While visions of an O-line actually blocking someone continues to dance in our heads, we must begin to turn the page to Ball State. Ball State is a team that won't be an automatic push-over for Clemson. I wouldn't say they are as good as Troy was last year but they might have as good an offense this year. They are a team that went 6-6 a year ago under first year coach Lembo and now seem poised to take a step forward. They beat Ohio last year, for example. They ran 96 plays last week in a win against Eastern Michigan and gained a boatload of yards (a boatload is now over 600 yards). An important note is that Brent Venables play Ball State last year at Oklahoma so he is very familiar with the team. Oklahoma won that game 62-6 but Venables said Ball State came out and recovered an onside kick on the first play of the game, so expect an aggressive gameplan from the Cardinals.
Their defense is suspect after ranking 119th overall last year but they have some skill on offense that was previewed by Dabo (as an aside Clemson officially ran 87 plays which put them in the top 15 but programs around the nation are all trying to copy/implement aspects of the HUNH, its the new disruptive technology advantage. Lucky for us Chad Morris is a step ahead by putting in the pistol which I think every school is now going to want to copy as well).
Their QB Wenning will challenge our suspect secondary and may be a better passer than Auburn's Frazier was last week. This will be an interesting storyline for Clemson and hopefully a productive one. We absolutely must develop better communication amongst our DB's before FSU. From what I have seen watching the Eastern Michigan game and a couple of games last year Ball State doesn't really challenge that much down the field but sticks to the short passing game. They have a solid RB who Dabo said "can play for anybody. He's a big, strong, power runner. He's got great flexibility and can make you miss. When he gets downhill, he rarely does not finish forward." Also they have this dynamic little receiver (jersey #2), and by little I mean 5'8" and 145 pounds, who is explosive in the open field. Very quick and will need to be kept in check or else he will spring some plays.
Dabo was most insightful when talking about defensive communication against Auburn:
"No, I thought we communicated pretty well. We just misaligned a few times. They weren’t a fast tempo team. We’ll be challenged this week. These guys are wide open. They’ll snap the ball. Ball State will do a lot of checking. This will be a big week for our scout team. The good thing for our defense is that they just spent a month practicing against our offense. I thought it was one of the differences in the game the other night. The big thing for us offensively is that we only had one three-and-out. Last year, when we didn’t have a three-and-out, we scored 62 percent of the time."
Limiting three-and-outs is a big deal for this offense. Its always tough to parse out what is coach-speak and what is genuine respect or fear of an opponent. I would say that the coaching staff is mildly concerned about Ball State. Swinney has been reminding the team of being down to Troy and Wofford last year and it sounds like Dabo really wants Giff Timothy to play if he is medically cleared. We should pull away as the game progresses and put up a lot of points but I would expect Ball State to score two to three TD's.
Swinney was asked who surprised him in the Auburn game and he responded:
"David Beasley would be one. He won the job and won the right to start based on three scrimmages. He hadn't really played. He played great. He was physical. He had guys on the ground. He was as good on play 92 as he was early. Josh Watson is another guy who hasn't played meaningful snaps. He had some experience last year. To see him take that next step was very encouraging. I've seen it on the practice field. It was good to see Charone Peake have a good night. It was good to see Cole Stoudt go in as cold as ice and execute in a tough situation. Spencer Benton would be another one. He hadn't been the starting punter and did an excellent job with his kickoffs."
I agree with pretty much everything Swinney said here. When have we had an offensive lineman completely exceed expectations. Freeman said Beasley wasn't even really in the conversation headed into fall camp. He played with intensity and along with Shatley gave our O-line a little bit of toughness we haven't even glimpsed since 2006?? I was impressed with Josh Watson as well, especially for a guy that had been pretty much written off last year. He made some big plays like the forced fumble and drawing the holding penalty in the red zone and should help us next year. The helmet rule has got to be the most frustrating of the new rule changes and it means that your back-up QB is a bit more important now than before. How is it legal to completely tear off a helmet but you brush the facemask and you get fifteen yards? I get that guys were letting dreads and things keep their helmets too lose but now you have incentivized the defense to go for a players helmet. You have got to think these things through rule committee.
'Best' Swinney question and Coachspeak(they came together this week): Defensively, was it as bad as it looked at times, and as good as it looked?
Swinney: "It was as bad as it looked and as good as it looked. We did some good things but had some critical mistakes. (You ask a question in Coachspeak and you get an answer in Coachspeak. Although, I realize I am stretching this week)