By Terrance Turner
The Clemson Tigers returned to action today for their first action in three weeks as they battled Pitt. A scheduled game versus Florida State had to be postponed due to the pandemic. (Positive tests for COVID-19 led to the game being scrapped…for now.) Today was the first game quarterback Trevor Lawrence has played since testing positive for COVID-19. But he showed no signs of rust, leading the Tigers to a 52-17 win.
Clemson scored right out of the gate with a touchdown from wide receiver E.J. Williams. A later field goal put Clemson ahead 10-0. That lead increased even more after Lawrence threw a touchdown pass to receiver Cornell Powell. After a targeting call on the Pitt offense, the Tigers advanced to first and goal. They cashed in when running back Travis Etienne ran in for the touchdown. (He’s scored in each of the last seven games.) Etienne ranks first in the ACC in rushing touchdowns and rushing yards. The Tigers scored again near the close of the quarter, with a TD from Lyn-J Dixon. Clemson was up 31-0 at the end of the first quarter — their highest-scoring first quarter in history.
Pitt kicked a field goal in the second quarter, making it 31-3. A dramatic catch by Powell moved the chains. But on 1st and goal, a penalty (for ineligible man down field) pushed the Tigers back. Then a defensive pass interference call on Pitt took the Tigers to first and goal. Third-string running back Chez Mellusi ran into a stout defense, but his teammates surrounded Mellusi and pushed him into the end zone. That made it 38-3.
With just five minutes left in the quarter, Clemson had its first punt. On a Pitt drive that the Clemson defense was unable to stop the run, Pitt scored its first touchdown of the game (via #3). The first half concluded with two major calls. A catch by Powell was overturned on review, after a long conference by the referees that drew boos from the crowd. They erupted into even more boos after Pitt defenders ran into the Clemson kicker; there was no flag.
The second half began with a disastrous sequence by Clemson. Lawrence was tackled and fumbled the ball. Pitt cashed in on the takeaway with a touchdown that made it 38-17. On their drive, a Clemson TD was negated by two fouls on the offense. On fourth down, a 41-yard field goal attempt was no good. While Pitt went three-and-out on its next drive, so did Clemson. Tigers coach Dabo Swinney was irate on the sideline, yelling at various players.
But Clemson soon got its act together. On 3rd and 5, Lawrence took off on a daring run to get the first down, keeping the drive alive. That drive would culminate in 38-yard catch-and-run by Braden Galloway. The initial touchdown was overturned on review, but it still placed the Tigers at the three-yard line for first and goal. They scored when Etienne scored his second touchdown of the day.
Later, Mellusi notched a nine-yard touchdown to put Clemson up 52-17. That would be the final score. The Tigers threatened to score again late in the fourth quarter, when Patterson scooped up a dropped Pitt ball and returned it to the one-yard line. Still, Clemson had an impressive win on what may be the last home game for many of its seniors. One of those seniors is Trevor Lawrence, who threw for 403 yards and two touchdowns.