Clemson got a great win tonight against the Plainsmen, but it really should not have been as close as it was. Its a shame that scheduling, and the ACC's decision to add a 9th game, prevents us from playing opponents like this more often. Clemson finishes 2-1 in the 3-game set against Auburn, and its unlikely we play them again anytime soon, unless we happen to meet in the Peach Bowl.
I was not the only one who did not know what to expect coming into this game, but there are even fewer who expected Clemson's OL to run-block as well as they did. This is a very very good Auburn DL, and while we did not pass block all that well, and still have some issues in blitz pickup (right side especially), they did the job in the running game and it won us the ballgame. Clemson finished with 320 yards on 52 carries, a 6.2 avg, though several were scrambles by Boyd. Andre Ellington gashed the Auburn defense for 120+ on 12 carries in the first half, and pulled in another 100 or so in the 2nd after we finally decided to re-run the plays that they couldn't stop in the first.
Tajh Boyd also had a very good game. He looked poised and in-control. He did not make many mistakes. Last year we made mention numerous times of Tajh's weight gain and how it affected his ability to be effective in this offense as a runner. He lost 20lbs and you saw the difference tonight. He does not have to be a speed-burner or the most elusive QB ever to be an effective threat, and if he can keep up what he did tonight, he'll have a very good season.
I would like to comment here on the helmet rule. I understand the change for safety's sake. They want the player to go out and that will make the equipment people, coaches, and the players learn to tighten up the helmets. What they wear today is safer tech than in the past but they aren't worn as tight as they once were, and you can see a need for the play to be called dead when the helmets come off and to check the player out. We get that and Tajh's helmet DOES need to get tightened up. HOWEVER, when I can see the Auburn DL grabbing under his jaw and ripping the damn thing off intentionally, there becomes a need to clarify the rule. The player does not, as the rule stands now, have to come out if a facemask penalty is called. If a defense can neutralize a player in a clutch situation by ripping his helmet off, which is going to happen to someone this year, then we need to give penalties to the defense for doing so.
Nuk Hopkins' was a primary target early, then we seemed to get away from him for awhile before coming back. He still finished with a record 13 receptions for 119 yards. We needed that from him tonight without Watkins. The rest of the WR play was disappointing to me. We still could not stretch their defense deep (not that Tajh would've had much time to hit a long-developing play) with Bryant or Peake? The one deep ball to Bryant was catchable and should've been made, but I thought watching the game that we should've had more chances over the top.
Now for the negatives. Obviously we have to catch the ball. Three drops by Brandon Ford were all in key situations, and every one was catchable. He's the one that is supposed to have the best ball skills aside from Sammy Watkins. I was shocked by Nuk's drop. We hurt ourselves in the passing game more than Auburn's DBs did. I think Clemson should've had at least one more TD if we had caught the ball. We might have had another if we ran the ball sooner, or not screwed around on the last drive once we got close.
The defense was, scoringwise, good enough. I hoped for a TD off our scoring D from last year, and we beat that. Tackling itself was good. The angles were still shit. LB play was not as improved as I had hoped. Tig Willard made a few big plays but then he'd screw up and not be there on the backside (which allowed a few long runs). Stephone Anthony was largely invisible, as was Christian. DTs were alright. DEs got reached all damn night, just like against West Virginia. Most of their best run plays were off-tackle, which netted 180 yards rushing. Pressure from just the down 4 was not impressive. I thought Goodman would make a play, and he still didn't. Beasley's sack was nice at the end but he did not use his hands well and got grabbed several times prior. If he gets that corrected, he's got the speed to eat up some OTs.
I'm not the only one who is pissed about the DB play. That was not good. The general rule is that if you don't mention a guy's name in the back 4, then he probably had a good day, and we saw too many names. Brewer was nowhere close on one long pass to the TE (which looked like C2 but may have been 3 Over, haven't rewatched) and there was a big bust on the TD. As far as preventing completions, they did alright (11/27), but there were still way too many AU receivers running free with a Clemson DB cluelessly looking for the ball.Altogether I'm happy with the win, and will be looking for definite improvement on defense the next two weeks, and I'd love to see our OL dominate the next two opponents like they should. Postgame presser is after the jump.