2013 Football Season Review

Chris Trotman

Editor's Note: Season Review posts are intended as summaries of the season for use as a single reference later, not exhaustive review posts. These are team-written.

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Season Reviews

Our plan for the future with respect to football is to begin releasing position-by-position reviews and prospectus. We think it is best to evaluate the coaches based on their entire body of work, and this involves recruiting. The ones who are gone will not be affected and we doubt what we have to say will truly influence any recruits before signing day, so expect to see them in the next two or three weeks.

This post is intended as a review down the road, in case we need to look at what happened in the past, so short synopses are given, and we specifically track the QB play, OL play, defensive performance, etc. to see how they varied throughout the year to tell a (reasonably) short story of the 2013 season.

2013 Season Schedule & Results
Opponent Score Opp Final Record Standing
Georgia W 38-35 8-5 3rd SEC East
SC State W 52-13 9-4 2nd in MEAC conference
@ NC State W 26-14 3-9 Last in ACC Atlantic
Wake Forest W 56-7 4-8 6th ACC Atlantic
@ Syracuse W 49-14 7-6 3rd ACC Atlantic
BC W 24-14 7-6 4th ACC Atlantic
Florida State L 51-14 14-0 National Champions
@ Maryland W 40-27 7-6 5th ACC Atlantic
@ UVA W 59-10 2-10 Last ACC Coastal
GT W 55-31 7-6 4th ACC Coastal
The Citadel W 52-6 5-7 6th in SoCon
@ SC L 31-17 11-2 2nd SEC East
Orange Bowl: Ohio State W 40-35 12-2 B1G Leaders Div Champs
Final Record 11-2 96-71 Sagarin 54th-ranked SOS

Biggest Win: Victory over an Ohio State in the Orange bowl, a team that has lost twice in the last two seasons. The victory at home over a then-Top-10 UGA team was big as well.

Worst Defeat: Clemson's loss to FSU and SC are equally bad in their own ways. Dabo Swinney said that this team was National Championship caliber, and lost at home in a horrible fashion, giving away the division and conference in the same night. Dabo's loss to SC marked the 5th straight, a feat that I thought I'd never live to see.

Record in Death Valley: 6-1

Final Ranking: 7th in Coaches, 8th in AP Poll, 16th F+/

Game -by- Game Reviews

# 8 Clemson 38 - # 5 Georgia 35 - Game Film Review - Stats

Clemson opened the 2013 campaign with one of the most anticipated matchups in quite some time, on the same night as Danny Ford's induction into the Ring of Honor with Bill Wilhelm. The Bulldogs came into Clemson sporting a #5 rating and packing a lot of offensive firepower. The game progressed as most anticipated, eventually turning into a shootout of sorts. Clemson and Georgia traded touchdowns throughout the first half. By the end of the second quarter, the game was tied at 21. Clemson took a 31-28 near the end of the third quarter, extended that lead by another touchdown on a nice fourth quarter drive, then was able to hold off Georgia at the end to secure a three point victory--the sweetest victory Clemson's enjoyed in Death Valley in a decade.

Boyd kicked off the year with a nice effort (18/30, 270 yards, 3 TDs passing along with 13 carries for 42 yards 2 TDs on the ground). This work was done in spite of mediocre pass protection and several dropped passes that should have been caught. In case you forgot, 6 of the 12 incompletions on the night were dropped passes. Boyd looked composed, prepared, and confident entering into his senior season. A little more time and/or a little more help from a receiver or two and Clemson likely wins this one comfortably.

Sammy Watkins had his usual performance, highlighted by a 77 yard touchdown pass six minutes into the football game. This was complimented by five big catches by Charone Peake, a 31 yard TD grab by Zac Brooks, and a touchdown reception by Seckinger to ice the football game. I'll say that Peake appeared sluggish to begin the football game but did come through in a big way in this victory. The disappointment was in Martavis Bryant's drops on the night. Had Bryant played as well here as he did at the end of the season Clemson would have won really big.

Roderick McDowell had his biggest game to date as he ran for 132 yards on 22 carries. McDowell's success and 20+ carries were very encouraging. We all saw that Hot Rod was able and ready to carry the football if Morris and staff would feed him the rock. The offensive line was impressive in the running game. Those guys up front played well to help McDowell in his big night. This performance got our hopes up for Hot Rod and the OL for the season, and they managed to disappoint us again and again. It must be said that UGAs defensive front was much higher-thought-of as a unit at this point coming into the season than they ended up finishing.

The Clemson defense was ripped early in the game--particularly by Todd Gurley -- before they tightened up after BV switched to more run/key blitzes and a sprinkle of zone to go with the C1. Gurley ran for 154 yards and a couple scores, including a long 75 yard scoring scamper in the game's opening quarter, behind his bulldozing FB Quayvon Hicks (and we still want one of him). The Clemson defense was fortunate that Gurley was slightly injured and missed a portion of the football game else he would have ended up with 200+ yards on the night. Clemson played well enough up front otherwise, though this exposure of our run fits really didn't happen again. The real lackluster portion of the defense was, as it would be all year, the back end. Poor safety play and mediocre play out of our secondary as a whole really started off a season that saw the backend of this unit struggle. Travis Blanks came into this season with a ton of hype moving into a starting safety role and really struggled. He had a shot on Gurley and missed the gap, letting himself be blocked out, resulting in the long TD run, though he wasn't the only one who wasn't where he should be on that play. Blanks whiffed on another tackle later that allowed a TD to make it 28-28 in the 3rd Q. Unfortunately, poor play from the safety position would haunt the Tigers all season.

