After a slow start the Clemson offense rebounded in a big way Saturday afternoon, highlighted by Kyle Parker's 26-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Ford in overtime to clinch the victory. C.J. Spiller was once again as good as advertised, catching six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, rushing for 81 yards and taking back a kickoff 90 yards for another. And what about Kyle Parker? The red-shirt freshman grew up in a major way at Land Shark Stadium, directing the drive that tied the game to force overtime before finding Ford for the game-winner in the extra session. The tight ends also are becoming much a much bigger factor as the season goes along- accounting for nine receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown Saturday. And how about the offensive line? Clemson's front five gave Parker ample time to throw the ball and the unit overall is seemingly getting better as the season goes along. Overall on offense, it was a well-called game and fairly well executed minus the turnovers.
It wasn't the best performance of the year by far, but Miami's offense has a way of doing that to teams this year. DeAndre McDaniel has shown he is one of the top defensive backs in the nation, bringing in two more interceptions, scoring a touchdown from 23 yards out on his second pick. Overall, the Tigers forced four turnovers and held the 'Canes out of the end zone in overtime, which is good enough to warrant a "C" grade. Again, considering the competition, Clemson's defense did just enough to win and seemingly got better as the game went on against the run- and that was huge. The big plays given up in the passing were alarming, but again, Miami will do that to every team on its schedule this year.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Outside of the 41-yard field goal missed by Richard Jackson on the opening drive of the game, Clemson's special teams were ... special. Spiller's 90 yard kickoff return for a touchdown just before halftime changed the complexion of the game while Jackson rebounded to make a 43-yarder and the all-important 30-yard attempt with five seconds left to force overtime. Dawson Zimmerman also had his best performance of the year, averaging over 45 yards on just three punts. Thinking out loud ... how many more times will the opposition kick to Spiller this year? It's almost gotten to the point where it's a surprise when he doesn't take a kick return back for a touchdown.
Two weeks ago, Dabo Swinney had to be asking himself, "When will my luck start to turn?" Now after two impressive wins over Wake Forest and Miami, his team suddenly finds itself in control of its own destiny in the Atlantic Division and possibly on a collision course with Georgia Tech for a rematch in the ACC Championship game. Billy Napier has called two fantastic games in a row and more importantly, the Tigers are executing on an entirely different level on offense. The only major coaching hiccup came at the end of regulation saw some clock mismanagement issues, but the Tigers still were able to tie the game and force overtime. With all that in mind, Clemson is still 4-3, but it's the kind of 4-3 that makes you long for the next game instead of loathe it.
Dabo's first win over a top 10 team couldn't have come at a better time as he and his coaching staff have pushed all the right buttons over the last 14 days. The key is now ... can it continue? The Tigers return home for homecoming next weekend against Coastal Carolina before Florida State comes calling the next weekend. While there's still plenty of work to be done, the idea of Clemson playing in its first ever ACC Championship game is as real as its been during any point in the last four years. Believe it.
GRADES: Statement game
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