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Defensive Review: Clemson vs. South Carolina

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I saved the readers of STS some holiday reading while you're off work. Enjoy an in-depth re-visitation of our victory over South Carolina. My Christmas gift to you is a defensive review.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

This is long and I encourage you to read this installments.  I'm also making a conscious effort to keep it as understandable as possible for the casual fan. However, if you want to learn, you still have to try even if it's only a play or two a week that you fully digest. I'll use pictures for the pivotal plays if you want to skip to those. If you rewatch the game at some point, or even parts of it, this can be used as a companion piece.  As usual, I will start with an off-the-subject prologue and then get to the defensive review.

The long South Carolina nightmare is over.

I want to start off by commending the coaching staff where they deserve it most this year....talent evaluation, recruiting, and player development.  As we saw against FSU earlier in the year, we unexpectedly had the horses to compete with just about everybody in the country when we have Watson in the game.  We had multiple stars emerge at every level of offensive and defensive position groups.  Yes, the OL player development was largely the same failure it has been for most of the past 15 years,  however, we had true Freshmen (Watson, Choice, Scott) and first time starters (Williams, Gallman, Steward, Wiggins, Goodson, Peters, Alexander, and Kearse) step in prepared and effective.  The staff turned a lot of question marks coming in to the season into advantages.

When you look at Clemson and South Carolina this year, player development is pretty much the difference. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Clemson and supposed to be a Tier 1 bowl game type of year for South Carolina.  SC, not Clemson, was given the credit by pundits for being able to recruit, develop, and reload players that would perform at a high level. Most pundits believed that replacements would step right in for Clowney, Quarles, Hampton, Sutton, and LeGree.  That didn't happen.

Clemson was tasked with replacing the same type of talent on the offensive side of the ball with seemingly insurmountable losses in S.Watkins, T.Boyd, M.Bryant, B.Thomas, R.McDowell, and T.Shatley.  To the pundits surprise this time, Clemson was the better developer of talent and SC is the national underachiever (USuCking?).

Personally, this was a dream game for me because Clemson dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and physically whipped a team that had physically whipped us in the past. Damn, that was great to watch.  Our young skill players benefitted greatly from the best performance of the year by the OL.   So, etch this game into your memory because that's what this offense, and Clemson football for that matter, is supposed to look like if we are going to take the next step as a program.

Now, as we close the book on the 2014 regular season you can't help but think, "What might have been?"  Had we not committed one of the "7 Deadly Sins" against FSU and if Watson was not injured against GT, we may have played Duke for a chance to go to the College Football Playoff.  This is the latest and best sign to date that this program under Swinney may have the wherewithal to ascend upward to elite status in the next few years.

Then, in the week after the game, we take the hit we all knew was coming.  Chad Morris departed for a head coaching gig at SMU.  Jeff Scott and Tony Elliot have been named Co-OCs and Dabo has called it, "the easiest decision I've ever made."    So far, no recruit has jumped ship and we are still set to bring in perhaps the best OL class we've ever had here.  However, my old line from the Bowden days still rings true, "You cannot out-recruit incompetent coaching." Therefore, it is important that Scott and Elliot have been the same kind of students under Morris that Mike Norvell was at Tulsa.

Will we take a step back, have growing pains, or lose games because of rookie leadership on offense?  It's a strong possibility.  We'll have to wait and see and the only reason I even bring it up is because of what happened with Dabo and the last OC he promoted from within, Billy Napier.  I'm of the same opinion I was in 2010 that the new Co-OCs should be able to coach without Dabo looking over their shoulder, changing playcalls, signaling in plays, and substituting "5-Heart" personnel.

We should hope that Dabo, Scott, Elliot, and Streeter (collectively) are as proficient or better at running an offensive program as Chad Morris. Don't laugh, it's a possibility that they are, or at least, can be better than Morris was at Clemson.  The aforementioned Mike Norvell has been able to do just that at ASU in my opinion and many of us here have been critical of Morris due to confounding performances in big games.  I know we have a reputation at STS as the "dumper site" but, I do believe in the possibility of "ScElliot" actually being more effective than Morris right off the bat.  We'll get a quick snapshot of ScElliot in the bowl game and perhaps, get some information on how they intend to manage the offense moving forward.

