Dabo Swinney did his best to hype up Charlotte as a team that was capable of “embarrassing” Clemson on Saturday.
Instead, the Tigers used the game as another opportunity to show off their embarrassment of riches.
Clemson led 24-0 less than 16 minutes into the game and easily handled Charlotte 52-10 to earn its 19th consecutive victory. The Tigers (4-0, 2-0) will play at North Carolina (2-2, 1-0) next week.
“There was a lot of good stuff in the ballgame today. We ran the ball well. In the second half, we substituted so many guys defensively. To see that many players continue to play well throughout the game was great,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “I thought the guys were ready to go and the other guys challenged them on the sideline.”
Clemson starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence played only three series, leading the Tigers to two touchdowns and a field goal before giving way to Chase Brice.
Lawrence completed 7 of 9 passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns, including a perfect strike to Tee Higgins for a 58-yard score on Clemson’s second play from scrimmage.
“The biggest thing is we just wanted to give guys opportunities, and once we felt like we had the game in control, we wanted to give some guys some meaningful snaps,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “Trevor was out of there early. The decision was made before the game.”
The Tigers had three quarterbacks play extended minutes with Lawrence, Chase Brice and Taisun Phommachanh all getting plenty of opportunities. Brice completed 5 of 7 passes for 85 yards, including a beautiful 37-yard touchdown strike to Joseph Ngata. Quarterbacks Ben Batson and Patrick McClure also saw action late in the fourth quarter.
Clemson’s top two running backs, Travis Etienne and Lyn-J Dixon, each had touchdown runs. Etienne had 61 yards on 11 carries, while Dixon rushed eight times for 58 yards.
Defensively the Tigers put together another strong performance, holding Charlotte to 216 total yards. Clemson was balanced offensively, rushing for 235 yards and passing for 231.
“We were able to pressure Charlotte a little bit and pressure their run game. That was effective for us. All in all, I thought we got better as the game went along. I thought our guys were ready and excited,” Swinney said. “They took control right out of the gate. I was able to get a lot of guys playing time that they needed and get a lot of guys out, too. The mindset that they had, it was good for me to see.”
Star of the game: K’Von Wallace dropped an interception on Charlotte’s second drive of the game. He made up for it four plays later. Wallace picked off Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds and returned the interception 64 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers a quick 14-0 lead.
Play of the game: Trevor Lawrence was criticized for his play against Syracuse after throwing a couple of interceptions. He had no such issues Saturday night. Lawrence’s first pass of the game was a perfect 58-yard bomb to Tigers star Tee Higgins, who caught the pass in stride and jogged into the end zone.
Stat of the game: 3: Clemson had three players record the first touchdowns of their career — K’Von Wallace, Joseph Ngata and Michel Dukes.
Justyn Ross was banged up last week: Clemson announced moments before the start of the game that Justyn Ross would be available if needed but that the Tigers were going to try to hold him with a hip injury. Clemson obviously didn’t need Ross against the 49ers.
Clemson was committed to playing as many players as possible: The Tigers had 110 players get in the game, which is a school record. Will Swinney caught a pass in the second quarter and Drew Swinney added a reception late in the game.
Swinney was not happy with Derion Kendrick: Clemson’s starting cornerback allowed Charlotte to keep a drive alive in the fourth quarter when he was flagged for a personal foul. Swinney lit into Kendrick on the sideline for several seconds.
Who: No. 1 Clemson (4-0, 2-0) at UNC (2-2, 1-0)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28
Where: Kenan Stadium (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Matt Connolly: MattatTheState
CLE—Higgins 58 pass from Lawrence (Potter kick), 13:35
CLE—K.Wallace 65 interception return (Potter kick), 10:24
CLE—FG Potter 22, 5:03
CLE—Powell 2 pass from Lawrence (Potter kick), 14:56
CLE—Etienne 2 run (Potter kick), 8:31
CHA—FG Cruz 24, 4:27
CLE—Dixon 1 run (Potter kick), 1:24
CLE—Ngata 37 pass from Brice (Sawicki kick), 9:51
CHA—Reynolds 8 run (Cruz kick), 4:53
CLE—Dukes 24 run (Sawicki kick), 6:12
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Charlotte, LeMay 18-81, McAllister 8-36, Reynolds 6-19, Elder 1-10, Finger 3-10, Kean 3-(minus 3). Clemson, Etienne 11-61, Dixon 8-58, Dukes 4-46, Mellusi 6-30, Phommachanh 2-19, McClure 2-12, Rencher 2-6, Batson 1-5, Brice 3-(minus 2).
PASSING—Charlotte, Kean 2-3-0-20, Reynolds 6-16-1-43. Clemson, Lawrence 7-9-0-94, Brice 5-7-0-85, Phommachanh 5-9-1-52.
RECEIVING—Charlotte, Finger 2-14, LeMay 2-7, Dollar 1-15, Henderson 1-11, Ringwood 1-10, Elder 1-6. Clemson, Ngata 3-62, W.Swinney 2-24, Higgins 1-58, Price 1-19, Overton 1-18, D.Swinney 1-11, Groomes 1-8, W.Brown 1-8, Dixon 1-7, Ladson 1-6, Br.Spector 1-5, Chalk 1-3, Powell 1-2, Rodgers 1-0.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.