Overall, I remember thinking after the game how impressed I was with the overall effort given by this football team. Clemson came out and played hard all night. The Clemson offense did sputter a bit at times but scored 38 and ran nearly 80 plays on the night. The defensive line looked gassed at several points in the football game but hung in there and pressured Aaron Murray a good portion of the game. The 97 yard drive was the only real disappointment of the game. Otherwise, it was a busted assignment here or there that allowed Georgia to rack up their numbers. While the defense certainly wasn't great that night, it was clear that they were really into this game and playing wide open.

This game certainly garnered a ton of national hype and anticipation. Two highly ranked teams were featured in Death Valley with the whole country watching. ESPN raised the excitement level entering the game. Clemson was playing an old nemesis in Georgia and came out with a big victory. That was certainly a great night for Clemson football fans everywhere.

Clemson 52 - SC State 13 - Game Film Review - Stats

Coming off the big win against a still-mostly-whole UGA team, the dream remained alive for a possible run at the national championship, but there were questions remaining about whether the defense could be any good after being thrashed by Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley to the tune of 500 yards. We knew those questions wouldn't be answered by playing 1-AA SC State, but we needed to see progress here against the other Bulldogs. We were also looking for another receiver to step up and compliment Sammy Watkins, and to continue working on the run game that had worked very well against Georgia.

However, Clemson's offense really sputtered against State. We'd like to give credit to the Bulldogs for coming into Death Valley and not being at all afraid of Clemson, because they played their asses off, but Clemson took their time warming up and didn't look crisp on offense...not to ours, or many fans, expectations. The primary culprit was the 1st team OL, who played like garbage collectively. They let SC St shoot gaps and got no push up front. They didn't look like they wanted to be out there. The best drive of the offense for the day, a 15-play 88 yd drive midway through the 2nd quarter, was with the 2nd team OL in there. We warned that if the OL didn't play up to snuff in Raleigh that that Thursday night game would be closer than it should.

State's 2 Man/Zone coverage should've allowed us to run all over them, but Hot Rod had only 8 carries and CJ Davidson 13 for 63 yards. Chad didn't want to run the ball, as we all know, and instead forced the passing game to get a WR to step up, but none did. We simply didn't get open downfield against the 2 deep, and Tajh would not take his checkdowns because he wanted the HR ball on every pass. If he had, we may have scored 60 in the first half. Cole Stoudt came in during the 2nd half and took those, and the offense ran like a fine-tuned machine and with good tempo.

Clemson's Defense crushed State from start to finish, especially the DLine. CBs were physical but mistakes from the deep help ruined the shutout. The only hiccups were on two big plays that allowed TDs. On the first, Blanks had M2M coverage on a slot receiver, and gave him a too much cushion, then gave the seam entirely. Smith took a bad angle and he went for the score thereafter. On the 2nd play, late in the game, Jerrodd Williams was playing CB in C2 Zone and let the #1 run right by him, and his FS help, Jadar Johnson, had an angle but decided not to hit the WR who went 51 yards up the sideline.

Clemson lost Charone Peake following the game to a ligament tear in Practice.

Clemson 26 - NC State 14 - Game Film Review - Stats

NC State usually plays well on these Thursday night home games, and though the pitwolfies had almost no depth and much poorer talent than Clemson, we knew they would make a game of it for at least some time. We figured Clemson would pull away late and blow them out, but if a sideline call goes the other way, swinging the momentum to their side at home in a 13-7 game, it could've turned out differently.

The main storyline of this one for us is that Clemson's offense played like complete dogshit for most of the game, and NC State didn't play worth a damn either. It was like watching a cripple fight. CU couldnt score, and every time NCSU did something right, they shot off a toe.

Apparently the OL didn't get enough of Chad's foot in their asses after SC State, and continued their pitiful play. The 2 guys playing RT were clueless and between bad blocks and missed assignments they let State into the backfield all night long. As we all know, this causes Tajh to get happy feet and become jittery. He doesnt take the checkdowns when he gets this way, and it causes the offense to sputter. State's defense played pretty hard though, and limited Sammy's explosiveness with good tackling. Bryant could've taken advantage but still didn't want to block and preferred to take half his plays off. The blocking at the TE position took a noticeable drop in this game as well.

The offense gradually got it together, after moving Brandon Thomas over to RT and sealing up the gaps in the protection for Boyd. We were able to run the ball reasonably well, though not enough of course, since both RBs averaged over 4.9ypc. Towards the end of the game it was apparent that we had outmatched and worn out the Wolfpack, and there was no fire left in them.

This possibly could've come as a result of the backbreaking swing in the 3rd quarter. With Clemson up 13-7, Brian Underwood took a Jet Read Sweep up the sideline for a 83yd TD run, but it was ruled that he went out at the 47. Sideline cameras showed his foot right on the edge of the white, but the play was blown dead making it unreviewable.

On the very next drive, Clemson took it from the 48 yd line following a sack/fumble recovery by Vic Beasley and Shuey, and Boyd found Bryant in the endzone to make it 20-7. It killed NCSU, and by the 4th quarter, they had given up.