I agree with Dr.B's (The Godfather of STS) opinion that Scott probably won't be, to paraphrase, as abrupt and argumentative towards Dabo as Morris could be.  However, whereas on defense you want to bring the storm, on offense, you want to be able to operate calmly in the eye of the storm. Scott and Elliot don't need to deliver the same "Rabid Squirrel" vibe that Venables gives off during games.  They need to be able to teach flawless execution in practice, effectively gameplan before and during games, and keep the offensive personnel out of their own head and focused on execution when things don't go their way.

In the big picture, we don't NEED better than Morris anymore than Oregon needs better than Chip Kelly.  Because of our talent level, all we need is competent coaching.  If we get that and an improved OL, we should be able to better compete with Elite Programs and become one ourselves.

As I've already posted and will post again:  If competency is not possible by these Co-OCs, and this "Tenderfoot Triumvirate" isn't actually capable, then Dabo has committed an inexcusably selfish act and I don't see how he can be trusted with the program if, 6+ years into his tenure, he is repeating previous mistakes.

As the season progresses next year, I will be looking for improvement on the offensive side of the ball.  With the talent level we should have on offense in 2016, I expect an elite unit.  Will there be some newbie mistakes along the way? Probably, but expectations for me have not changed.

Here is a key for my shorthand in alphabetical order in case you need to refer back to it as you read this: BCB = Boundary Cornerback, Blast = FB lead play in the C gap with a kick out on the DE or seal on the LB. Boss - Both on Same Side (ILBs blitz the same side.) Bullet -ILB A or B gap blitz.  Crack- WR blocks down on S or LB.  C0, C1, C2, C3, C4 =  we are playing Cover "x."  Diet 4-3 - 4-3 alignment with Nickel personnel. Dog (overload)- LB and S/NB blitz on the same side. EM = end man on the line of scrimmage. ET stunt - Tackle shoots outside gap and end loops around on the inside. FCB = Wideside or field cornerback, Fold = OL1 blocks the man in front of OL2 and OL2 loops around OL1 to get the playside LB. HU = Hurry Up.  HUNH = Hurry Up No Huddle. Iso = FB lead play in the A or B gap. IV= Inverted Veer. IZ = Inside Zone or Zone blocked play inside the tackles. Jailbreak - 7 or more blitz.  LOS = Line of Scrimmage. man = man to man.  OZ = outside zone run or zone blocked play off-tackle.   PA =Play Action, PBU- Pass broken up. POA= Point of Attack, Power = FB/RB/H-B kicks out EM, backside OG leads into B gap hole. Power Sweep = FB lead to the D gap with OG pulling around. Sky - FS moves up two yards, takes flat, CB and FS take deep third.  Slant Right/Left - DL slants in one direction in unison Sluggo = Slant and Go.  Smoke/Fire- S, NB, LB blitz from the outside D gap.  Soft Coverage - CBs/NB playing well of the WR until he gets to the 1st down line. Stretch = zone blocked run just inside the last offensive player on that side.  Student Body Left/Right = FB lead play to the D gap with all uncovered linemen pulling.  Stack - the 3 LBs are stacked behind D linemen.  Stalk - WR blocks CB in front of him. Sweep = FB/ H-B lead play to the D gap.    TFL = tackle for loss. TO = triple option, Trap - playside DT is left unblocked, backside OG pulls and takes him out, RB runs underneath. TT stunt = one DT crashes on a slant and the other DT loops around and fills the hole he just left. Whip - WR starts in and pivots out

Coach/Player shorthand:  BB = Ben Boulware, BV = Brent Venables, DeFinger = DeShaun Williams, KW = Korin Wiggins, Mac = MacKenzie Alexander, OD = Dorian O'Daniel, Tank = Cordrea Tankersley, The Gambler = Garry Peters, The Fire Ant = Martin Jenkins, SA = Stephone Anthony, TS = Tony Steward

Thoughts within a play will be separated by a comma (,)

Each plays will be separated by an ellipsis (...)

First downs separated by a paragraph

Comments of a drive will be done in italics

1st QUARTER

1st Drive, 15:00, SC 35, 0-0

Nickel C2 5 Under, straight drop, 4 yard hitch to Anderson in front of the Gambler is complete, with the C2 5 Under we have decided to let them have that, gain of  5...Nickel WLB bullet, IZ to the boundary, excellent cut by Davis to avoid DeFinger in the backfield, Davis breaks TS's tackle, cleaned up by Robert Smith, gain of 5...

