Clemson looking to tackle 1st goal: Beat Kent State

Published 1:08 am Saturday, September 2, 2017

By Pete Iacobelli

AP Sports Writer

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is ready to chase goals again — one step at a time.

He said the Tigers didn’t won the national championship focused on what was immediately in front of them, not by looking ahead. Swinney lays out five goals each season for his team, starting with “Win The Opener” which is Saturday against Kent State.

“We’ve got five goals. They never change and as many of them as we can hit, the better year we have,” Swinney said. “I’ve always said if we hit them all, we’ll win it all and that’s what we did last year.”

“This,” he continued, “is a chance to get that first goal under our belt.”

The rest of Swinney’s goals include winning the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division, beating state rival South Carolina and capturing the ACC title. The last is to win the closer, which the Tigers did with a drama-filled, 35-31 victory over No. 1 Alabama this past January.

Swinney knows too well that early stumbles can cost his club many things, including confidence coming out of camp that might take time to rebuild in a difficult schedule that includes games with No. 12 Auburn and No. 16 Louisville the following two weeks.

“They’re all big,” Swinney said of the schedule. “We get 12 opportunities and that’s all we’re guaranteed. Everything after that, you earn it.”

The earning starts against Kent State, which enters the game led by offensive coordinator Don Treadwell after coach Paul Haynes stepped away for a few weeks with what the school announced was a medical leave. The Golden Flash, 3-9 last season, are more than a five touchdown underdog against the Tigers.

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Some things to watch when Kent State plays No. 5 Clemson:

NEW FACES: You’ll need a scorecard to keep track of all the new faces on Clemson’s offense. Kelly Bryant makes his first start in place of All-American quarterback Deshaun Watson, who went 29-2 his last 31 starts with the Tigers. Deon Cain takes over for NFL first-rounder — and two-time 1,000-yard receiver — Mike Williams. Clemson also has new starters at tailback, center and tight end.

BIG GAME HUNTER: Clemson receiver Hunter Renfrow hopes to be more of a factor for the Tigers this season. Renfrow’s already a forever folk-hero to Clemson fans after his 2-yard TD catch with a second left proved to be the winning points against Alabama last January. He’s got 77 catches for 978 yards and 11 touchdowns.

. — four in two title games with the Crimson Tide — his first two seasons.

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