The worst drive, probably for the whole season, for the defense was a 23 play, 84 yard drive in the 4th that churned up 7+ minutes of clock that allowed State to make it 26-14. We clearly let up in our intensity on the field, with starters still in there, and the tackling and pass rush discipline that later won us the Ohio State game took a nose dive.

Even if it went into the 4th quarter with State leading 14-13, I do not believe they win this game. Clemson's DL was eating the Wolfpack OL for dinner, and it was a bloody dinner at that. If Clemson's defense had not went to sleep at the end of the game, it would've finished at 26-7.

But I think this game put the fear of God into the fans, and made everyone realize that this team had big holes at RT and Safety. Teams with holes rarely win national titles.

Clemson 56 - Wake Forest 7 - Game Film Review - Stats

There is little arguing this one...Clemson completely dominated the Demon Deacons. Sans Nikita Whitlock and Michael Campanaro, there were no players from Winston-Salem who were on the same level as their counterparts. Tajh Boyd again had a very solid outing that included two touchdown passes and one rushing. Equally impressive were his other stats: 17/24 for 311 yards passing and 17 carries for 69 yards. This was very encouraging considering his relative struggles the previous two games. Sammy had his usual: 6 catches for 113 yards and one TD. Clemson was able to build a 35-7 lead heading into the locker room and never looked back.

The Clemson offense got into a rhythm early and didn't let up until the game was clearly out of reach. The Tigers were able to start off quickly. This quick success calmed the offensive and kept Boyd from pressing / pressuring himself. The result was Boyd crossing the 100 touchdown mark for his career. D.J. Howard and Adam Humphries were able to help their quarterback out with seven catches for over 150 yards through the air on the day. This was the output we'd hoped to see out of the offense and the confidence-builder that would get this group back in the groove.

The Clemson defense limited Wake to seven points and 222 total yards. While Wake QB Tanner Price was pulled early, the Clemson defense was impressive, particularly up front. Price was under pressure almost every snap as the Tigers were able to force sacks via combination of pressure and Price holding the ball a touch too long. All in all, though, it appeared as though Wake gave up or, at a minimal, played with much less enthusiasm than we've seen out of Grobe-coached teams in the past. The decision for JG to retire at the end of the year makes us think that maybe the tank was empty for everyone within this program.

We were also pleased to see a lot of players rotated into the game after a complete 2.5 quarters or so from the starters. Getting quality play from your starters and gaining experience for some of the youngsters and backups is always a good thing-particularly when these things happen in conference games. You never know when something will come up on down the road and at least you have guys with some battle experience to play.

We were a bit disappointed that the secondary wasn't challenged a bit more. Obviously this group had its issues over the course of the year and thought that the group needed some serious in-game competition to gain valuable experience. We were also soured by the dominance of Whitlock. There is no doubt he is a fantastic NG, but Clemson's Centers historically struggle when shaded. Covering the center with a talented lineman again gave our Tigers trouble.

Clemson 49 - Syracuse 14 - Game Film Review - Stats

Clemson followed the drubbing of Wake by whipping Syracuse in their first conference game as a member of the ACC. This was Clemson's first trip to the Carrier Dome and the result mirrored what we all expected as the Tigers rolled to a 49-14 victory despite the raging inferno of heat and humidity inside the Dome that some crazy ass people up North thought would rattle the Tigers. Tajh again had a nice outing--455 yards on 20/27 passing with 5 TDs-- but 2 INTs. The Syracuse secondary was completely scared that Sammy would kill them. This didn't stop Watkins from hauling in a 91 yard TD pass en route to a 4 catch, 126 yard outing. Adam Humphries had a big outing that included a 60 yard TD reception early and 118 total receiving yards on the afternoon, thanks to them being so scared shitless of Sammy. Martavis Bryant contributed with 79 receiving yards and Seckinger hauled in four passes for 48 yards.

Fucuse_medium_medium_medium

Clemson had 156 yards on the ground. This production was shared by 40+ yards by Hod Rod, C.J. Davidson, and Zac Brooks. Brooks and Davidson also accounted for a rushing touchdown each. While under 160 yards rushing is nothing to get all jacked up about, it was nice to see a game in which Clemson didn't need to rely on Tajh running the football. It would've been nicer if we'd taken the 2nd half opportunity to pound the rock with the lead.

The offense had a dominating outing other than a tipped Boyd interception and a poorly thrown ball that was picked. We all knew that this Syracuse defense, particularly their secondary, was hot garbage. They proved that against a very talented Clemson receiving corps. Humphries nailed them for a couple big ones, Sammy got his 90+ yard reception, and Bryant schooled their DBs as well. They did not have the talent to keep multiple good receivers at bay and Clemson really made them pay.

We noticed some issues up front with OL footwork. I mentioned the meek 156 yards on the ground and this played a piece in that pie. Syracuse stood our OLine up straight. These numbers also could reflect the fact that the staff was comfortable that this one would be over quickly and was working on a few things in preparation for Florida State. An item that was confirmed was the issue Clemson has at the TE spot. This is a flat out liability anytime a tight end needs to even think about blocking somebody. We pointed out this deficiency all year and it was apparent with Seckenger's play up in the Dome. This has to be fixed because Clemson needs to have the versatility that a big target who can also throw a block provides this offensive attack. You'll notice that the TE is becoming more and more important at all levels of the game and Clemson is no different.

