Clemson handles SC State on emotional day filled with 9/11 remembrances
CLEMSON, S.C. — Memorial Stadium was comfortably full Saturday as No. 6 Clemson took care of business against South Carolina State, a result that was expected. The day as a whole, however, was emotional.
The Tigers (1-1) enjoyed a 49-3 home win over the Bulldogs (0-2), but the game action and victory were intertwined with on-field recognitions, musical performances and heavy hearts on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
Two Clemson alumni, Drew Williams and James “Jim” Patrick White, were directly affected by the tragedy that rocked the country. White was on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center in New York City and was one of the casualties. His Alpha Tau Omicron fraternity brothers were at the game Saturday and stood in his place on the field as the Tiger grad was honored.
Williams was a firefighter in New York at the time after a 10-year career with the New York Police Department and was present Saturday for a video presentation honoring him. Chants of “USA!” rang out after the videos of the two men were played during the fourth quarter.
“God Bless America” was performed three times before the second half began, when the Tigers led 35-3. Clemson found a rhythm offensively and managed four rushing touchdowns during that time.
Even though Clemson and S.C. State were opponents during the game, their bands played together for the halftime performance, displaying unity with a selection from soul band Frankie Beverly and Maze. Together, their formations included spelling out “One” and “Hero” before the finale of creating the shape of the United States of America.
Similarly, Clemson’s offense looked like more of a unified product, with the group having a better showing than the week before in a loss to Georgia. By the end of the first drive of the game Saturday, the Tigers had more rushing yards (56) than they did in the whole contest against Georgia (2).
Running back Will Shipley made his Death Valley debut with eight carries, two touchdowns and 72 yards. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei had a bounce-back performance, going 14-for-24 passing with a score for 181 yards while running for 21 more yards and two scores.
Saturday was the first time since the 2019 season that Clemson allowed for 100% capacity at Memorial Stadium. The only tradition still on hiatus during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is the postgame Gathering at the Paw where fans crowd together with the team on the field.
By the numbers
— 3: For a second straight week, the Tigers defense prevented the opposing offense from reaching the end zone for a shutout and only gave up a field goal. Ruke Orhorhoro led the pack with five tackles and R.J Mickens had an interception.
— 51: Freshman Will Taylor also had a strong debut at Memorial Stadium and was the star of special teams. He had a 51-yard punt return and ended the day with 68 all-purpose yards. He almost had his first career touchdown early, but it was called back due to a penalty.
— 5: Taisun Phommachanh relieved Uiagalelei of his quarterbacking duties midway through the third quarter and opened the season with a five-yard pass to Will Swinney. Last month, Dabo Swinney called Phommachanh a miracle after the redshirt sophomore only took four months to recover from an Achilles tear. He was given a 12-month recovery timetable.