No. 4 Clemson hands Furman first loss

Furman quarterback Tyler Huff/photo courtesy of Furman athletics

No. 4 Clemson 35, Furman 12

Fourth-ranked Clemson claimed its 35th-straight home win by scoring 35 points, but its oldest gridiron rival, whom it now has 32-straight wins against, certainly made life difficult at times, as the Tigers posted a 35-12 win over visiting FCS foe Furman in front of 78,302 fans on-hand at Memorial Stadium.

The loss saw the Paladins fall to 1-1, while the Tigers won their second game in less than a week to improve to 2-0.

In a game that pitted No. 5 Clemson against un-ranked FCS Furman, it was an opportunity for both teams to see what improvements had been made from each team’s respective season opener.

For Clemson, it was a chance to see the improvement at several positions in the wake of its season-opening, 41-10 win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Though Furman knew it was playing against an FBS national title contender, what Clay Hendrix and the Paladins didn’t have a good gauge of is just what areas of improvement they needed to focus on following a 52-0 drubbing of North Greenville.

Now the Paladins have a better idea of where they stand following the 23-point point loss to the Tigers.

Furman, which out-gained Clemson by eight yards (384-376), won’t see a team on its remaining 2022 slate as talented as Clemson, and if it plays the way it did Saturday afternoon, it will have a shot to win every game remaining every game remaining on their regular-season schedule.

It was a record-tying afternoon for Furman All-America tight end Ryan Miller, who hauled in 13 passes for 95 yards and a score.

Furman quarterback Tyler Huff was outstanding for a second-straight start in a Furman uniform, connecting on 30-of-39 passes for 256 yards, with a touchdown and an INT.

Both Joshua Harris and Wayne Anderson Jr. put up identical receiving numbers for the Paladins, as each hauled in five passes for 41 yards.

The Paladins, which gained 128 rushing yards in the contest, were led by Myion Hicks, who rushed for 33 yards on five rush attempts, while senior running back Devin Abrams added 29 yards on seven attempts, while Dominic Roberto finished with 26 yards on on 10 rush attempts.

Huff added 25 yards rushing to go with his 256 yards passing, accounting for 281 yards of total offense.

Clemson was led by quarterback D.J. Uiagaleilei had a strong home-opening performance for the Tigers, connecting on 21-of-27 passes for 231 yards, with a pair of touchdowns and an INT.

Uigaleilei’s top target in the Clemson passing attack was Beaux Collins, who hauled in four passes for 57 yards and a TD, while Joseph Ngata added three catches for three catches for 39 yards.

Joseph Ngata and E.J. Williams also added three catches apiece, with the duo finishing with 39 and 38 yards receiving, respectively.

Clemson reserve tight end Jake Briningstool had the other receiving touchdown from Uigaleilei on a 2-yard catch with 2:35 left in the opening quarter.

The Tigers’ ground game was paced by All-ACC running back Will Shipley, who finished the contest with 68 yards and a pair of TDs on 10 carries.

How It Happened:

Clemson started fast, but Furman settled in and finished strong. The Tigers came out and scored 21 first-quarter points, fashioning impressive drives each of their first three offensive possessions of the contest.

The Paladins deferred the opening kickoff, and Clemson made the most of its first offensive opportunity of amid cloudy conditions, with the threat of heavy rain, which thankfully, never arrived.

The Tigers looked every bit the juggernaut that a 45-point favorite and 2022 national title contender might look like against its unranked FCS opposition, using seven plays to cover 75 yards, with Will Shipley’s 1-yard scoring plunge capping the scoring drive.

The key play for the Tigers in the scoring drive on a 3rd-and-6 play on the opening drive, as D.J. Uiagalelei found Beaux Collins for a 40-yard gain, with Furman’s Travis Blackshear making a shoe-string tackle to prevent a touchdown.

That put the Tigers in business inside Furman territory for the first time. After a 2-yard rush by Will Shipley, Uiagaleilei completed a 25-yard pass to Joseph Ngata down to the Furman one. On the next play, Shipley plunged through the Paladin line to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead following B.T. Potter’s PAT.

The Paladins, however, weren’t intimidated, and through some punches of its own on its opening drive of the contest. Alex Lepvreau’s 30-yard field goal with 7:58 remaining in the opening quarter cut Clemson’s lead to 7-3.

The two big plays in the drive for the Paladins came in quick succession, as Tyler Huff completed a 27-yard screen pass to Dominic Roberto on a 3rd-and-8 play, which was followed by a 28-yard completion to Ryan Miller on another screen pass against heavy pressure from the Clemson defense.

After gaining only two yards on a Huff-to-Luke Shiflett completion on a 3rd-and-7 play from the Clemson 15, the Paladins were forced to settle for the field goal.

Clemson would keep up its strong play on the offensive side of the football on its ensuing possession, however, as the Tigers would use 11 plays to cover 75 yards, with Uiagaleilei tossing his first TD pass of the afternoon.

His 2-yard touchdown toss to backup tight end Jake Briningstool gave ex
tended the Tigers’ lead to 14-3 with 2:35 remaining in the opening quarter.

Clemson would forced a Ryan Leavy punt on the next possession, as the Tigers took over at its own 31 with 13:35 remaining in the second quarter and would find the end zone for the third time in the contest, as Shipley scored for the second time, finding a hole off the right side of the Paladin defense and rushing 17 yards for a score with 9:10 remaining in the half to conclude a nine-play, 69-yard drive to give Clemson a seemingly comfortable 21-3 lead.