The overall defense was clearly better than Syracuse. There was a lull there where we looked mentally out of the football game. Fortunately, they only dinged us big once when the game was still mildly close. Clemson did struggle at times with basic concepts including proper gap control. The first ‘Cuse TD was off a basic inside zone carry. We were out of position up front and got no safety support. The end result was another long scamper against this defense. The 2nd was more of the same, an IZ where Smith was way out of position and the LBs got blocked out. Again, we would have liked to see a little more of a challenge given to this group-particularly the secondary-in advance of FSU coming to Clemson a few weeks later.

Reserve OLman Patrick Destefano gave up football in the week following.

Clemson 24 - Boston College 14 - Game Film Review - Stats

After looking so good in the 1st half of the Syracuse game, Clemson's offense continued their impersonation of the 2010 vintage at home against BC, who actually led the game 7-3 at halftime. For most of the game, we could not get out of our own way offensively, with the primary culprit being OL/TE blocking. We simply appeared unfocused and unprepared with no enthusiasm for playing this game. In retrospect, its almost like you could see them tightening up in preparation for Florida State.

BC's Heisman finalist, RB Andre Williams, was completely held in check all day long by the Clemson front 7. BC basically only ran two plays - Counter Trey and Power O - and Clemson put on a relative clinic at run fitting all day long. Williams finished with 24 carries for 70 yards, a 2.9 ypc average. We did give some of the blame for BC's performance on their uninventive playcalling and the system they brought in that day. In addition to the two run plays they brought in a bootleg PA pass off that, and that was about it from their playbook. Any defense will eventually stop that if its all you brought to the fight.

The only two scores resulted from big plays where our Safeties missed a tackle. On the first, a Draw play went right by Kearse up the middle, who took a horrid angle on the RB. On the 2nd, Alex Amidon was lined up tight to the LOS and got a free release up the seam, cut one step on a post route and ran by Kearse again.

We also give some credit to BC Defensive Coordinator Dan Brown. He inherited a well-coached defense and he's raised their level from last season. He had a good gameplan today and caught us with a bunch of well-executed pressures. His secondary is well coached enough to not get caught by their blitzes time and again, and their DL played as well as BC usually plays against us. They got pressure with a 3-man front, which they've done repeatedly over the years because our guys rarely match their physicality. #Batson'd

Overall the perception of Clemson's offense was that we were very vanilla and too predictable. You know we are going to run QB Power on any short yardage play. You know we're going to throw easy WR screens. Tajh took the easy ones and then wanted his HR ball, missing the intermediate range throws BC was leaving open due to their copious blitzing. If he doesn't have time to hit the deep one it discombobulates everything. You take what the D is giving and they'll give you the game.

# 5 Florida State 51 - # 3 Clemson 14 - Stats

In one of the most hyped matchups to ever occur in Death Valley, the Tigers came out and pissed down their leg from the opening offensive snap, and put up their worst performance of the season. Clemson lost the division, the ACC title, and the national title all in the same night with mistake after mistake. This was Clemson's midterm exam, and they flunked it.

Clemson's formidable DL was pushed around most of the night. We exhibited poor technique on the edges, and the interior linemen didn't penetrate any gaps. If the linemen can't do their jobs, the back 7 has little chance of doing theirs, and the weakness at safety was exposed continually against probably the best WR group in the nation in 2013.

Clemson's offense did stand a good chance in this one, FSU's defense is not unbeatable, but when your QB plays one of his worst games of his career, there is not much that two potential 1st round WRs can do. Performances like this highlight his real shortcomings as a signal-caller. Tajh senses pressure when there is none. He is eager to pull it and run instead of stepping up to throw. He does not take his checkdown or proceed through his reads. He gets jittery, happy feet, and when he presses too much he turns the ball over stupidly. Not to discount the good things he has done here, but if you need to see what the NFL scouts harp about, unfairly or not, you need only throw in tape of this game.

It also doesn't help when the Coordinator prefers to throw 50x once the team is down a score or two, instead of going with a running game that did have success.

Games like this should never happen at home to anyone, no matter how much talent they carry on the roster. Florida State finished unbeaten with the national championship and a Heisman QB, and they deserved the win and are the better team, but there is no excuse for the lack of focus and intensity we saw on display. This was an unacceptable exhibition of football and the blame is equally spread around the entire team, not one coach, and not one player.

Clemson 40 - Maryland 27 - Game Film Review - Stats

This football game was a bit frustrating to watch. Clemson was not mentally prepared for this one. I was hoping we'd send Maryland out with an embarrassing loss considering how many injuries they had entering this football game. Instead the Tigers were able to make the score look better than it actually was most of the afternoon. Clemson let this team hang around and hang around until finally pulling away in the 4th quarter. Despite giving up 27 points, the defense really saved the afternoon after two consecutive fumbles deep in Clemson territory resulted in just a pair of converted UMd field goals early in the second half. The offense poured on the points early in the 4th quarter. This effectively rendered the Terps final two touchdowns (the last coming with 14 seconds remaining in the contest) essentially scoreboard candy for the home team.

