3 Takeaways from Clemson's Week 13 Win
The Clemson Tigers did not waste much time asserting their dominance over the Pittsburgh Panthers.
Dabo Swinney's team put up 31 first-quarter points Saturday in its first game since its defeat to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on November 7.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence shone in his return to the field, which was delayed after the Week 12 clash with the Florida State Seminoles was cancelled hours before kickoff.
The offensive production stalled a bit in the final three quarters, but Clemson's defense did not allow the visiting side to do much damage.
The victory reinforced Clemson's No. 3 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings and gave it a nice boost heading into the Week 14 clash with the Virginia Tech Hokies, which is set to serve as the final tune-up for the ACC Championship Game.
Trevor Lawrence Impressed in His Return
Lawrence produced the second 400-yard performance of his season in his first start in more than a month.
The junior quarterback put the Tigers ahead by 17 points halfway through the first quarter, throwing a pair of touchdown passes and leading a field-goal drive.
Lawrence completed more than 70 percent of his passes for the fifth time this season and did not appear to face much trouble throughout his time on the field. The only blemish on the quarterback's stat line was a lost fumble at the start of the third quarter. Pitt parlayed that turnover into seven points, but that was the last time it scored.
The quarterback's lack of rust was important for the Clemson staff to see with a limited window before he has to be ready for a likely rematch with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Had Lawrence struggled to find a rhythm in the pocket, Clemson may have entered its next game with more concerns.
Instead, Clemson looked like its typical self with Lawrence at the helm and appears to be in great shape for the prospective December 19 rematch.
Defense Made Early Statement with Turnovers
Lawrence's early dominance was made possible by the Clemson defense.
Andrew Booth Jr., Mario Goodrich and Malcolm Green intercepted Kenny Pickett to set up scoring plays on the ensuing Clemson drives. Each of the three first-half picks were turned into touchdowns by Lawrence and the Clemson offense.
The early wave of picks allowed the Tigers to prove that they can improve on their 47-point concession against Notre Dame. In the game prior to the Notre Dame loss, Clemson let up 28 first-half points to the Boston College Eagles at home before pitching a second-half shutout.
Clemson does not need to create multiple turnovers in every game moving forward, but if it can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and limit the production of wide receivers, it will be better prepared to handle Ian Book and the Notre Dame offense.
E.J. Williams Earned a Larger Role in the Offense
Freshman E.J. Williams has a chance to develop into one of Lawrence's best options in the passing game in the coming weeks.
Williams hauled in three passes for 38 yards and scored his first collegiate touchdown in Saturday's rout. With injuries ravaging the wide receiver depth chart, Williams has an opportunity to slide into a role beneath Cornell Powell and Amari Rodgers.
Before Saturday's game, Williams had a single 50-yard performance and caught three passes on a single occasion. If Lawrence continues to develop trust in the Alabama native, Williams could be a X-factor in the ACC Championship Game or College Football Playoff with more attention paid to Powell and Rodgers.