Furman and Huff, however, weren’t going to go away easily, showing its own version of “grit” to answer the call.

The Paladins drove right back down the field and appeared to be ready to punch the ball in the end zone for the first time in the contest.

However, on a 16-yard completion from Huff-to-Miller, which would have gotten the Paladins down to the Clemson 12, the ball was jarred loose by Malcom Greene and recovered by Fred Davis II to thwart the Paladin scoring threat and giving the ball back to the Clemson offense with 5:33 remaining in the half.

Clemson freshman phenom quarterback Cade Klubnik entered the lineup for the first of two series he would see as a member of the Clemson offense on the afternoon.

However, Furman’s defense would respond, and Klubnik wouldn’t find the treading against Furman’s defense quite the same as it was in the season-opener against Georgia Tech, which saw him enter the contest late in the 41-10, helping engineer a 10-play, 66-yard drive, which culminated with his first touchdown pass of his career-a 3-yard strike to Will Taylor-capping the Clemson point total in the season-opener.

In the lineup for the first time against Furman’s defense, the Paladins saw Kobe Pace total 13 yards and a first down on a pair of handoffs from Klubnik to garner a Clemson first down.

From there, however, Furman put the clamps on Klubnik and the Clemson offense and forced a punt for the first time in the contest. After Furman outside linebacker Emanuel Adebayo chased Klubnik out of bounds no gain on first down, Klubnik was hurried by Jalen Miller on second down, completing a pass to Antonio Williams for no gain.

On third down, the Paladins got their lone sack of the day, as Alex Maier and Xavier Stephens combined to take down Klubnik for a loss of two, giving Furman some momentum back following Miller’s fumble on the previous offensive possession. Aidan Swanson’s 41-yard punt would give the Paladins the ball back at their own 46 with 3:08 remaining in the half.

With the Furman offense re-energized by the first defensive stop of the day, Huff and the Paladins went to work. Devin Abrams got things going with a 14-yard run on 2nd-and-10, getting the ball into Clemson territory.

Following a 20-yard screen pass from Huff to Abrams netted a Furman first down after the Paladins were penalized for an offsides infraction, it would yield Furman’s lone trip to the end zone of the day two plays later.

After an incomplete pass from Huff, which was intended on first down, he found Miller over the middle for a 25-yard scoring strike on second down, getting the Paladins to within 12 points following a missed PAT by Axel Lepvreau after the snap was bobbled, keeping the score 21-9 with just under two minutes left.

Clemson would make the most of its final possession of the opening half, and with DJ Uiagaleilei back under center, would drive 75 yards in nine plays, as Kobe Pace gained the final needed yard for the score, and following B.T. Potter’s PAT, extended Clemson’s lead to 19 points at the break.

Furman got the ball to start the second half, however, after a 19-yard pass completion to Abrams from Huff got the opening drive off to a strong start on a 3rd-and-14 play, the Paladins would suffer their second turnover three plays later, when Huff’s pass was tipped up by Fred Davis II and subsequently intercepted by Tiger linebacker Barrett Carter to give Clemson’s offense great field position at its own 48.

Clemson needed just five plays to put its final points of the day on the board, as Uiagaleilei sealed the TD drive with undoubtedly his best pass of the day, throwing a 9-yard touch pass to the corner of the end zone, placing the football where only Beaux Collins could come up with it, as both feet touched in the corner for the Tiger wideout.

Collins’ scoring catch made it a 35-9 contest following Potter’s PAT with 10:08 remaining in the third quarter.

Furman would tack on its final points of the day with 48 seconds left in the third frame, as Axel Lepvreau connected on a 30-yard field goal made it a 35-12 contest.

Furman was unable to put more points on the board in the fourth quarter, despite moving the ball efficiently into Clemson territory, with the best of those attempts coming late in the game, as the Paladins were stopped at the Clemson 1-yard line on 4th-and-goal.

The Paladins return to action next Saturday, when they travel to East Tennessee State for their Southern Conference opener at William B. Greene Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

Post-game audio (tight end Ryan Miller)

Furman tight end Ryan Miller

Noting Miller:

–Miller’s 13 receptions against Clemson in Saturday’s 35-12 loss tied a school-record, matching Byron Trotter’s 13 catches against Wofford in 1969.

–Through two games so far this season, Miller has 17 catches for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

–Miller now has 18 scoring catches in his Paladin career, which ranks him tied for third in Furman history for career scoring catches. His 18 scoring grabs are also the most in Paladin history for a tight end.

— Miller enters Saturday night’s Southern Conference opener against East Tennessee State having posted 96 receptions for 1,564 yards and 18 TDs in his Paladin career. His receiving yardage total ranks him just one yard behind former Paladin tight end great Luther Broughton, who is Furman’s all-time leader in receiving yardage for a tight end.

–Miller’s 13 catches against Clemson are tied for the most ever against a Clemson defense, and account for the most reception recorded by an opposing tight end. (Stat via retired Clemson Hall-of-Fame Sports Information Director Tim Bourret)

Next Opponent: East Tennessee State (1-1, 0-1 SoCon)

All-Time Series: Furman leads 27-9

Last Season: No. 9 ETSU 17, Furman 13

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