Goodson in, 1st and 10, SC 45, 4-3 base C2 5 Under, PA IZ, good pass pro, hits Davis on a 2 yard circle route(basically a middle screen without the linemen releasing), TS misses the tackle again, Crawford and DeFinger clean it up, gain of 9...4-3 Under double bullets, ZR give to Davis, wrong read as Goodson makes the play for no gain, UNSPOTSMANLIKE PENALTY ON BOTH TEAMS, offsets, Mac with trading blows with the WR after the whistle... 4-3 Under vs. I formation on 3rd and 1, Lead Option, Jarrett bust through and forces the pitch to Davis, FB comes to the D gap and takes first available player leaving nobody on pitch, Mac cuts his legs after a gain of 6...

1st and 10 CU 39, 4-3 Under, max protect, roll right, looking deep post backside, Goodson comes around and hits Dylan Thompson (DT) as he throws, overthrown, KW was there, incomplete...Nickel, we drop 9 and rush 2, DT hits Davis on a swing, Davis is leg tackled for a gain of 1 by Mac...Nickel Zone Boss dropping Beasley, blitz is picked up, DT and Roland get confused about the route, DT throws a back shoulder fade and Roland turns the other way, coverage by The Gambler, incomplete...DELAY OF GAME, declined...PUNT

They hit us with everything we've struggled with all year: Middle Screen (UGA), Deep ball on 1st down (BC), Deep Post (UL), Quick hitch (FSU), back shoulder fade (GT), and Lead Option(GT).  I'd assume sweep and tunnel screen are next.

The offense gashes the SC defense all the way down the field until Watson's perfect throw hits Hopper right in the hands at the 15 and is dropped.   Watson tweaks his knee, Stoudt comes in and throws a screen for a loss of 3. Lakip misses the FG short by about 3 yards. So there is some truth to the line about how "we'd be better off with Stoudt just taking a knee."

2nd Drive, 8:00, SC 30, 0-0

4-3 Under, IZ to Mike Davis, stopped by DeFinger for a gain of 1...Nickel Zone Boss, Beasley in a 9, Crawford drops, straight drop, complete to Roland on a DIG, Mac was playing soft over the top, too easy, gain of 13...

Mike Davis hurt his shoulder on the first play of the drive and went out.

1st and 10, SC 44, 4-3 Over, IZ to Wilds, we get a good push up front but DeFinger misses the TFL and I'm not sure how, Peters sheds the OG and then misses a tackle, Smith makes a nice open field tackle, gain of 8...Nickel, we aren't set at the snap, IZ to Wilds, he tries to cut it outside, Crawford and TS get him for a gain of 2...

1st and 10, CU 45, Nickel MLB and S Smoke, DT gets flushed outside, TS hammers him on the sideline for the sack, should've thrown that away, loss of 6...Nickel C4, straight drop, Beasley gets doubled and held, DT throws a dart to the DIG route again, great throw just over the outstretched arm of SA and underneath Smith,

whoa, that throw was special and there is no defense for the perfect throw, If I'm BV I'd like to see him try that again, gain of 23...

1st and 10, CU 27, 4-3 base C2 5 Under, PA IZ, Jarrett doubled, Beaslye run out wide, DeFinger hits him right after the throw, quick hitch again, gets 7...Nickel MLB Smoke, Cooper in the wildcat for SC, they run a Counter Sweep off of ZR, haven't seen this variation all year, this is basically a sweep with Pharoah Cooper, the OG and C pull to the outside with the intention of the OG kicking out the EMOL and the C leading up to the playside S,

The ZR action freezes the backside DE and blitzing MLB. With our alignment, if this is blocked well it is basically 1 on 1 vs. Tony Steward for the TD. If we were overloaded on the playside, you can see above that there is a bubble screen option on the backside.

Cooper beats Steward to the corner, which is rare, and takes it to the house.

Great play design by HBC and they caught us repeatedly blitzing with SA off the backside.  That removed SA from a pursuit angle that would've likely bottled this up for a gain of 5.

Gain of 27, TOUCHDOWN SC. Spurrier 1, Venables 0. Your move BV.

This was more than just one play though. This was a well executed drive for SC.  They got their OL to the 2nd level a few times in the run game and Dylan Thompson was absolutely ON.