The offense was able to move pretty freely when it was not fumbling the football. The Chad fed Hot Rod and McDowell delivered to the tune of 30 carries for 161 yards and 2 TDs. This isn't necessarily indicative of a well blocked game up front, however. Rod made a lot of those yards on his own and cutting away from the designed hole location. Again we had issues running A-gap to A-gap. I am not sure that we'll ever completely get that concept installed before The Chad takes off for a head coaching gig. Regardless of the journey, the end result was a very nice football game from McDowell. Per routine, Sammy got his (14 receptions, 163 yards). Bryant had a solid line gaining 88 yards on 4 receptions and Humphries chipped in with 5 grabs. Tajh had a good afternoon. He passed for over 300 yards and added another touchdown to his passing stats. His lone interception was a miscommunication between him and the receiver.

Maryland's first points of the game came from - you guessed it - a bad play by Travis Blanks. He backpedaled against a post route, took a bad angle, and slipped, allowing a 75 yard score. Their second TD of the day was - you guessed it - a long pass beating Travis Blanks.

The complaints about the offense stem from the turnovers. The interception occurred just as Clemson was gaining big momentum and about to put the game away. The two fumbles opened the second half and could have been a huge momentum changer. Fortunately for our Tigers, the defense was able to drag the offense out of the fire. The Terps were limited to a mere six points thanks to a defense that bowed up and essentially refused to give up one week after the FSU loss. The Clemson defense forced an interception on the goal line early in the game then was able to come up with a fumble to jumpstart the final scoring avalanche in the fourth quarter.

All in all, it was very encouraging for the defense to step up and assure a post-FSU slide did not occur. The defense was able to mitigate offensive shortcomings and create opportunities for the offense via turnover creation. This kept Clemson from falling behind and kept the offense--The Chad via playcalling and Tajh via the position--from pressing and digging themselves into a deeper hole.

Clemson 59 - Virginia 10 - Game Film Review - Stats

Clemson's trip up to Charlottesville was, well, what we'd always like to see when the Tigers play the White Meat, a thorough stomping. Clemson was a bit sluggish until halfway through the second quarter then the magic started. The Tigers were able to overcome a scant 14-7 lead deep into the second quarter and pour on four consecutive touchdowns to put the game away four minutes into the second half. Tajh's numbers were again impressive: 24/29 for 377 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception. Still, Tajh had room for improvement particularly on three passes that were forced into coverage.

Clemson's offensive firepower was way too much for the Cavaliers to overcome. Sammy caught 8 for 169 and 2 TDs and Bryant added 5 grabs for 72 yards. The list of players with receptions, carries, and passes was impressive as this was a good game for some other folks to gain experience and playing time. I was happy again to see the reserves get in as you never know when this experience may pay off in the future. I'll also give Hot Rod props for 12 carries / 70 yards on the night.

The defense was able to limit the Virginia attack all day. UVa was concerned about the Clemson pass rush and employed many tactics to mitigate the Clemson defensive front. I would have loved to see a little more pressure on the Wahoo quarterbacks but I cannot complain too much about the results. Clemson was able to press a bit more on the perimeter and force UVa mistakes. Virginia was, as a team, 19/46 for 163 yards and 2 interceptions on the afternoon. While most will argue that they got away from the running game a bit too early, these are impressive statistics for a conference game (even considering the opponent).

This game kept Clemson rolling and gave the Tigers momentum and more confidence heading into the Georgia Tech game. It was typical of many ACC games in the Tigers weren't challenged down the stretch and were able to rest a lot of starters for the final quarter or so of the football game.

Clemson 55 - Georgia Tech 31 - Game Film Review - Stats

Clemson finally did what we've been preaching: stop the dive and hammer the QB on every play. You cannot read the option, you have to attack it. We tried to read it on the perimeter last year, giving up big plays and keeping them in the game, but this year we attacked it. We were as aggressive as we've ever been with them and it paid with a ton of negative plays and forced them to double their number of average punts. However, it was essentially the same scheme Venables used last year, with the exception of a few more B-gap blitzes from the LBs.

GT's OL got their ass kicked from the start. They couldn't block our DTs, and then tried to cut block them, which didn't work either because they were too slow doing it. It doesn't surprise me that they've gotten worse because they have a former Batsonite as their S&C director, John Sisk. They got him from Furman. Paul Johnson has been Batson'd too.

Most of GT's scoring came late in the 3rd, when we noticeably let up in intensity up front. The first big play was a little toss to Godhigh up the seam that went right by Travis Blanks for a 65 yard score to make it 27-17, and Tech tacked on several more scores when we looked like we had stopped caring. Its a shame, because GT should've been held under 17 points and below 200 yards rushing with this defensive performance.

The Tiger offense was running on all cylinders for most of this game. After sputtering in the 1st Q, we carved Tech up like a Thanksgiving turkey through the 4th. Big play after big play to Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant lit the scoreboard up in a hurry. We lamented the lack of effort on improving the run game, but at this point we'd decided that Chad really didn't want to run the ball with McDowell (11-60), and that it was just lip service.

The scariest moment of the game was when Tajh Boyd took a jarring hit and slammed his shoulder into the turf in the 3rd quarter. It appeared that he had broken his collarbone as he walked off the field with a limp arm, but X-rays turned out negative and he even begged to go back into the game.

Clemson 52 - Citadel 6 - Stats

This was the kind of game we should've seen against SC State earlier in the season. Div 1-AA teams shouldn't even be able to slow down our passing game. Citadel definitely didn't. Clemson didn't score on their first possession but torched Citadel thereafter to get their 10th victory of the season. Tajh Boyd completed 6 TD passes and averaged 10.3 ypc on his completions.

