No. 1 Clemson brought ruthless efficiency to its 2020 season debut, riding a strong performance from its veterans on offense and encouraging signs from the youth movement on defense to a 37-13 win at Wake Forest. The five-time ACC champion Tigers pulled their starters in the second half, playing three quarterbacks as part of a decisive road victory.
Even though Tee Higgins left for the NFL during the preseason and Justyn Ross is sitting out with an injury, quarterback Trevor Lawrence actually showed better form than at the start of 2019. After suffering his first loss as a college starter in the College Football Playoff National Championship and spending his offseason as a vocal leader on and off the field, Lawrence elevated the play of everyone around him. There were no interceptions and very few mistakes in this opener, as Lawrence threw for 351 yards on 22-of-28 passing (78.6%) and totaled three touchdowns (one passing, two rushing). The ground scores were particularly unique in that Lawrence had never had a game with multiple rushing touchdowns, and he already had two before the end of the first quarter.
Of course, all the attention on Lawrence around the goal line was thanks to yet another 100-yard performance by two-time ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne. In returning for his senior season, Etienne will likely rewrite most of the Clemson record book and extend ACC touchdown records he broke in 2019. Saturday night's feat was breaking Wayne Gallman's record for career 100-yard rushing games with his 18th such outing, totaling 102 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts. And just like it was a senior leading the way rushing, it was another senior who stepped up in the wide receiver room with Amari Rodgers totaling 90 yards on five catches.
But with all the veteran presence on offense, the flip side is a deep and dominant defense that is burgeoning with underclassmen. True freshman defensive end Myles Murphy led the team in tackles (seven) and sacks (two), while fellow freshman Bryan Bresee flashed with an assisted sack early and redshirt sophomore K.J. Henry was flying around the field and finished with four tackles and sack.