Sloppy. Out of sync. Dysfunctional. These are the words that best describe Clemson's offensive performance Saturday. The Tigers put the ball on the ground four times... in the first half. Also, Clemson was just 4 of 17 on third down for the game. There was also a touchdown called back due to an illegal formation. And, there were dropped passes- including two costly drops by the normally sure-handed Sammy Watkins. Last by not least, the offensive line struggled in picking up the B.C. blitz, which also kept the offense out of rhythm. Roderick McDowell quietly had a strong game, registering 91 yards on just 18 carries. Adam Humphries also played well, making a couple of tough grabs for nearly another 100 yard receiving game. Tajh Boyd's numbers weren't bad either: 30-of-44 for 334 yards and one touchdown. Even though Clemson amassed nearly 500 yards of total offense, nothing came easy. Fortunately, the defense came to play and the Tigers found a way to win. Were the Tigers looking ahead to Florida State? Did they think it would come easily after a solid win in Chestnut Hill last year? Who knows? The most important thing is Clemson won the game... even if it had to fight, scratch and claw for every yard it earned.
For the second time this year, Clemson leaned on its defense for the better part of four quarters and won. Andre Williams, the nation's leading rusher coming in, was held in check with jsut 70 yards on 24 carries. Routinely he was met by multiple defenders in the backfield, unable to break free. Vic Beasley was also a force once again, recording another sack, two tackles for loss and scoring a huge touchdown on a fumble forced by Tony Steward. Bigger picture, we contend Beasley is one of the front-runners for the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year award. Also, it's important to note this was the fifth game in a row Clemson has held an opponent to 14 points or less. First time that's happened since 1989. Dabo Swinney called it a "street fight" and he was right. Fortunately Clemson had Beasley, Stephone Anthony and the rest of the front four, and B.C. did not. Concerns still exist at safety and FSU will try to exploit that next week, but the front seven and the cornerbacks look very good at this point in the season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F
Clemson's field goal unit, for the first time in more than two years, struggled. Chandler Catanzaro missed a chip shot on the first drive of the game and later a botched snap prevented a 45-yard field goal from being attempted. Bradley Pinion had another good afternoon punting and the return game made no mistakes. The gaffes on field goals however, are unacceptable, resulting in the failing grade.
It's hard to fault the staff for fumbles, dropped passes and an overall lack of execution on the offensive side of the ball. Was the team flat? Some would likely contend it was and maybe that's the case. Fortunately, the defense made up for it and the Clemson still found a way to win the game. You know the drill by now: years ago, Clemson loses a game like this. But now, under Dabo Swinney, it finds ways to win. In a championship run of any kind, these kinds of games are bound to happen- the key is to find a way to win and Clemson did.
Much like the win at N.C. State, this one was ugly. But ask Georgia or Oklahoma if they would have taken an ugly win today instead of a devastating defeat. The Tigers found a way and now the big beast arrives next week in Florida State. Is Jameis Winston for real? Can Clemson's offense emerge from the four-quarter funk we all witnessed today? Can the defense continue to play at the high level it has the last five games? Can Clemson continue to hold serve at home against another top 10 opponent with the nation watching? We'll find out in seven days. If you thought the Georgia game was big, it may not come close to next Saturday night in the Valley. Bring on the 'Noles.
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