Monday Notes: Offense Carries Clemson

COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 15: Sammy Watkins #2 of the Clemson Tigers returns a kickoff for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Maryland Terrapins at Byrd Stadium on October 15, 2011 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Did Clemson just survive the letdown game?  Let's hope so.  Saturday in College Park marked a tail of two halves for the Tigers.  The first half?  Sloppy, characterized by two huge turnovers that very could have cost the Tigers their undefeated season.  As a Clemson fan, you knew it was going to happen sooner or later.  You don't make it through a 12 game schedule playing great football every quarter.  There was bound to be a point where this offense wouldn't be clicking and the defense would give up big chucks of yardage.  That was the first thirty minutes.  

Good thing we play two of them.  The second half this team came to play, resulting in a offense putting up an incredible 39 points to remain unbeaten.  Hats off to this team for finding a way to fight back.  It wasn't pretty at times.  Down 18 points in the third, it was hard to fathom a comeback.  The Tigers proved otherwise.  They got hit in the mouth and fought back, showing why this Clemson team is different than years past.  

Another nightmare, another slipup. Clemson being Clemson.

That’s the prospect many Clemson fans feared, what many in the college football world thought inevitable, as they saw undefeated No. 8 Clemson trail an underdog by three scores midway through the third quarter Saturday night.

But this not the same old Clemson as evident in a 56-45, come-from-behind road win, the second-greatest deficit overcome in program history.

There is little doubt that two players on this team turned it on when it was absolutely critically they did.  When Clemson was clawing for any sort of momentum and any shot at a comeback Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins put this team on their back, compiling drive after drive in the second half, proving to be too much for the Terps.  Tajh has the moxy that you look for in your starting quarterback.  Down 18 points he wasn't on the sideline with his head down, throwing in the towel.  No, he rallied his line and his receivers, and came out guns blazing in the second half.  We have seen what Tajh is able to do with a lead.  Saturday he proved what he can down a whole bunch of points.

Who Stepped Up For the Tigers...

Tajh Boyd: From a woeful start to sustained brilliance, all in a night’s work. He took over the game in the fourth quarter, completed 11 of his final 12 passes, and finished with 270 yards and four touchdowns. No Clemson quarterback has ever started his career by winning seven straight games.

While Tajh's second half was outstanding, his performance was still overshadowed by that of Sammy Watkins.  What can be said for the freshman phenom that hasn't already been said?  Sammy took over the game, like a seasoned veteran, and yet he's only seven games into his collegiate career.  I think most people would be hard pressed to find a more dominant receiver right now in football.  You can't kick to him (as Maryland learned the hard way on Saturday), and you can't defend him one on one because he will burn you (as he did several times against the Terps).  I would venture a guess that after his colossal performance on Saturday, the name Sammy Watkins is now a household name in college football.  

Clemson freshman Sammy Watkins is the new C.J. Spiller. Only better.

With his 345 all-purpose yards against Maryland, Watkins surpassed Spiller’s previous school record of 312. Watkins also became the second freshman to score three touchdowns in a game. With his eight receptions against Maryland, Watkins now has five of the top 12 single-game freshman bests in school history. His 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter changed the game. Thanks to Watkins, the Tigers stand alone in the ACC.

As for the other side of the ball?  Through mostly three quarters of football, it was hands-over-your-face worthy.  Clemson couldn't find a way to stop the zone read.  Over and over the Maryland offense gashed Kevin Steele's defense for huge plays, almost 300 yards on the ground, and a mind-numbing number of points.  This is going to have to get corrected.  While Clemson has proven they can win a shootout, there is no reason to put that pressure on this offense if we don't have to.  And we don't.  If was the worst three quarters of the year for that side of the ball and lets hope that holds true.  Despite this, the defense came up with absolutely critical stops when they had their backs against the wall.  The Terps final five possessions were marked by a touchdown, two punts, and two turnovers.  Huge for a defense that couldn't stop anyone through forty-five minutes of football.  

Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele couldn't apologize enough for the way his unit played against Maryland.  Fortunately for Steele, his postgame rant included this line: "The good thing about it is, it didn't cost us the game. We won."

The defense, however, yielded 468 yards and had no answer for sophomore quarterback C.J. Brown, who ran for 162 yards and a touchdown and threw three scoring passes in his first college start. "That's on me," Steele said. "I take full responsibility for it and I'll get it fixed."

With Maryland in the backdrop and Clemson surviving a huge scare in College Park, the BCS 7th ranked Tigers head back to the friendly confines of Death Valley this weekend.  This week we will preview a talented North Carolina team that will be looking to bounce back following a big loss at home to the Hurricanes.  For Clemson, this team must not look ahead to a potentially huge showdown in Atlanta in two weeks.  North Carolina will not be a pushover on Saturday, and Clemson is going to need a solid and focused week of practice if it is to continue this incredible run.  Until then, let's enjoy 7-0.  

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