I must say that much of what I wanted to see out of the team was on display in the first half. Clemson worked Adam Choice and Wayne Gallman a great deal and demonstrated a better effort blocking, especially from the TE corps. S.C. State was clearly overmatched as would be expected, but credit Clemson for playing with good focus and not giving the Bulldogs any real hope of hanging around. I called for total dominance on defense and that is exactly what we saw as the Bulldogs were only able to hit two first downs in the entire first half and finished with less than 50 yards of offense for the game. Both quarterbacks were pretty efficient, though once again Deshaun Watson flashed far superior arm talent in comparison to Cole Stoudt. Stoudt had a chance on the first field goal drive to fire a ball into a window but didn't get enough on it and SCST was able to break up the pass. Watson's second ball was a laser beam to Mike Williams. Stoudt did play pretty well going over 300 yards and is no doubt a steady guy at the controls, but the ceiling on the Tiger offense goes up about three floors when #4 is out there. Perhaps the biggest bright spot on offense was freshman Artavis Scott who displayed his impressive athleticism going for a Clemson freshman record 164 yards. Charone Peake had a highlight one handed TD catch as well, though his day ended early when he got earholed and got his ear split open in the process.
The Tigers got on the board early after Stoudt hit Mike Williams on a big play down the left sideline to get it close before finishing it off with a little pitch play to Adam Humphries for the TD. The defense took over at that point and just totally decimated the Bulldog front all day long. Had it not been for a 40 yard run popped against a blitz with mainly second and third unit guys on the field, it is quite possible S.C. State would have finished with 15 yards of offense or less. I don't care who you play, that is impressive and says a lot about the focus of the unit from first team to third. It certainly should help boost confidence in the unit that was embarrassed by UGA in the fourth quarter. That confidence will be desperately needed heading to Tallahassee in two weeks.
It certainly didn't take long for Deshaun Watson to turn heads when he got on the field. Not only did he display tremendous arm strength and a quick release, but his ability to run the ball is beyond anything we have seen from a QB since Woody Dantzler was at the controls. Now, he isn't as strong a runner as Woody just yet, but he is dangerous and made a ridiculous escape from a TFL that looked like a Winston play from last year. Stoudt can't afford to slip an inch because this kid is the truth. His touchdown pass to J.J. McCullough (who looked very smooth out there) was a beautiful throw. It will be very interesting to see how the staff approaches the FSU game should Watson make something happen when he gets in the game. My guess is they stay with him unlike in Athens, because all the chances of 2014 becoming special rely upon a win versus FSU.
Adam Choice and Wayne Gallman were impressive in their first extended action at running back. The duo combined for 151 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown. The actual highlight runs of the day probably came from big Kurt Fleming who was bulldozing guys left and right. Unfortunately two fumbles marred his otherwise good day of running and blocking and ruined the shutout when his second fumble got returned for 6. Even D.J. Howard seemed more decisive in his running when he got some action, but we have to still wait and see due to the level of competition (or lack thereof).
I tried to pay close attention to the offensive line and tight ends as I watched today. It was a much sharper effort, particularly by the tight ends, but there were still some moments to be concerned about. J.J. McCullough impressed me in particular and should see even more action going forward. I will say that we didn't see the massive dropoff when the staff subbed in the backup linemen that we have seen in the past which helped lead to the gaudy score at the end. Crowder was able to get a lot of snaps and appeared strong. Even Spencer Region got in the action and even pulled a time or two. Some of the blocking on the screen plays left something to be desired as linemen were often whiffing on cut attempts or just flat out missing the smaller Bulldog defenders on the second level. Clemson's superior athleticism allowed us to avoid this being a major issue in this game, but we all know that won't be the case in two weeks.
Lastly, Lakip looked much better today (and it was hard to look worse). His kicks were struck solid and were right down the middle. Kick coverage was also much better, though I was confused a bit with the pooch kicking we did. A buddy of mine pointed out that perhaps the staff wanted S.C. State to have some field position so the offense would have more field to work with after a punt. I'm not sure about that, but it was clear the Bulldogs were going to be lucky to even cross the 50 in this game. The Tigers were able to play musical punt returners but nobody was able to really get a kick he could run back.
Going forward, I think it is imperative that #3 is on the field on offense most of the time. Humphries has a role, but we either need both out there together somehow or flip the snap distribution. Now we get to sit on our hands for two weeks and wonder how much of today's game was playing an FCS team and how much was Clemson making huge strides in the execution department.