touchdown. A series later, Klubnik’s throwaway was picked off by cornerback Leon Thomas, who went 67 yards for a score to put the Buccaneers (1-1) up before a stunned Death Valley crowd.
“We threw every punch we had,” Charleston Southern first-year coach Gabe Giardina said.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney thinks Klubnik’s mistakes can either “grind you up or shine you up.”
“That kid is made of the right things,” Swinney said. “I saw him respond in a big way.”
Clemson restored order with four third-quarter touchdowns — three on TD passes from Klubnick.
Clemson’s Beaux Collins had seven catches for 137 yards, including a 69-yard TD after a pass over the middle where several Charleston Southern defenders were sprawled on the field behind him.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Collins, the 6-foot-3 junior from Los Angeles bothered by injuries last season. “Having the injury last and having to sit out some games, I’ve just been hungry.”
The first half was difficult for many of the orange-clad supporters to watch. The crowd booed several times as the errors piled up and the Clemson attack under first-year coordinator Garrett Riley looked lost too often against an overmatched opponent.
The Tigers were well ahead in almost every category by halftime, yet were up only 24-17. It was much the same a week ago when it outgained No. 21 Duke, but had three turnovers to lose.
“I wasn’t too concerned,” Collins said. “You’ve just got to go out there and make routine plays.”
Clemson continued to dominate statistically in the second half against Charleston Southern and finished with 679 yards to 73 for the Big South Conference. team.
Charleston Southern: The Buccaneers, who took home $400,000 for the game, looked like they might get an upset for the ages. Instead, they fell to 0-24 in program history against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. They’re scheduled to play Florida State in November 2024.
Clemson: The second half had to be a relief for Swinney and Riley after the first six quarters of sloppiness. The Tigers have one more game next week at home against Florida Atlantic to find offensive rhythm before No. 4 Florida State heads to Death Valley on Sept. 23.
The Tigers probably didn’t convince many voters they belong in the rankings after barely hanging on last week. Will their 21-week poll streak continue Sunday?
Swinney and Charleston Southern coach Gabe Giardina were walk-ons who became letterman at Alabama. In fact, Swinney was an assistant for the Crimson Tide who ran the team’s walk-on program when Giardina first went out for football. The two caught up a bit before the game. “He’s the exact same guy,” Giardina said with a laugh. “He could probably beat me in a 40-yard dash right now like he did 20 years ago.”
Charleston Southern returns home to face William & Mary on Sept. 16.
Clemson continues a three-game homestand against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 16.
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