Chad Morris even let Hot Rod carry the ball, finishing with 21 carries for 108, though again the OL didn't blow Citadel away by any stretch of the imagination, and we didnt work on the running game as much as we should have against such an opponent.

Clemson's defense looked uninspired for much of the first quarter but completely shut the option down again until the last couple drives of the game. At the time it appeared that the DL was taking it on the chin with the load option but Venables jumped down their throats and it was fixed. QB keepers and a few big runs netted them all the yards they would get. Citadel finished with -4 yards passing.

Clemson suffered two major casualties in the game, losing Zac Brooks and Travis Blanks for the rest of the year.

#10 Sakerlina 31 - Clemson 17 - Stats

Clemson entered this game on a roll and looking to cap the regular season with the 11th win. Following a loss to eventual National Champion Florida State, the Tigers were able to roll through the remainder of the season without a blemish and a win over SC would have cemented this season as a very successful one. Unfortunately, Clemson could not overcome silly mistakes and superior USC coaching/in-game adjustments and dropped the fifth consecutive contest in the series to the team from Columbia.

Clemson started the game out well and moved the ball easily against the South Carolina defense. The Tigers drove down to the SCar 30 yard line where, inexplicably, a wide receiver pass was called. Sammy Watkins' throw was off and intercepted. Why in the world Clemson chose to get all cute early and when the offense was rolling is simply beyond me. This was mistake #1 and cost the Tigers points early in the contest. If the offense is working on the road, let the offense run.

South Carolina took the ball following the interception and drove 80 yards for a touchdown. Clemson immediately responded on a TD of its own the following drive. This drive was highlighted by a long Watkins reception and a Boyd scamper to the endzone. South Carolina was able to fight back on a drive that ended with a Conner Shaw touchdown pass to Shaq Roland. After a Clemson punt, Carolina moved the football well and was able to put three more points on the board. Halfway through the second quarter, Carolina 17 - Clemson 7. South Carolina had three possessions by this point in the game, moved the ball well on each, and capitalized with points on each trip down the field. Following a Clemson punt on the next drive, I was extremely concerned that the game could get ugly quick, particularly if the Gamecocks added another score before half to leave Clemson down two scores. Fortunately, the defense stepped up to force a Carolina punt. Clemson then ate up 3+ minutes and ended the half with a field goal and down only a touchdown.

After a big kickoff return to open the half, Carolina started their half on offense in Clemson territory. The Tigers were able to thwart a 4th down attempt inside the Clemson 20 in a stop that could have significantly shifted game momentum. Clemson and Carolina then traded punts before the Tigers engaged in an impressive 15 play, 88 yard drive to tie the football game. Unfortunately, this was all of the scoring for Clemson on the night. Carolina scored to open the 4th quarter then Clemson fumbled away any chance for a comeback.

Carolina and Clemson both moved the football well at times this game. Clemson struggled mightily fielding / returning punts but could not hold onto the football. Brent Venables' defense stymied the Gamecocks throughout the middle of the football game but gave in late to the QB scramble. The Tiger defense kept Mike Davis in check and was successful where most weren't this season...bottling up the Gamecocks when they lined up in a power-oriented set and tried to run the football. Spurrier tried a variety of formations and offensive looks throughout the game and finally hit on one that worked late. The Gamecocks spread the field out of the gun and were able to run with the quarterback in the middle of the field. Spurrier took advantage of the robber strategy through formation and Clemson simply did not adjust. Once a RB comes across the middle the Robber must take him, and the Robber is the spy. At this point there is no one left to take the QB. RB goes left and the QB runs right. We even let ourself get outfoxed by formation, inexplicably leaving the MOF wide open with no Robber sometimes. Venables even tried Beasley at one point, and he looked totally lost. The backbreaker came from a Carolina Wildcat look that turned into a TD off of a surprise pass. I don't believe Carolina threw the ball from this look all year and they were able to use this wrinkle to cap the game. Clemson definitely had its chances to change this outcome but lost via turnovers and getting outflanked by Carolina's offensive playcalling.

Orange Bowl: Clemson 40 - # 7 Ohio State 35 - Game Film Review - Stats

Its difficult to summarize this game. Ohio State and Clemson both had top offenses coming in, and we knew it would be high-scoring. We didn't know that Ohio State's defense would let us run all over them. We didn't know the refs would keep Ohio State in the game so long. We both really felt that Clemson controlled most of the game, but the scoreboard does not show it, and the outcome would've easily gone the other way due to turnovers and bullshit penalties. While it was not a perfect performance at all, we can all agree on is that it was a big win in a BCS game on national TV, in south Florida, and that helps Clemson no matter how you look at it.

Clemson took the ball on the first two drives and scored TDs on each, but mistakes allowed OSU to keep it at 14-9 after Tajh threw the ball away in the endzone to empty grass. After that safety, Clemson's defense really bowed up and shut OSU down until the end of the 1st half. With Clemson up 20-9, the starting FS Jayron Kearse took the wrong man and allowed a long score to make it 20-15. On the next drive, Kearse came down to cover flat when he had 2-deep, and allowed another long pass to set up a Braxton Miller keeper that put OSU up 22-20 at halftime. Clemson really should've led the game by 2 TDs.

