Clemson looked like garbage for most of the afternoon yesterday, which was very disappointing considering this team was coming off of a bye week. Clemson looked bad in all three phases of the football game. Yes I am pleased to win the division and have the opportunity to attain 10 wins next week. However, if we don't improve, we won't win in Columbia and definitely won't win in Charlotte.
Offense: The core statistics look much more impressive than the actual gameplay yesterday. 522 total yards is a nice number but three turnovers is not. Fortunately this offense was able to capitalize late in the game to keep Clemson's ACC Championship dreams alive.
Tajh Boyd looked terrible for a large portion of yesterday's game-there is no way to avoid that statement. Boyd telegraphed passes and made poor reads all afternoon. Clemson was fortunate that the Wake defenders dropped a handful of these poorly thrown footballs. Chad Morris did do a nice job getting Boyd to focus more on screens, safe throws, and use of the tight end as the game came to a close. He realized that Tajh was forcing things and needed to calm down and make fewer poor decisions. These adjustments probably won CU the football game.
Our offensive line play was crap and we could not get a bit of push against a much smaller WF front. I was particularly disappointed that we could not get the yardage needed on the 4th and short QB sneak in addition to our continued struggle to move people via run blocking. I will say that Jaron Brown's play this season is vastly improved over a year ago. Brown did a much better job all season making catches that he might have dropped a year ago. Brandon Ford and Dwayne Allen both had nice games yesterday and provided Boyd with dependable targets. It is nice for a QB to know his TE vs LB matchup severely favors the offense.
The turnovers were nearly devastating as they (A) killed our drives and (B) gave Wake the football in excellent position to score. The third quarter fumble and interception were a big part of WF's 21 point third quarter effort. The offense simply cannot give the ball away and put our defense in tough situations like these.
Defense: I liked the press coverage we went to in the second half. I did not like the fact that our DBs allowed their receivers to get free releases out of this tighter coverage. I suspect we don't practice this much and the coaches and/or players are not comfortable and confident that our corners can properly jam a receiver at the LOS. I expected it to take some time for Steele to properly train his linebackers but my patience here is running thin. We should be much better at this position than we currently are, period. Tackling again is an issue. This problem can only be solved through physical practices and repetition in practice. This team absolutely has to improve on the defensive side of the ball and this improvement must come through practice techniques and repetitions. Our postseason coaching critiques will likely be much more critical for our defensive staff members than they have in past years as Clemson looks worse now/against Ga Tech than it did at the beginning of the season. Regression over the course of the season will not cut in, nor will the fundamental shortcomings we see out of our defense.
Special Teams: Again, we have issues on the kick teams. Clemson's kick and punt coverage leaves a lot to be desired. We don't do a good job running our lanes and got burned badly on the third quarter punt return for a touchdown. There is no excuse for allowing this score. Placekicking still give me ulcers. Yes Catman drilled the game winner but he also missed a near gimmie from 30 yards out earlier in the game. We were fortunate that Wake's field goal kicker could not convert all afternoon.
Long and short, we are very, very fortunate to emerge from the game with a win. We saw a game with a lot of flaws that our Tigers were able to pull out. You have to give credit to this team and this staff for never giving up, playing hard, and maintaining a winning attitude throughout-even when down two touchdowns late in the third quarter.
We'll be interested in Sammy Watkins' recovery following a shoulder injury on a kick return. Initial reports indicate the injury is not too serious and Swinney stated Sammy will be sore for a couple days but should be football ready by this week's end. I would be very careful if I were Swinney, Morris, and Scott in allocating playing time for our stud freshman receiver. We need him at 100% when we head down to Williams-Brice then to Charlotte the following week.
Outside of Tigertown, we saw some significant upsets. I was very happy to see TCU beat Boise and remove them from national championship consideration. Stanford was also exposed by Oregon's high powered offense. These upsets keep my hopes alive that we will see a LSU/Bama rematch for the National Championship. Georgia also hammered Auburn, so that does lessen our big win over the Tigers earlier this season. I am pretty excited about Georgia getting steamrolled in the SECCG a couple weeks from now.
One final note, congrats to Mason Cloy on his public engagement yesterday.