GRADES: Tigers rebound in big way

CLEMSON - Saturday's performance marks one of the best games for Clemson in several years.

C.J. Spiller carried the ball nine times for 109 yards, Kyle Parker was utilized as a running threat, a tight end led the team in receptions and play-action worked beautifully - isn't this what we call hoped Clemson's offense would look like this season? The Tigers also dipped into their bag of tricks when Jacoby Ford completed a 32-yard pass to Xavier Dye to help setup the final score of the game. And even Jamie Harper got into the mix, scoring from three yards out to push Clemson's lead to 31-3 just before halftime. It was a well-called game but the execution was even better and that's not something that could be said on the offensive side of the ball any other time this season. And while it's just one game, production like this could translate into a large number of wins in the second half of the season.

As solid as the offense was Saturday, the defense was even better, limiting the pass-happy Deacs to just 82 yards through the air. Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner was harassed all afternoon as Clemson's front four brought him down for five sacks and constantly disrupted his rhythm. DeAndre McDaniel also notched his fifth interception of the season, helping setup Richard Jackson's only field goal of the game. Da'Quan Bowers is also quietly putting together a strong sophomore season, notching three tackles for loss and forcing consistent double-teaming. While it wasn't quite as dominating as the Boston College game in terms of total yards allowed, Saturday's defensive effort was more impressive given the Deacs' production entering the game. Simply put, it looked like the Tigers had a championship defense once again.

The Deacs refused to kick to C.J. Spiller, but it didn't matter as Spiller simply created his big plays on the ground. In the kicking game, Richard Jackson converted his only field goal attempt from 22 yards out and Dawson Zimmerman pinned the Deacs back inside their own 20-yard line on one occasion but still needs to be a little more consistent in the coming weeks. Simply put, special teams rebounded from a disappointing showing at Maryland to earn a solid "B" for their effort Saturday.

The off-week obviously came at a good time as Dabo Swinney had his team ready to play in every phase of the game. Billy Napier was solid with his play calls on offense, routinely getting the ball out to the tight ends and calling Kyle Parker's number on the ground. Defensively- it was the same kind of performance seen against Boston College, only better. Coming off a disappointing loss to Maryland a lot of things could have happened Saturday that could sent the season spiraling out of control had Clemson lost, instead, the exact opposite occurred as the Tigers sit in control of their own destiny in the Atlantic Division. And hey- it was the second worst setback for Jim Grobe since he took over the Deacs in Dec. 2000 (Wake lost to Miami 52-7 in 2004) ... that's saying something about coaching isn't it?

It was a must-win Saturday against the Deacs and the Tigers came through in a major way with turned out to be nothing short of a laugher. The good news is the offense started to develop more of an identity while the defense amped up its play a couple of notches as well. The bad news is Clemson has to go on the road to face No. 9 Miami this coming weekend. A win against the 'Canes would go a long ways in solidifying realistic hopes for the ACC Championship game given that two of Clemson's final three conference foes (Florida State and Virginia) will have to travel to Death Valley, and the third, N.C. State, is quickly seeing its season go into the tank. A loss wouldn't be the end of the world but it would likely force the Tigers to run the table with their remaining ACC games to make it to Tampa. Top Stories