Note: The following appears in the May issue of Orange: The Experience. For full access to all of the publication’s content, join IPTAY today by calling 864-656-2115.
Clemson debuted its 2019 football team while simultaneously celebrating its 2018 national championship squad during the Spring Game on April 6, showcasing the program to a national television audience and an estimated crowd of 60,000 people at Memorial Stadium.
Fans in attendance were treated to an immaculate day in Death Valley, with blue skies and perfect temperatures accompanying the team’s final scrimmage of the spring and halftime ring ceremony. With fans spilling into the upper decks, the attendance matched the program’s Spring Game record set previously in 2017.
“What an unbelievable crowd,” head coach Dabo Swinney said following the game. “I can’t overstate what a blessing that is and such an awesome tool to be able to teach and develop our guys.”
Those not in attendance were treated to an immersive broadcast presentation on ESPN2. Analysts Kirk Herbstreit, Joey Galloway and Marty Smith traversed Frank Howard Field during the contest, continuously soliciting field-level insight from Swinney and interviewing a plethora of former players in attendance.
The game itself ended in a 30-10 victory in favor of the White squad, helmed by Defensive Tackles Coach Todd Bates. Chase Brice started at quarterback for the victors, leading the White team with a 10-for-19 passing performance for 165 yards with one touchdown. Trevor Lawrence completed 19-of-34 passes for 232 yards with one touchdown for the Orange squad.
The White team opened the scoring on a 15-yard pass from Brice to tight end Braden Galloway in the first quarter. In the second frame, Orange evened the game at 7-7, as Lawrence engineered a 12-play, 70-yard drive that culminated in a six-yard pass from Lawrence to wide receiver Tee Higgins.
The White squad responded with 10 consecutive points, scoring on a 25-yard field goal by kicker Steven Sawicki and turning a red zone takeaway into a two-play, 12-yard drive that resulted in a nine-yard touchdown run by running back Darien Rencher. The Orange team scored on a 30-yard B.T. Potter field goal as time expired in the second quarter to cut the halftime score to 17-10.
At halftime, with Swinney as the on-field master of ceremonies, Clemson honored its 2018 national championship squad by welcoming back its departed seniors and NFL-bound juniors to receive their ACC and national championship rings. The returning members of the squad flanked them after having received their rings at a private ceremony earlier in the week.
“To have that moment with our seniors to really get them in front of the crowd and for the team to be able to look them in the eye one more time, it was a special moment,” Swinney said of the halftime ring ceremony.
Following the celebration, the White team scored all 13 points of the second half, utilizing two 43-yard field goals by Sawicki in the midst of his 3-for-3 performance on the day as well as a late defensive touchdown.
The game featured memorable debut efforts from a number of Clemson’s mid-year enrollees. Wide receiver Joseph Ngata finished with a game-high 127 yards on five receptions for the Orange team, including a tight-roping sideline grab in the first half and a 70-yard catch-and-run late in the contest. Fellow mid-year enrollee Frank Ladson Jr. also broke the century mark, recording 102 yards on five receptions, both team highs for the White squad.
Mid-year enrollee Sheridan Jones created the game’s first turnover, forcing a fumble that was recovered by senior K’Von Wallace. Jones forced his second takeaway of the day and added the exclamation point on the White team’s victory, scoring the final points of the contest on his 42-yard interception return for touchdown in the final minutes.