The Troy football team fell to Clemson in a tough matchup that kept fans of both teams on the edges of their seats until the end.
The Trojans (1-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) traveled to Death Valley to take on the No. 2-ranked Tigers (2-0, 0-0 ACC), only the third time in school history that Troy matched up against a top-3 team. The Tigers escaped by a touchdown’s margin, 30-24.
“Our players competed and fought right down to the very end,” Head Coach Neal Brown said after the game. “We played the No. 2-ranked team in the country and gave them everything they wanted.”
Troy took the field against a team that suffered a narrow defeat in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship and is led by Heisman trophy frontrunner Deshaun Watson at quarterback. The nation watched as the Clemson Tigers narrowly escaped a potentially historic upset.
Troy was the first to get on the board as senior kicker Ryan Kay kicked a 39-yard field goal to take the lead midway through the first quarter.
Clemson answered quickly, marching down the field to even the score 3-3 with a field goal of its own.
The score would remain even until Watson found sophomore wide receiver Hunter Renfrow through the air for the Tigers’ 35-yard score with 10:06 left in the second quarter.
On the ensuing Trojan drive, Brown decided to go for it on fourth down from Troy’s 34 yard line. Freshman running back Jabir Frye pulled through for the visitors, breaking free for a 66-yard score.
Despite tying the score, the Trojans trailed 13-10 at the half after Clemson’s sophomore kicker Greg Heugel booted through a 32-yard field goal to send the teams to the locker rooms.
Troy dodged a bullet with a little over a minute left in the half, as a Kay punt was returned to the one-yard line, where the Clemson return man unintentionally fumbled the ball before crossing the goal line. Troy picked up the ball, and kept the deficit at three.
The third quarter was a hard-fought defensive battle with neither team able to score.
The Tigers began to find their offense in the fourth quarter, driving 66 yards down the field. Watson capped the drive when he found sophomore defensive lineman Christian Wilkins for a one-yard touchdown reception.
After a Troy three-and-out on the ensuing drive, the Tigers were able to find their way to the end zone again as Watson found sophomore wide receiver Deon Cain for the 23-yard touchdown pass—Watson’s third of the day.
Trailing 27-10 midway through the fourth quarter, Troy drove 86 yards down the field, allowing Silvers to find sophomore wide receiver Deondre Douglas for a two-yard touchdown reception. The ensuing PAT brought the score to 27-17.
On Clemson’s next drive, it was then able to drive into field goal range, allowing Heugel to extend the Tigers’ lead to 30-17 on a 34-yard kick.
With under a minute remaining, Troy marched down the field yet again, allowing Silvers to find Douglas through the air for their second touchdown connection of the day.
“We didn’t play our best game,” said Brandon Silvers. “We stuck with it, and we didn’t give up.”
After a game full of excitement and a pair of controversial calls, the game hung in the air as Troy then lined up for the onside kick with 0:44 remaining. Clemson recovered the onside kick, narrowly sealing the victory for the home team.
Watson, who is widely hailed as the best quarterback in the nation, completed 27 of 53 passes for 293 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Silvers went 24 of 42 for 233 yards, throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Troy is the first non-ACC team to intercept multiple Watson passes.
Troy also outgained the Tigers on the ground, netting 141 yards rushing to Clemson’s 122.
The Troy Trojans will travel to Southern Miss to take on the Golden Eagles on Saturday, Sept. 17. Kickoff in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is scheduled for 6 p.m.