I'd like to start by saying that Quacking Tiger is stuck traveling at a conference, but he did see the game and will be adding his take to this page later on this evening. So, definitely check back for that.
My expectations for this game were that Miami was a talented and desperate team that was looking for a signature win. That's exactly what we saw...at first. Miami demonstrated a willingness to bring the fight to us when they started a dust-up on Clemson's side of the field in pregame warm-ups. They demonstrated a level of intensity and willingness to mix it up by delivering some big hits, accurate throws, and even got Yearby loose for a big run at the beginning of the game.
They added to their pregame trash talking by continuing to talk trash throughout the first half. Despite what was happening on the field, they seemed to want to fight, they were just clueless about how to play the game of football. Perhaps their inspiration for continuing to talk smack was derived from being down 17-3 to FSU before they made that a close game. Unfortunately, the beating up front was too much of an advantage and there would not be a spark out of Miami to get back into the game. I'm just thankful we didn't have a brawl or some sort of black-eye put on the program that could've been a distraction.
The old Tyson quote is true, "Everybody has a plan until they hit." We were comparing the arm strength of Kaaya and Watson here all week. As it turns out, we never got to a point in the game where they were physical enough to get Kaaya going and we were so physical we really didn't need aerial precision from Watson.
In the end, all of the hope, excitement, and talking about this big opportunity for Miami didn't matter. The trash talking and aggressiveness seemed to motivate Clemson to come out with intensity and focus like they did against Notre Dame. Clemson would rack up 230 yards rushing in the first half and hold Miami to less than 40. Brad Kaaya's arm was never given a chance as he was picked off on the first drive and knocked out of the game early in the 2nd quarter. Already up 3 or 4 TDs at that point, the game was pretty much decided. If you were looking for the killer instinct out of Clemson, you got it.
This was the worst defeat in the history of Miami Hurricane football.
After this performance you are going to hear NoleFan logic about how Miami didn't want be there (of course, their attitude said otherwise), Miami always gives up after they lose to FSU (Miami beat VT last week), and Advanced Stats aren't important (oh, the irony). Don't believe Miami did not want to be there or that they weren't jacked up for this game. We broke their spirit. Miami was beaten badly in the trenches and their best player was physically knocked out of the game on a clean hit. Where NoleFan will be right is that this win will have no effect on the outcome of the Clemson vs. Florida State game or the Clemson vs. N.C. State game for that matter. As soon as we think we have arrived, we are ripe to be beaten.
We displayed excellent efficiency on the offensive side of the ball. We established the inside running game early, marched down the field and ran a nice little gimmicky TE screen play for the first TD. On the 2nd drive, Miami's LB got caught cheating towards Gallman so, Watson pulled it and had his long run. We ran some speed option plays that Miami has not been able to stop all year. The 2nd TD, was a quick pitch option to Gallman and the 4th TD was a on a Counter Option Pitch to Artavis Scott (similar to what GT runs except from a different formation). The 3rd TD was on an I Formation Iso play, which in past years we wouldn't be tough enough to punch in a TD in that fashion.
We never had to throw the ball deep. We could just line up and run it downhill or throw short to intermediate routes. When they started loading the box, the screen game worked extremely well. There was really nothing that didn't work. The playcalling, gameplan, and execution was excellent. We continue to show up with good gameplanning and the ability to take what the defense gives us. ScElliot has shown that they are not as stubborn as their predecessor in that regard. They will run the ball when we can run it and throw the ball when we can throw it.
In the 2nd half, we were able to get a lot of reps for the #2 OL and I was glad we ran some up-tempo because usually we have the #2s in there during our 4 minute drill to run clock. Kelly Bryant got some extended in-game action and found the endzone a couple times. All in all, this was our most efficient offensive performance of the year.
We started the game with the element of surprise by taking our biggest disadvantage on defense and turning into our biggest strength. Adrian Baker started a FCB and MacKenzie Alexander started at NB. You have to believe that Miami and Kaaya spent a good portion of the week in practicing how to exploit Travis Blanks' poor coverage skills.
This was a brilliant move by Venables and a great example of good self-scouting. I seriously doubt that this was a permanent move, however, the NB situation must be addressed. I'm glad that BV and Dabo appear willing to make this shift. Travis Blanks entered the game 3rd behind O'Daniel. I would have O'Daniel at Sam and use Adrian Baker at NB. It will be interesting to see how this plays out next week. I don't think BV is going to be giving up too much accurate information about this decision to the media with the FSU game looming in two weeks. We'll have to see it to truly know what he's going to do.
We started off a little shaky on defense at first. Miami entered the RedZone and Shaq got a sack on 2nd down which put them into an obvious passing situation. The Dime of Doom did it again when Jadar Johnson picked off Kaaya and eliminated Miami's scoring opportunity.
Our pass rush was the best it has looked all year today. Lawson and Dodd were unstoppable. We even got home for a sack on a two man rush. The defensive backs also did a great job of breaking on the ball in this game and making big hits when their WRs went up to catch the football. We put the cherry on top with a nice pick-six at the end of the 2Q by Tankersley.
The Miami run attack, like every run attack we have faced this year, was non-existent and rendered ineffective against our starting defense.
There was a play in the 1Q where Kaaya was hit by Dodd and the ball squirted out into the flat. Yeargin fell on the ball but, he should've tried to pick it up. Anytime the ball is loose outside the pocket and behind the line of scrimmage, try to pick it up. If Yeargin picks it up, he would've scored. Of course it didn't matter anyway because the ball went forward out of Kaaya's hand.
We have really been looking to get more reps for the #2s in order to build depth and wash the green off our young players in the 2 deep. Well, we got a lot of reps for those guys in this game. By the 4th drive of Miami, the entire #2 DL had seen the field. By the end of the game we had gotten our #3s a lot of good reps.
D.J. Reader returned in the 2Q and saw a good bit of action throughout the game. He looked a little bigger than I remember but he, like he was last year, is a valuable piece of our DL rotation that should see more and more reps as the season progresses.
In the Fall Camp Preview, I mentioned how I thought Van Smith would be able to push for a starting spot as soon as this spring. I anticipated him redshirting, but he did not. I didn't like that move until today. He is probably already our best player on the kickoff coverage team (and we need all the help we can get there). Today, we saw a huge step forward for him at Safety and I'm so glad he got some reps. Smith had a huge hit on Rosier, had a TFL on the run later in the game, and then topped it off with an INT. I'll be breaking him down in the film review. I want to see if this is legit fundamental play or did he cheat and get lucky.
Dear Oculus, why is every punter we face, Ray Guy?
I'd like to give a shout out to Ammon Lakip for his kickoff work today. I know he really wants to run down there and force fumbles, but it was nice to see him booting the ball out of the endzone.
C.J. Fuller is not doing it for me on kickoff returns, although, I did think he ran the ball very hard today on offense.
I hope Huegel got his extra point miss out of the way for the year.
We continue to get better every game. Unlike Clemson teams of the recent past, we display toughness up front and out-hit our opponents. We have stars at every level on offense and defense. This is fun.