It was a celebration from start to finish for Clemson on Saturday afternoon against The Citadel.
The Tigers opened the day by recognizing seniors during pregame, honored the military throughout the day and clobbered The Citadel 61-3 on the field in their final tuneup before traveling to South Carolina.
Clemson improved to 27-1 over the past four years at home, which is a record number of wins over a four-year period.
“It was an awesome day all the way around. To see our seniors go out like that was really special,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “Our goal today was, really, to create some momentum. We’ve talked a lot about finishing strong. It’s all right there, and we wanted to start today as we get into this last little phase here of playing our best football.”
Clemson had six players score touchdowns, including freshman running back Travis Etienne, who scored on a pair of runs.
Etienne had a 6-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and scored from 7 yards out in the third to up his total to 11 on the year. Etienne broke C.J. Spiller’s freshman record of 10 rushing touchdowns, which was set in 2006.
“Spiller was a pretty good player here and (Travis) has just kind of quietly broke his freshman touchdown record,” Swinney said. “He just came in and went to work, no expectations. He’s just seized his opportunity. He’s taken advantage of it.”
Fellow freshman Tee Higgins had a pair of touchdowns as well, catching a 32-yard pass with 5 seconds remaining in the first half to up Clemson’s lead to 38-0 and hauling in a one-handed 78-yard touchdown catch in the third.
The touchdowns were the first of Higgins’ career.
Clemson scored 21 points in the first quarter, 17 in the second, 20 in the third and 3 in the fourth as the game was never in doubt.
Kelly Bryant finished 17 of 22 passing for 230 yards and three scores before leaving late in the second quarter with the Tigers comfortably ahead.
Bryant connected with Deon Cain for a 53-yard touchdown on Clemson’s first series and also tossed touchdowns to Hunter Renfrow and T.J. Chase. Renfrow's touchdown was his first since making the game-winning catch against Alabama in the national title game, while Chase's touchdown was the first of his career.
“I thought Kelly Bryant was tremendous right out of the gate, just great rhythm, great tempo, good decisions,” Swinney said.
Tavien Feaster opened the second half with a 61-yard touchdown.
The Citadel finally got on the board with 2:50 remaining in the game on a 30-yard field goal by Jacob Godek.
Linebacker James Skalski led the Tigers in tackles with nine, including a tackle for loss. Trayvon Mullen and Shaq Smith had interceptions for Clemson, while Albert Huggins had 1.5 tackles for loss.
“Our guys were very focused. I thought they showed a lot of maturity today,” Swinney said. “To see so many guys be able to go in and play and still play well … Just really pleased with our guys.”
Star of the game: Kelly Bryant: The junior connected with his receivers on some deep passes and looked confident in the pocket after struggling with his accuracy the past few weeks.
Play of the game: Tee Higgins made an impressive one-handed grab late in the third quarter and raced down the sideline for a 78-yard score to give Clemson a 58-0 lead.
Stat of the game: 662: Clemson finished with 662 total yards, its second-highest total of the season behind the 665 in the opener against Kent State.
Clemson wanted to help Bryant’s confidence: The Tigers came out throwing against an overmatched opponent as Bryant averaged 10.5 yards per attempt and took several shots down field.
Clemson was smart to rest several starters: Kendall Joseph, Dexter Lawrence, Tre Lamar and Mitch Hyatt were held out with minor injuries.
Secondary is getting healthy: Marcus Edmond, Mark Fields and Ryan Carter all dressed out after Edmond and Fields had not played since Oct. 13 against Syracuse and Carter suffered an apparent concussion against Florida State.
Who: South Carolina
When: Saturday, Nov. 25, 7:30 p.m.