Artavis Scott takes a jet sweep to the house to tie it up. We try an onsides kick, get it, but the ball didn't hit the ground on the kick. KICK CATCH INTERFERENCE, Clemson. 15 yards.

3rd Drive, 2:26, CU 43, 7-7

90, 48, and 9 in, Nickel, Power O with Davis, blown up by Shaq Lawson who crashed down from DE, loss of 1...Nickel, speed option from the gun, pitch to Davis, Wiggins comes through untouched and with Barnes turn Davis back in, tackle by Lawson and Reader, loss of 1, HOLDING SC, Declined...Dime of Doom MLB bullet on 3rd and 12, TS shows blitz and bails, straight drop, Jarrett loops, good pass pro, throws high to the TE and KW dumps the TE on his shoulder that appears to have dislocated on the fall, incomplete...PUNT

There's the Clemson defense we have grown accustomed to seeing. We started moving guys physically up front better than the last couple series.

Punt gets downed on the 1 where we take over. And yes, if it seems like every punter we face turns into an All-America it's because it's true. We are ranked 116th nationally and 13th in the ACC in "Opponent Punting." We only faced 2 punters in the top 40 (NCS and Wake).  We can't convert a 3rd and short and have to punt.

2nd QUARTER

4th drive, 12:29, SC 21, 7-7

BB in, Nickel C3, PA jet sweep and ZR, Middle Screen (with OL this time), we are slow to react, Davis jukes Smith, finally gets run down by BB, gain of 16...

1st and 10, SC 37, Nickel, IZ, piled up for a gain of 2 by Watson and Co...Nickel, straight drop, Watson gets through and flushes him wide, Beastly runs him down from behind and forces a fumble, recovered by BB...TURNOVER

Well, Beastly had one more sack/fumble left for us in his career. Thanks Vic (you too Josh!) They hurt us with middle screen again. We just don't seem to be recognizing that.

On offense we get a long run by Gallman after an awesome drive block by Battle, a great stalk by Williams, and a knockdown block by Hump. Then FINALLY, the option pitch actually gets caught and Gallman goes in for the TD untouched.

5th drive, 11:14, SC 25, 14-7 CU

C.Watkins in, Nickel C2, quick swing pass to 3rd string RB Williams who is submarined by The Gambler, gain of 4...Nickel, IV, just destroyed by Carlos Watkins made short work of the playside OG, loss of 4...Dime of Doom MLB bullet on 3rd and 10, great B gap pressure by SA and DT gets rid of it to the sideline, great coverage by The Gambler, incomplete...PUNT

Have I told you it is an absolute pleasure to be reviewing this defense every week?  Just winning "mano y mano" battles at every level. The crowd was really into it that series.

On offense, we lost Seckinger for the year with a PCL tear after a low hit by the SC CB. Then, on the next play, DeShaun gets shot out of a cannon on a scramble and gets it to the 1. Then, we get a QB SNEAK FOR A TD. Man, we're exorcizing the demons left and right today.

6th drive, 4:55, SC 35, 21-7

9, 94, 99, 90 in, Nickel, Power Sweep, uh oh, The Gambler sets the edge on the pulling OG (WOW!), DeFinger beats the cut block and explodes through playside and gets Davis for a loss of 5, and then, yes...

...Nickel Zone Boss with Lawson dropping, TS gets through untouched with great speed and SA barely gets touched, they force a bad throw into good coverage by KW, incomplete...Nickel on 3rd and 15, straight drop, they double Barnes, DT throws an out to Byrd but The Gambler is all over it, incomplete...PUNT

We're really dominating up front now and we're doing it while rotating 8 different guys up front.  DT is making bad throws now but it is because of pressure and great coverage. You can't expect a college QB to make perfect throws off balance to guys that aren't open.

Then there's Cole Stoudt. He throws an interception that SC takes into our territory.  I. Don't. Understand.  He cannot be this bad. His psyche and confidence is in the toilet right now.  Good job by Reid Webster to run down Skai Moore and save the TD.

