Clemson cruised to a 37-14 victory over Middle Tennessee State Saturday night, with Heisman hopeful CJ Spiller electrifying the Death Valley faithful by breaking off a 96-yard touchdown return on the season’s opening kickoff. Spiller had another big punt return early in the second quarter, but gave Clemson fans a big scare when he pulled up lame at the end of the 50-yard jaunt.
Spiller’s injury reportedly isn’t serious, which is obviously huge news for a Tiger team that’s staking its ACC championship dreams squarely on the shoulders of the senior tailback from Lake Butler, Florida.
Oh, and on its defense – which picked off Middle Tennessee quarterback Dwight Dasher three times (twice in the first quarter) and held the Blue Raiders to negative rushing yards in the first half. One of the fastest, most aggressive units in the ACC a year ago, the Clemson “D” looked every bit as impressive Saturday night under first-year coordinator Kevin Steele.
While most of the attention was focused on Spiller, first-time starting quarterback Kyle Parker had a solid outing – completing 9 of 20 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. The freshman signal-caller’s numbers would have been even better had his receivers not dropped several big passes.
Meanwhile, Parker’s preseason competition for the starting slot – fan favorite Willie Korn – did not have a memorable 2009 debut. Korn fumbled on his only series under center, which led to a 68-yard Middle Tennessee return for a touchdown.
For the Heisman watchers out there, Spiller finished with 12 yards on four carries – although he did have 159 return yards.