After Ohio State got Carlos Hyde going to make it 29-20, I thought we might pack it in. We've seen the wheels come off this thing before when Dabo's teams get down. Thankfully, Ohio State Clemsoned the ball back on a muffed punt immediately after forcing us to go 3&out, and then the offense lit their asses up. They were in control of this game in the 3rd quarter until that punt. Clemson scored, picked off a pass, and scored again to flip the game around 34-29.

Our safety play bit us again though, and Kearse forgot to pick up Hyde on a wheel route to make the game 35-34 OSU. Clemson wasn't going to roll over though, and put together a 13 play 75 yard drive to go up 40-35, and an interception by Stephone Anthony saved the game at the end after Tajh Boyd threw a pass that Chad Morris explicitly told him not to throw, right at an OSU player, when we were trying to run clock.

10 players on our defense played a really good game. They looked well coached. They kept their leverage really well, and the edges were fairly well controlled by the Ends and LBs. It was the 1 player who played like dogshit that really cost us. As I've said all season, if you could just fix our Safety position this is easily a Top 10-15 defense.

Clemson's DL held up really well against a very good OSU OL. The DTs kept the form of the pocket so Miller didn't have run lanes up the middle. Only when Miller cut right or left did they break that. The DEs were coached, as I had hoped for coming in, to not run beyond Miller's depth in his drop. This kept him from getting huge run lanes to either side. He would've been able to kill us if we didn't do this properly. The side effect of this style of play is that the DEs are looking in the backfield and are able to bat passes down. If they had been rushing normally you wouldn't have seen so many tipped passes.

Summarizing Thoughts

Before the season, we asked for the reasonable expectation of what the fans expected for the 2013 season, and pretty much everyone agreed that 10 wins and the ACC title was the expectation. Our standard for success is to win 10, win the ACC, and beat SC. Clemson finished with 11 and didn't win the division and didn't beat SC for the 5th year in a row. Clemson accomplished only 1 of the 3 goals, and beat 2 of the 4 good opponents we faced.

We did expect Clemson to win the ACC this year. We didn't think FSU would be this good this season, and expected them to wake up next season while we took a step back due to losses. Our opinion of that game is above and we don't want to go through it again.

Clemson should've beaten SC. There is no acceptable excuse for that loss, nor is there any acceptable excuse for 5 straight. We don't care how talented SC's roster is, we have talent too, and losing is unacceptable. As in 2012, we would have no problem calling this season a success if not for this game.

However we couldn't call it an outright failure either, with 11 wins and an Orange Bowl, it can't be a failure. We really improved on defense, and hit the goal of Top 25 in total defense. We registered a good bowl win, and didn't have a WTF game against a shit team like Wake Forest that we've usually had happen. We didn't "pull a Clemson" this year, and that goes a little ways to removing that stigma and improving our national image. We just have to continue doing so.

Its just that given the expectations and talent on this roster, we'd have to call it a disappointment. Dabo Swinney said this team was a national title contender, and we didn't hit that standard at all.

-----

We also speculated on what the final statistical numbers should be, again given the ACC schedule and the talent we had coming back. Our biggest question marks on offense were the OL and RB.

I am hoping we raise the rushing rank with a more powerful inside running game, but I'm not sure the backs on the roster are going to get there this year. Much of the 191.5ypg was on Boyd's back, which we know cannot continue to be the case. If this offense can improve anywhere its with a punishing run game, and the coordinator cannot abandon the run when its working when we're behind. Realistically, I think a goal of Top 10 nationally in Total Offense and Scoring Offense are attainable, unless we lose Boyd to injury.
2009-2013 Offensive Statistics
Category 2009 2009 Rank 2010 2010 Rank 2011 2011 Rank 2012 2012 Rank 2013 2013 Rank
Rushing Offense 170.36 40th 139.0 79th 155.85 60th 191.5 36 174.6 56
Passing Offense 192.0 88th 195.62 78th 284.77 21th 321.2 13 333.1 9
Pass Efficiency 127.09 67th 115.3 100 142.32 36th 163.0 4 164.18 8
Total Offense 362.36 74th 334.62 88 440.62 27th 512.7 9 507.7 10
Scoring Offense 31.14 28th 24.0 86 33.62 24th 41.0 6 40.2 8
Sacks Allowed 1.36pg 31 1.38pg 26 2.31pg 86th 2.38pg 85 2.69 102
Overall turnover margin .43 28 -.23 69 .15 T-45th .15 T-50th 0.5 T-29th
Offensive FEI Rank 32 56th 22nd 13 26

Advanced Offensive 2012-2013
2012 2013
Offensive FEI Rank 13 26
Offensive Eff 13 23
First Down Rate 35 41
Available Yards 16 24
Explosive Drives 27 18
Methodical Drives 32 71
S&P Rank 5 12
Pass 2 10
Rush 26 31
Drive Efficiency 7 12
Offensive F/+ 7 19

Clemson finished with 6.36 Ypp and averaged 79.7 plays per game, well short of the goal of 90 that Morris set.

However, we did hit my mark of Top 10 in scoring and total offense, but we were well below the hopes in the running game, and we know now that it was the lack of running game that probably kept this team from being ranked any higher. The advanced statistics are really showing how much the lack of a run game hurt the offensive consistency this season. Despite Chad Morris' insistence on having a punishing run game, he does not call the run plays even when the offense has success running the football, as evidenced by Rod McDowell's YPC this season. In many games he didn't even get 15 carries. When he did get 20+, he ran very well. Why won't Chad just stick with the run when its working? If he had, I think this offense finishes well above 56th in rushing yardage in 2013.