7th drive, 1:17, CU 41, 21-7 CU

4-3 Under Zone Blitz, BCB and Sam come, Crawford drops wide, Thompson throws a deep fade, underthrown and wide, Mac was in the area but didn't have him pinned, incomplete...Nickel C4, straight drop, Beasley gets the corner on the rush and then slips down allowing DT to run, SA and TS get him down for a gain of 8, TIMEOUT SC...4-3 base on 3rd and 2, ZR give to the RB, Grady is waiting on him at the LOS, awesome job, gain of 1...4-3 Under on 4th and 1,  Speed Option, Beasley has QB and anticipates a quick pitch but DT turns it up and dives for the first down, gain of 2...

1st and 10, CU 30, 0:20, 4-3 Base C2, straight drop, good coverage, rolls left after pressure from Crawford, throws it away incomplete...0:11, Nickel, straight drop, Beasley comes in fast, DT overthrows the wheel route, Williams would've scored a TD if that ball is thrown well...47 Yard FG is Good

Horrible time management by Spurrier to let :40 run off the clock when you have 3 timeouts.  Great call to hit us with our nemesis, the wheel route, DT just didn't execute.

Halftime Thoughts

This game reminds me a lot of the Florida State game in 2011 and not just because the score is the same at halftime as it was then.  Like in 2011, we are completely dominant for stretches, had an opportunity to put them away, but they have been able above their head at times (DT in the 1st Quarter) and we have made mistakes (Stoudt INT) that cost our seemingly unstoppable offense valuable points.

Against FSU in 2011, we came right out and Tajh gave up that super-derp throw to Werner for the free TD and all of the sudden it was a game again.  FSU would shut down our run and we were in a dogfight from then on.  Coming out of halftime and stepping on the throat of the opponent has been an issue for years. I'll be watching to see if we can get that done against our Arch-Rival.

3rd QUARTER

We go 3 and out on offense after SC stops our 1st and 2nd down runs for no gain.

8th drive, 13:21, SC 25, 21-10

4-3 Over, B Gap Iso, SA stuffs the FB, DeFinger and Goodson drop Davis for a gain of 2...4-3 Over Sam Smoke, Lead Draw to Davis, Goodson runs by it on the blitz, FB cuts SA, uh oh, Kearse and Smith finally get him down for a gain of 16...

1st and 10, SC 44, 4-3 Over with Goodson in the slot at 8 yards depth, Straight drop, Williams bust through for the sack, Fingerfest '14 continues, loss of 7...Nickel, straight drop, pressure from Jarrett, DT tries to run right but Beasley gets him from behind for the sack, loss of 7...Dime of Doom on 3rd and 24, Draw, tackle by TS, gain of 4, PUNT

The initial first down was just the right call at the right time where Goodson was coming on a blitz from the slot.  The pass rush and coverage took over after that and shut the drive down emphatically.

On offense, we go three and out and Watson hit Gurley right in the hands for what would've been a pick 6.  This is the offensive start I was worried about in my halftime thoughts. At least they dropped the pick 6.  The two score lead allows us to be able to absorb any fluky play they might hit on us.

9th drive, 8:38, SC 37, 21-10

#2 DL in, BB in, 4-3 Over, straight drop, good pressure from Watson, checkdown swing to the RB, blownup by Goodson who levels Davis and knocks him out of the game, incomplete...Nickel, Wildcat, straight drop by Cooper, throws a 50/50 jump ball to the sideline, Mac gets two hands on it but loses the fight for the ball, complete for a gain of 20...

1st and 10, CU 43, 4-3 Under, Wildcat, QB Power to the boundary, The Gambler knifes in and gets Cooper for a loss of 2...4-3 Under, Wildcat, quick hitch to Roland, tackled hard by Kearse after a gain of 7...Nickel WLB Bullet on 3rd and 5, straight drop, DT throws a curl, PBU by The Gambler then batted up in the air by Kearse and caught by SC, very lucky there, gain of 9...

1st and 10, CU 27, 4-3 Over, DT fumbles the shotgun snap and Reader gets him for a 6 yard loss...Nickel, Middle Screen, RB catches it and falls down, if he stays up he gets 5 more yards, gain of 4...Dime of Doom on 3rd and 13, 3 step drop and a fade to Roland, good coverage by The Gambler, overthrown incomplete...47 YARD FG IS NO GOOD

Well, we experienced some bad luck there and yet were able to escape without giving up any points.

On offense, the first play is the jet sweep to Artavis where he steps on the hand for the TD. That play pretty much summarizes the game.

