And I've never been happier to be proven wrong. However, we still have two huge ACC games coming up that will define any Division or ACC title hopes, and we still have things to correct.
Today's offensive performance is one of the best I've ever seen from Clemson football. Yardagewise it probably is the best I can ever recall. 624 yards and 92 plays run today against Auburn. 386 yards passing and 239 rushing. Damn.
In the first half we saw the same problems that we have been seeing in the first two games: missed tackles, bad control of the edge gaps on defense, and bad interior blocking. We punted on the first 3 drives, two of those drives killed because Antoine McClain could not block anybody on 3rd down. We went down early and it started looking pretty bad at 21-7 in the 2nd Q. Our defense was getting worn out and their already poor open field tackling got noticably worse. Auburn was doing the things that scared us the most when we looked at them on tape, and getting to the edge with their better WR and edge blocking.
Then when Clemson put together the 12 play 80 yard drive to make it 21-14, we looked like we had a chance. We held the ball long enough to at least give the defense a rest after they gave up the 90 yard drive. That answer was huge for our defense to get their breath back and regroup. They got a big stop, and we put together another 75 yard drive to tie it at 21.
At the half, I was confident that Steele would make an adjustment that helped things. Guys were just not doing their jobs or staying in their gaps, containment was horrible outside, and we had some weak open field arm tackles. We were being killed by the bucksweep and perimeter plays because DBs were not in position. Safeties were being cracked every time. That was really the main complaint from me. I did not think that we'd be able to shut down the Malzahn offense totally like we did. Auburn had 2 60+ yard drives in the 2nd half, and we managed to hold one to a FG and an INT killed the other. I'm confused by why Malzahn stopped running Dyer inside, because it was working. When he looks at the tape I think he'll see that as good as Thompson was today, that the inside runs were still there to be had.
I think it won't be mentioned as much this week as it should, but our consistent big hits on Barrett Trotter really took his head out of this game. I was not worried about their WRs in the pass game that much, but they had plays there to hit and did not hit them. We'll have more to say in the film review about the defense today.
Auburn's defense was just plain bad, and like our D in the 1st half, they got worn down and tired. Their tackling took a nosedive after the 3rd drive. Once they really got tired in the 2nd, it only got worse. They are more talented than 624yds shows, but they did not look well-coached. Its difficult to match up with our WR speed and the talent of Allen + Watkins on one side, but 600 yards allowed and 240 rushing against a team with an OL like ours says a lot of bad things about your coaching. We also converted 10 straight 3rd downs.
In the 2nd half I hoped Chad would adjust to what Auburn was giving us. We could not run inside. Our OL still does not impress me with their run blocking. AU was giving us something on the perimeter, and I hoped for screens, sweeps, and speed option or some pitch plays. In the 2nd half, the first play was a screen, the 2nd was a sweep, then we hit Sammy. Chad Morris knows how to make an adjustment. Even though our interior OL must improve to beat FSU and VT, they did take what AU gave outside. Once that was taken, we got a few zone plays outside the C-gap with D.J. Howard for some nice yards.
I've heard some people tell me that Tajh Boyd sucked in the first two games, and that he was a different player today. That just wasnt true, he just didnt beat ass in those games.He forced some balls into coverage vs. Troy, and had some issues picking up his hot read against Wofford, but today he had no such issues with his reads. He only forced a couple balls today and locked on his receiver too quickly, but his maturation process as a QB took a noticable leap over the Spring game when he looked completely lost. The Chad and his own work ethic this summer deserve credit for that. His poise in the pocket was the #1 thing that he showed today, and he deserves the praise he gets this week, even though Auburn's pass defense was not the best.
We're very hard on Dwayne Allen here, and rightly so. You saw why today. He has NFL talent and poses a huge matchup problem for anyone on the schedule. When he puts forth the EFFORT, you can't cover him. He's too fast for most LBs and too big for a DB. When he puts that EFFORT forth on his blocking, like he did today, he can be a high draft pick. He can be as good as he has been hyped, if he chooses to be.
Theres nothing that can be said to describe the talent of Nuk and Sammy Watkins, but you have to tip your cap to the effort Jaron Brown put forth in this game. He's never produced like he can, and Clemson fans think he should sit for Bryant, but today showed why I'm still high on him.
So we have some things we still need to work on, but at least tonight we can say we beat the National Champs.