The start to this article is what it should be: Clemson is the ACC Champ and we should all be happy about finally bringing the trophy back to Tigertown. Even more important, we won the damn belt last night for the second time this season. Clemson won 10 games and, again I'll say it, we got the belt.
It is difficult to forget the poor play we saw in the month of November when writing this, so please forgive me if things sound "different" than they should. The fact is, we (STS) laid down our expectations (10 wins and an ACC title) and that was achieved last night. Both of those items are significant because it has been a long, long time since we've raised the ACC Championship banner and/or rung up 10 wins in a football season. Give Swinney and crew credit for improving since last season and picking this team up to play well last night. We should probably amend our expectations to include a consistency factor so that this team knows what to shoot for moving forward.
Yes, I am happy about last night's football game. Yes, we do have the premier prize in college football, THE BELT. Yes, I am very happy that the ACC Championship trophy finally came home-where it belongs. Yes, I am happy we finally cracked the 10 win margin and are headed to Miami. And, unfortunately, Yes I am still concerned about this football team. You did not think I would be all puppy dogs and sunshines today, did you? We've already chronicled the deficiencies of our S&C program, so I will not go further with that conversation. I really hope that the play we saw in November is long gone but still fear that the inconsistencies we saw earlier in the year will emerge again in the future. Long and short, we need to establish a better level of consistency-STS may even add this to the "our expectations" portion of the site.
So, what did Clemson do (well) last night?
We were able to dominate Va Tech up front defensively and got a good effort out of our offensive line. I saw an offensive line that moved people and wanted to play. Outstanding blocks by Freeman and Cloy stand out, but we got a good effort up front for the most part. We had a huge Cluster F*** off the left side before half and saw McClain give a half assed effort at times, but overall it went well. Heck, I even saw McClain appear to give a shit and throw a couple nice blocks last night. Just think how high of a draft pick this man would be if he put effort behind all that talent.
Andre Ellington benefited from this good blocking and ripped it up. If you want to point to a damn good and tough football player, Ellington is your man. He showed all the items we drooled over in the offseason and he has been busting his ass all year, even when the people around him have given half an effort. Ellington did his thing yesterday and it was a thing of beauty. Congratulations AE, last night's game put him over the 1000 yard mark for the season.
Boyd and crew looked good yesterday. It does appear as though Tajh has put on a little weight this year (more proof we need better S&C) but maybe that weight helped him deliver the war to VT defenders last night. While I was not impressed with Boyd's lack of speed on the keepers, I was very impressed with his determination and willingness to give up his body for the good of the team. His passing game was a complete 180 and definitely a cornerstone of last night's win. Tajh didn't force as many passes and created time with his feet. He delivered overall accurate passes and did not make a significant mistake last night. Boyd should be very proud of his football game.
Receivers were jam up. Don't recall drops and we saw good blocking out of this crew. Nuk showed out with wheelbarrow full of yards and Sammy kept them scared on the other side of the field. We got our usual good performance out of Dwayne Allen. In addition to his early TD, his play that stands out to me is a Sammy Watkins fumble recovery. If this were NCAA Playstation Football, Allen's awareness would be about as high as it gets.
Kevin Steele and/or Mike O'Cain deserve game balls for this win. Steele dialed up a great effort that keyed on keeping 7/8 players in the box and putting pressure on the VT passer. O'Cain did us a favor by showing no logical offensive attack and Steele capitalized with man coverage and constant pressure on the opposing offense. We saw good effort up front, particularly watching BT hammer their offensive front. The Branch penalty that allowed the 2nd quarter field goal was unacceptable, however, the group played well overall. Clemson got a good effort out of the secondary, particularly when you consider how much C1 we played last night. Xavier Brewer was toast on the 1st half TD (although this was not assisted when the centerfielder bit on play action) and I wish Steele/Cheese would lessen his cross training because Brewer was a much better player before this experiment at the safety position. Other DB play was nice and assisted by the Clemson front. We dogged Coty Sensabaugh early on and he has improved dramatically. Meeks had a nice game and the safeties laid the wood when necessary.
Dawson Zimmerman was Dawson Zimmerman. We will miss that next season. I am a little concerned with the short kick offs and our punt return strategy, but won't belabor on those issues.
To close the Clemson talk, I am very, very happy to get back to this level. We haven't won 10 games in 21 years and we haven't won an ACC crown in 20, so it is about time this was done. Clemson played well last night. I still have concerns about this program which we'll discuss at length at another time. Give Dabo and this team its props, they earned it but need to be more consistent moving forward.
Other items I am interested in include the final BCS poll (well, the poll that sets the championship game as I am not sure if it is final or not). I want to see a Bama/LSU rematch though Oklahoma State has an argument. I think that Bama's loss is a reasonable loss and OKST's is not. Further, "I'm a man" Gundy misspoke yesterday. There may be 30+ points on the scoreboard if they played LSU, but it would only be on the LSU side. LSU is too good of a football team for the Big 12 Champ. I will go ahead and tell you, Coach Gundy, how good their defense is...a hell of a lot better than your offense. And the Bama/LSU offense is much better than your defense. The only team in the land that can handle Les Miles' crew is Saban's bunch. I think Arkansas is as good as Oklahoma State, and you saw how that worked out earlier this year. Sorry OKST, you pissed away your opportunity against a very bad football team and would get crushed if you play LSU (or Alabama).