10th drive, 4:30, SC 25, 28-10

#1 D in, Nickel, WR screen towards a bunch formation, Mac expertly defeats the stalk block and makes an ankle tackle in the backfield, loss of 2, HOLDING ON SC, declined...4-3 Under C2 5 Under, straight drop, good pass pro by SC, throw to a comeback by the TE, well covered by SA, incomplete...Dime of Doom Dime Back Bullet C4 on 3rd and 11, blitz is picked up, straight drop, they get Cooper matched up with Wiggins, uh oh, deep go route from the slot, complete, KW got beat there, gain of 46.

First time we've seen the Dime Back Bullet stunt this year I believe.

1st and 10, CU 30, Nickel, straight drop, Bealsey beats a double and misses DT, flushed to the left, thrown away, incomplete...Nickel, straight drop, Beasley coming hard, DT throws a screen to his side, SA reads it immediately, KW makes a great one step change and uses speed to get outside leverage on the OT and gets Davis for a gain of 1...Dime of Doom MLB Bullet on 3rd and 9, Beasley speeds by the LT and just misses DT again, flushes him left, throws it away right before SA gets him for the sack, ROUGHING THE PASSER WITH TARGETING on SA who is DQed for the hit...

Wow. This was not forcible contact. This was barely contact and a shove, which wasn't all that much, but was much worse than the head contact. I've done more head contact than that celebrating with a teammate. So, we're going to eject him for this game and the 1st half of the bowl game for THAT? This can't be the spirit of the rule.  I hate to say it but this looks an awful lot like SEC Refs taking care of their own. This wasn't the only questionable call either. The NCAA should take a look at SEC officiating in non-con games in the offseason. Anyway, free first down for SC on a throwaway by DT.

1st and 10, CU 14, Nickel, Draw to Davis, Watkins gets blocked at the POA, Kellen Jones (SAs replacement) gets juked out of his shoes, Barnes and Smith get him down for a gain of 11...

1st and G, CU 2, 4-3 Over, rolls right, pick pattern, wide open (could've been a penalty there), KW skies to knock down a sure TD, great athleticism and read, incomplete... 4-3 Over, bunch left, rolls left, great coverage, DT throws it away, incomplete (crowd is still booing after every play for that call)...4-3 Over SLB Blitz on 3rd and 2, ZR keeper, excellent playside fill by TS to get him for a loss of 1...4-3 Over on 4th and G, 3 step drop and throws the fade at The Gambler,

Garry had to know this was coming based off of strength of alignment leaving him on an island, he's all over it, no chance, incomplete...TURNOVER ON DOWNS

We go 3 and out on offense and they come after the punt in the endzone. They almost get it and there is some minor contact on Pinion but no call and I think that was the right move.

4th QUARTER

11th drive, 14:05, CU 39, 28-10

Nickel WLB Bullet, Stretch, DeFinger, BB, and Reader gang up on him for a loss of 2...Nickel C1, quick hitch to the slot TE, caught, tackle by Jones for a gain of 7...Nickel C4 on 3rd and 5, straight drop, quick out to Jones, The Gambler gets him short of the first down marker, bad spot gives him another foot...4-3 on 4th and Inches, HUNH QB Sneak, stuffed...TURNOVER ON DOWNS

Another Classic.

After an initial 1st down, the drive stalls when Williams drops a first down pass near midfield. We were able to flip field position on them though.

12th drive, 10:24, SC 12, 28-10

Nickel WLB Blitz, IZ to Williams, Barnes and Jones get him for a gain of 2...Nickel WLB Bullet DT Loop Stunt, straight drop, overthrown to the post route, incomplete, BUT TIMEOUT BEFORE THE SNAP SC...still 2nd down, Nickel TE stunt C2 5 Under, straight drop, Lawson flushes DT to the left, Jones abandons Williams to come up and stop DT, DT floats it to Williams in the flat complete, Mac goes non-aggressive and misses the tackle, Williams goes down the sideline until Smith gets him down for a gain of 60...

I want to break this play down because it's a good example of how there is a fine line between a gain of 2 and a gain of 60. In this case, it's better football IQ.  This is a good example of how someone like Spencer Shuey can keep someone like Tony Steward or Kellen Jones on the bench.