I do want to see less hits on the QB. There need to be fewer called Keepers. The number of sacks allowed must improve. I know that nearly half of the sacks the OL allowed were in 3 football games in 2012, so it should improve, but the worries that allowed them last year are still here. Gifford Timothy is not a great RT; he just moves his feet too slow. Clemson had trouble picking up twists and defensive stunts, along with blitzes up the B-gaps. We blocked with 5 in situations where we obviously should not have (Auburn, FSU, LSU and SC being prime examples). Also, considerable blame can go to Tajh Boyd in this area, as he often walked into a sack or failed to recognize a blitz to help his offensive line out.

Well not much really changed there. A few less called QB runs were a necessity to keep Boyd healthy, but he got hit plenty, as evidenced by the 102nd ranked sacks allowed. To be fair to the OL, Tajh sucks at checking protections off on blitzes, and he occasionally runs right into a pass rusher (like Clowney), so not all the blame goes to Caldwell and this line.

Tajh Boyd finished with nearly 3900 yards and a 67% completion rate, 321 ypg, but with 13 INTs. We review the film each week, and I'd put a number of those picks on receivers and not Boyd, but it needs to be cut in half. I'm hoping Tajh cracks 4000 yards in 2013, but if he just holds where he is and the offense remains near the ranks of 2012, we're going to be just fine.

Boyd finished 2013 with 3850 yards and a 68% completion rate, 34 TDs and 11 INTS. Again, I can think of a few where he threw to a receiver who wasn't where he was supposed to be, so those go on the WRs. FSU, SC, and OSU each picked off 2 passes.

We doubt the offense looks this good in 2014 due to graduation/NFL losses, but we'll revise expectations come August.

Defense

2009-2013 Defensive Statistics
Category 2009 Ntl Rank 2010 Ntl rank 2011 Ntl Rank 2012 Ntl Rank 2013 Ntl Rank
Rushing Defense 151.50 67th 128.46 28th 176.86 83 156.0 58 155.7 52
Pass Defense 162.79 7th 191.85 22nd 217.5 50 240 73 201.0 16
Pass Efficiency Defense 110.88 21st 116.24 27th 133.47 74 131.2 62 114.20 19
Scoring Defense 20.43ppg 25th 18.77 13th 29.29 81 25 46 22.2 T-24
Total Defense 314 20th 320.31 19th 394.36 71 396 64 356.7 25
Sacks/Gm 2.57 27th 2.38 32nd 1.85 76 2.6 22 2.92 T-13
Sacks 36 13th 31 T-28th 24 76 34 T-12 38 T-12
Tackles for Loss 7.29pg 12th 7.38pg 10th 5.07pg 86 6.7 29 9.5 1
Interceptions 21 5th 15 34th 14 31 13 T-43 18 T-13
Defensive FEI 16 15 50 55 17

And now the advanced statistical measures, just for Brent Venables' tenure as DC.

Advanced Defensive Stats under Brent Venables
Statistic 2012 2013
Defensive FEI Rank 55 17
Defensive Eff (unadjusted) Rank 54 20
First Down Rate 50 1
Available Yards 46 7
Explosive Drives 91 48
Methodical Drives 14 14
S&P+ Rank 34 12
Pass 95 17
Rushing 55 12
Drive Efficiency 25 13
Defensive F/+ 51 13

We believe Clemson should field a Top 20 defense every year. This is based on the talent level we have there relative to the rest of the conference, and that the conference has only a few well-coordinated offenses. The 2012 defense was the worst defense I've seen Clemson field in my lifetime, worse than Herring's last team, but their improvement over the 2nd half of that season really hides how pitifully awful they were to start it. Somehow they managed to be surprisingly good on 3rd downs despite being bad in everything else except TFL/Sacks. We said this last August:

We expected the defense to finish (2012) within the Top 40, and take a TD off the scoring value from '11. I don't care what offense we run, these expectations are not going to change. We hit neither mark, in a conference without potent offenses. I'm not sure what to expect with them this year either. A coordinator's second year often shows the best improvement, so if we're bad again, I'm not going to stay on board with the Venables experiment.

The most encouraging figure in 2012 was the rush defense improvement. After FSU showed how lost we were in the front 7, we did start to focus and improve. The DTs stepped up their game starting at Boston College and got better in every game thereafter. 58th isn't good, but we were on pace for 100th+ after FSU. If Venables thinks his front 7 will carry this defense in 2013, then they need to be at the 2010 level. Top 30 is attainable if the talent at LB plays at the level they should.

So considering the problems we had from '11 to '12, I revised the hopes from Top 30 to 40th or better. Well they did make Top 30, finishing at 25th. The concerns at CB and DE didn't materialize. It was the FS/SS positions that likely kept this defense from being Top 15 in scoring and total defense. This is why we noted above in the recaps how big plays beyond the Safety positions cost us all season. Look at the points allowed due to big plays and take half of them away, what do you find?

In 2014 we'll have new problems, but the expectation for a tough defense will remain.

We have decided to do the Special Teams review separately in Pearman's review.

We're interested in hearing how you feel about the 2013 season in a few words, content? Satisfied? Happy? Disappointed?

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