CLEMSON – The goals of the Clemson coaching staff was to get a convincing win, get new quarterback Will Proctor a lot of repetitions, played good defense and not get anybody hurt. Well, three out of four isn’t bad.
The No. 18 Tigers (1-0) romped their way, though it was a bit sloppy at times to a 54-6 thrashing of Florida Atlantic Saturday afternoon at a mostly filled Memorial Stadium.
“We’ve always had trouble here in the past playing up or down to the competition,” Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden said. “We’d beat Miami and lose to Duke and beat Florida State and lose to Wake Forest. That’s been a problem here.
“I challenged the team and I thought they responded like a good team should.”
However, starting middle linebacker Anthony Waters hurt his left knee, which is being initially diagnosed as a sprain. More will be known Sunday following an MRI.
“It’s a contact game,” Bowden said. “You’re going to have them and the rest have to step up and play.”
There were plenty of players that did “step up” and perform. One such player was Proctor, who looked good at times and looked shaky at other times.
Proctor, who takes over at for good this season, completed 13-of-20 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns.
He did have one interception and fumbled once, but for the most part, Proctor gave the type of performance Bowden wanted.
“Obviously, he was rattled early,” Bowden said. “Other than that, he did a real good job.”
For his effort, Proctor, a redshirt senior, felt he was serviceable, but not spectacular.
He seemed to settle down after he connected with fellow senior Chansi Stuckey on a 30-yard post route for Clemson’s first touchdown of the season.
“I read the safety and he read the corner underneath and changed to a post and played the corner and Stuckey made a great catch,” Proctor said. “I felt like I kind of had all day to throw it.”
When Proctor wasn’t throwing, the ground game consisting of three-headed monster known as James Davis, Reggie Merriweather and C.J. Spiller, combined to rush 29 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns.
But it was Davis and Merriweather who accounted for most of the damage.
Davis, a sophomore, ran 14 times for 94 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Jacoby Ford scored on a 92-yard punt return in the second half.
“Everything worked out pretty well for the first game,” Davis said. “I wanted a 100 yards and I was a little short, but I can make up for it during the season.”
Merriweather, a redshirt senior, has been the forgotten running back. With all the hype surrounding Davis and Spiller, he’s been sort of the odd man out.
But during the game, he was one of the fan favorites as they chanted his name following his big gains, one of which went for 26 yards. He finished with 75 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
“When I first got here, I was number five (on the depth chart),” Merriweather said. “I worked myself into the rotation and this year, I have to prove myself again and that keeps you on top. It never gets old. What purpose do you have in life if you don’t have a purpose at all?”
Spiller was unspectacular, finishing with 18 yards on six carries.
The same, however, can’t be said for the offensive line, which kept pressure off of Proctor and opened up holes for the backs. The experience up front definitely came shining through.
The same goes for the defense, which truly locked down the Owls (0-1), especially in the first half. Florida Atlantic had just 97 yards of total offense at the break and 263 for the game.
Even the backups performed well, which was evident on the game’s final possession. The Owls had it at the Clemson 1 in the closing seconds, but were unable to score.
All told, 35 players saw action on defense for the Tigers.
“That last goal-line stand was done by freshmen and four guys we pulled out of the bleachers,” Bowden said. “And they stopped them.”
Yes, it was what the doctor ordered: a win, solid offense and good defense.
Now, they have to wait and see what the doctor says about Waters.