GRADES: Tale of two halves

CLEMSON - It wasn't always pretty, but at the end of the day, the scoreboard said it all.

After 30 seconds and two plays, Clemson led 7-0. At that point it felt like the Tigers might be able to score at will. Two quarters later, that was far from the case. Tajh Boyd, after throwing a 33-yard touchdown to Sammy Watkins on his first pass attempt, struggled mightily after that, completing just two of his next eight passes. Clemson's offense also struggled to find a rhythm as the Tigers trailed by three at the break. The second half was a different story as Boyd completed 13 passes in a row at one point and the ground game got going with Andre Ellington and Mike Bellamy. It wasn't always pretty and it seemed like Chad Morris was calling the same screen pass over and over to Watkins on a couple of drives - but it worked. At the end of the day Clemson rolled up nearly 500 yards of total offense, while Boyd completed 20 of 30 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. The missed opportunity on fourth and goal was painful, as was most of the first half, but at the end of the day 43 points were posted on the scoreboard. Not bad. Anybody else surprised about Boyd's low rushing numbers? That probably needs to change ... soon.

It starts with missed tackles, long completions given up, blown assignments, and ends with just three points allowed over the final two quarters. Troy ran the swing pass to perfection, attacking Clemson's defense on the edge and finding success time after time. Xavier Brewer and Bashaud Breeland were also beaten on a couple of deep balls. Credit Troy for a good game plan and also making good use of a talented offense, but Kevin Steele will expect much more from this crew before the end of the month. The second half was much better than first, and a large number of freshmen saw playing time with translated into growing pains, but the missed tackles are too hard to ignore and prompt the "D" grade.

Chandler Catanzaro tied a school record with three field goals over 40 yards or longer. Mike Bellamy had an explosive return to the start the game and Dawson Zimmerman did a good job punting. The only blemish on the special teams resume was a missed extra point but the three long field goals and return game easily make up for that.

It was the first game running a new offense and there were bound to be bumps along the way ... and there were. But Chad Morris worked around that, as did his starting quarterback, and by the time it was all said it done, the statistics actually look pretty good. Defensively, the missed tackles are a big concern, but can you honestly pin that on Kevin Steele? The team came out on fire, cooled off, then looked good the final two quarters. Troy is probably a little bit better than anybody wants to admit, and that was a factor too. All in all, it was a shaky first half that turned into a 24-point win. Feels like a "C" to us.

Just be glad that this was Troy, and not Florida State, Auburn, or some other team that would have gotten out to a larger first half lead. Clemson's offense looked much better in the first half than the first. The defense did too. And special teams? Well, they were pretty solid all game long. It's often said teams improve more from week one to week two than at any point in the season. If that's the case, next week's game against Wofford should be much less taxing for Clemson fans. Not a great start by any stretch, but it wasn't terrible, either. Top Stories