Clemson started fast with Andre Ellington's 60-yard run on the second play from scrimmage, but slowed down for the better part of the next quarter and a half. It wasn't until Kyle Parker found Brandon Clear running wide open 15 yards behind the secondary for a 70-yard touchdown pass the North Texas defense started to loosen up. The running game was strong, notching 246 yards on just 25 carries as both Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington went over the century mark. The passing game was below average as Kyle Parker did not complete a pass in the first quarter. He ended the day 9-of-17 for 170 yards, two touchdowns and an interception (in the end zone). The offensive line played pretty well, considering North Texas went to an unexpected odd front, but outside of the running game, this was an average performance.
The good news is Clemson only gave up 10 points in the game against an offense that was surprisingly explosive with veteran RB Lance Dunbar. The bad news is the Tigers gave up a mind-boggling 462 yards. There were a large number of missed tackles early as Clemson's young linebackers settled into their new roles. Dabo Swinney told his defense at halftime, "You have to get off the field," but honestly, that never happened. North Texas had a massive advantage in total plays (83 to 46) and in time of possession (42 minutes to 18 minutes). Missed tackles and the inability to stop the Mean Green on third down (11-of-22) were the main problems here. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele made an adjustment at halftime to use more of his nickel package against QB Nathan Tune, and that made a difference in the second half. However, overall, it was a disappointing day for a defense that simply couldn't get off the field.
Both Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington went over 100 yards Saturday- the first time in three years since two Clemson running backs have done that. (AP)
Dawson Zimmerman averaged over 51 yards per punt, including pounding home a 79 yarder, which was second-best in school history. Marcus Gilchrist also averaged 20 yards per punt return and was on the verge of breaking several big plays. Given his explosiveness, why not give him a look at wide receiver? Overall, the special teams were outstanding and the lone true bright spot from the game.
The 25-point win will look reasonable on the scoreboard, but the diving deeper into what actually transpired on the field yields justified concern. How much of that was coaching? Probably not as much as youth at linebacker and North Texas actually coming out with a great game plan to utilize Lance Dunbar as much as possible and show a defense that it had never used before. Fans don't like to give credit to the opposing team, but certainly UNT head coach Todd Dodge did a good job getting his team ready to play. Still, when you give up 462 yards on offense, there's no way you give anything above a "C." An average performance that fortunately equaled a 25-point win.
Like Dabo Swinney said afterwards, "The best thing about this game is that it's over." He's right. Perhaps North Texas will do the same thing Middle Tennessee did last year- win 10 games. Perhaps this team is much better than anybody expected, because for the better part of three quarters it sure didn't look like a two-win team from the Sun Belt Conference a year ago. Still, it's a 25-point win and that's pretty much the only thing that matters. You'd rather win by 25 points and give up nearly 500 yards and win by three and only give up 200. Fortunately Dabo and company will hit the film room again this week before getting one more tune up before heading to Auburn in two weeks. And hey- it could be worse ... much worse. How would you like to be in Oxford, Miss. tonight?