Will Shipley’s not too young to see how much No. 6 Clemson needed a strong offensive showing.
The five-star freshman tailback had 80 yards rushing and two touchdowns as the Tigers cranked up their offense with a 49-3 win over South Carolina State on Saturday.
The dominant performance followed a dreadful one in a 10-3 loss to No. 2 Georgia last week, a game in which Clemson was held without a touchdown for the first time since the 2017 season.
“It was very important for us to come out firing on all cylinders,” the 19-year-old Shipley said. “This definitely gave us confidence, and we’re definitely stepping in the right direction.”
Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei ran for two scores and threw for a third and Clemson gained 504 yards after managing just 180 — and only 2 rushing — against the SEC’s Bulldogs.
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“I just wanted to come out and prove myself, play a great game,” Uiagalelei said. “I’m ready to get better and better.”
Uiagalelei and the Tigers (1-1) had touchdowns on all four of their first-quarter possessions and pulled away for their 36th straight win over teams from the Football Championship Subdivision.
Uiagalelei began the rout with a 4-yard scoring burst. Shipley and Kobe Pace added scoring runs before Uiagalelei closed the surge with an 11-yard pass to receiver Justyn Ross. It was Ross’ first touchdown catch since 2019, after he missed last season due to spinal surgery.
Clemson coordinator Tony Elliott said Uiagalelei still has work to do to improve his rhythm with his pass-catchers.
“As the quarterback continues to do that, the game will slow down,” Elliott said.
South Carolina State (0-2) of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference had little chance of slowing the Tigers.
Clemson continued its dominant history for the Tigers over their instate rival, improving to 5-0 alltime by a combined score of 287-23.
The result was a welcome showing after last week’s struggles against the more powerful Georgia Bulldogs.
Uiagalelei was sacked seven times and often overthrew receivers when he wasn’t getting hit. Clemson’s tailbacks finished with 2 yards rushing in the 10-3 defeat, leading to a week of coaches’ challenges and grinding on the details they messed up in the opener.
The Tigers’ offense certainly looked like it made positive strides, no matter how much of mismatch this game was.
Uiagalelei went 14 of 24 for 171 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for scores of 4 and 5 yards.
Shipley had touchdown runs of 7 and 13 yards. Pace had 68 yards rushing, including a 1-yard scoring rush.
South Carolina State was shutout in two of the previous four games at Clemson. But the Bulldogs ended the Tigers chance at hold them scoreless for a third time when they recovered a Michael Dukes fumble and drove for a 27-yard field goal from Dyson Roberts right before halftime.
Bulldogs coach Buddy Pough said his team got manhandled early.
“That first quarter was ugly,” he said. “I thought later on, we were able to make some plays and look like we belong.”
Otherwise, Clemson’s defense had another stout showing. While the Tigers didn’t score any touchdowns against Georgia, the Bulldogs’ only TD was off a Uiagalelei interception.
Clemson held South Carolina State to 123 yards and four first downs the first two quarters.
South Carolina State: The Bulldogs had a rough trip to Clemson. One of the buses broke down on the highway on the trip over and needing a police escort to arrive at the stadium. At least South Carolina State will leave with $500,000, its guarantee from Clemson for playing this game.
Clemson: The Tigers can spend this week improving from victory instead of grinding after defeat. All their questions on offense won’t be fully answered because Clemson, the six-time defending ACC champions and favorites to make it seven in a row, will be solid favorites in the rest of their games.
It was the second straight game in which Clemson’s defense held its opponent without a touchdown. The only TD Georgia got in its victory was pick-six interception right before halftime. South Carolina State got close to the end zone a couple of times, but could not get in. The last came in the final quarter and reserve linebacker Keith Maguire deflected a fourth-down pass near the goal line.
Clemson honored its first-year running backs coach and former ACC player of the year in C.J. Spiller. He was named to the College Football Hall of Fame earlier this year and will be enshrined in ceremonies in December. Spiller was awarded a plaque that will be put up at Clemson. Spiller was also honored when his running backs finished with 242 yards in the win over South Carolina State. The group had just 2 yards a week earlier in losing to Georgia.
South Carolina State goes to New Mexico State on Saturday.
Clemson starts ACC play at home against Georgia Tech on Saturday.