Instincts and recognition are so important.  Jones has to recognize that he is abandoning an open check down receiver for a QB that isn't a big threat to run.  Help is on the way and the longer it takes DT makes a decision, the more Tigers will get to the sideline to stop it.  That's 2 plays where we have really missed SA. Credit DT with a nice veteran play.  It's not an accident he threw for the most yards in SC history this year.

1st and 10, CU 26, Nickel WLB Bullet, PA ZR, good coverage, thrown away...Nickel, quick swing to Carson off of a slot pick on Kellen Jones, they are clearly picking on Jones now, Jones is late getting over but gets him down for a gain of 9, extremely late flag, UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT on Clemson, half the distance to the goal...

1st and G at the 8, Nickel NB smoke, ZR give to Carson, Jones gets a good fill, Wiggins gets a good fill, Beasley squeezes and makes the play for less than a yard...Nickel Q,Q,H, straight drop, big pressure by DeFinger, flushes him right, Beasley is there, thrown away...Dime of Doom on 3rd and G from the 7...FALSE START SC, 5 yards (1st accepted penalty of the game against SC)...Nickel TE stunt, straight drop, Spurrier dials up our old buddy "Slot WR Post route," Byrd is the slot and bracketed by TS and Smith, Smith is late and clearly thinks TS is supposed to run with him, he doesn't excellent high throw, excellent catch...TOUCHDOWN SC

So much miscommunication on that post play this year and it doesn't seem to matter who is involved.

13th drive, 2:35, SC 23, 35-17

Nickel Soft C2, Draw to Wiliams, Beasley makes a sick spin move to get back inside and make the tackle for a loss of 1...Nickel Soft C4, IZ to Williams, tackle by Smith, SC seems comfortable with running out the clock here, gain of 10...OZ to Williams gets the first down, tackle by The Gambler.

1st and 10, SC 34, Nickel, straight drop, dump off on a crosser to the TE Adams, wrapped up by BB immediately who strips him of the ball, recovered by Wiggins, clearly a fumble but even after the review it is still SC's ball... Swing to Williams, gain of 4...Swing to Carson, gain of 5....GAME OVER, CLEMSON WINS 35-17

DEFENSIVE SUMMARY:

Stats:

SC averaged just 1.9 yards per rush which was their worst performance of the year.  It is always assumed that the SEC is "tougher in the box" than any other conference, so this validates the level of toughness up front we have been seeing all year.

SC averaged 6.7 yards per pass. This is 1.1 yards lower than their average and I think if SA would've remained in the game, the big 60 yarder to the RB wouldn't have happened.  That one play

So, we ended up as the #1 defense in the nation by F/+ and it wasn't all that close.  We held GT, the #1 offense in the country by F/+, to 14 offensive points and we made a mockery of SC, the 9th best offense in the country by F/+. (I can't definitively use the FSU game, #6 offense F/+, out of respect for Winston's ability since he didn't play. I do think that the larger sample size we have now for both teams makes it safe to say that our strong performance against them was probably more about the ability of our front 7 to dominate their OL and less about Winston's absence. We'll never know but at least Nolefan wasn't over here touting their invincibility all year).

The eye test says...

In the offseason, I'm going to be doing reviews on the defense but also will be evaluating where these guys fit in historically at Clemson.

This looked like a group of defenders that believed they were better than the opposition.  We were a little nervous, tried to slip some blocks up front, and created running lanes in the first quarter and it cost us.  After that, we regained our solid fundamental play and SC struggled to finish drives.

This was the grand ending that solidified an amazing year defensively for Clemson. We still have some unfinished business against anOklahoma team that has a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball.  If the trio of QB Trevor Knight, RB Samaje Perine, and WR Sterling Shepard is healthy for the game, this will be quite a final exam.

PLAYER REVIEW:

Game Ball: DeShawn Williams. Williams was dominant and punished any OL that tried to block him.  This was his best game of the year.

All American Level Performance: DeShawn Williams, Vic Beasley, Stephone Anthony, Garry Peters, Grady Jarrett

All ACC Level Performance: MacKenzie Alexander, Robert Smith

Solid: Everybody else except...

Less than solid: Kellen Jones. Jones got taken to school a couple times. He has to improve his football IQ.

Past Game Balls: Robert Smith (Georgia), Stephone Anthony (SC St., FSU), Garry Peters (UNC), Vic Beasley (N.C. St.), Jayron Kearse (Louisville), Grady Jarrett (Syr, Wake, GT)