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Instant Reaction: Clemson at NC State Recap

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Clemson avoids the trap in Raleigh and escapes with a big victory. Here are our thoughts on the win.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson delivered a nice victory against a game N.C. State team this afternoon, 56-41.  Credit NC State for fighting until the bitter end and answering the bell after each Clemson TD.  To their credit, NCS would not go away.

Clemson racked up 625 yards of total offense in the game.  DeShaun Watson was 23/30 for 383 yards and 5 TDs passing and had 14 carries for 54 yards and a TD rushing. This was that Heisman-type performance we thought we would have seen a couple times this year already.  Wayne Gallman was a workhorse in this game. Gallman carried the ball a whopping 31 times for 172 yards in the game.

This was an ugly win where I have to question the effort level and focus on defense. Clemson may have held NCS below their average in total offense but, we gave up a lot of points and a lot of big plays. This game was a disappointment after we had played so well defensively in every other game this season.

OFFENSE:

ScElliot's gameplanning and scripting was again on point as we started the game attacking the edge with pulling OL and marched right down the field.  On the 2nd TD, we had a great set up with the outside runs and then countered with a QB Lead play that DeShaun Watson took to the house.

Watson quickly showed that he was "on" for this game when he dropped a gorgeous throw into the hands of Hunter Renfrow on a post. Hunter Renfrow took it 57 yards to the house and showed off his great route running and speed to run away from defenders on the play.

We had a lull after the scripted plays ended and the play calling was less than electric.  Gallman could not be stopped and for some reason we began to run Watson more. NC State would take the lead during this lull and that inspired them to start beating us in the trenches. The gamechanging play was right at the end of the half when Watson hit Charone Peake on a bomb. Peake obviously pushed off but it was not called.  We wanted more fight for the ball out of Peake and, well, we sure got it.

We came out and got Gallman going on the first drive of the 3rd quarter and Wayne Train's TD made it 33-20. From this point out, it seemed like two bikers trading haymakers in a bar fight. Clemson would score and NC State would answer. We would continue to march the ball up and down the field almost at will and that create the opportunity for Watson to go over the top.  He had an NFL caliber dime to Cain for a TD in the late 3Q a nice deep ball to an open Ray Ray McCloud for a TD in the 4Q.

Zac Brooks was solid in limited action and had a highlight individual play on a flare for a TD.  The real heroes today were, once again, the Offensive Lineman.  The consistency with which we were able to run the ball in this game was excellent and was because of the big guys up front.  We never had gaping holes but we rarely got stuffed as well.

I think it's safe to say that we are improving on offense at the right time and starting to click. The freshman (Cain, McCloud, and Renfrow) are becoming legitimate weapons in the passing game that Watson can trust.  The question to be answered is, "Have we peaked yet or are we still getting better?"

DEFENSE:

Right from the first NCS drive, we looked like a team that wasn't quite focused. For the first time all year, I say guys relaxing, taking lazy angles, and pulling up when the ball is in play.

We had real trouble getting to the QB rushing four. Once we started blitzing, we were able to get pressure. However, when we would get there, we had a lot of trouble getting Brissett to the ground. It seemed like we were constantly flushing him, hitting him, grabbing him, and he still stayed up.

Ben Boulware had a "Jekyll and Hyde" game where he made big plays and missed assignments. "Hyde Boulware" got beaten in pass coverage a whole lot in this game. On a 3rd and 1, he gave up a TD by peaking in the backfield instead of doing his job and covering the RB out of the backfield. Twice on big runs, "Hyde BB" missed a scrape and one was on a TD run. "Dr. Jekyll BB" had a great blitz in dime that allowed B.J. Goodson to slap the ball out of Brissett's hands for a turnover. "Jekyll BB" also finally got his first sack of the year.

I thought Kevin Dodd, B.J. Goodson, MacKenzie Alexander, and Cordrea Tankersley played their butts off in this game.  I won't be sure about everybody else until I look at the film.  I can tell you that Kearse and Green did not have their best effort on display today.

Travis Blanks was back at NB/Sam this game and we did not see O'Daniel.  I thought Blanks had a decent game although, he was beaten a couple times and Brissett couldn't get his man the ball.

The best performance by the defense was late in the 3Q through the beginning of the 4Q where we got a couple stops that allowed us to keep our two score cushion intact.  NCS got another fortunate drive during desperation when they converted a 4th and 8 when their TE tipped the ball in the air and caught it as he was falling to the ground.

The defense did land the big stop with 3:13 left in the game when Tank made a great play on the ball in the endzone.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Special teams were a mess. Lakip kicked the opening kickoff out of the endzone and that's about where the superlatives stop.

We had horrible kickoff coverage in this game and allowed a TD that gave NCS the lead right after we had taken it.

Huegel had 2 Extra Point kicks blocked. This happened a week after he missed one against Miami.

Somehow, Someway, we were not expecting an onsides kick late in the game?  Thankfully, the kicker could not get the ball to go ten yards.  The best special teams play of the day was probably Hunter Renfrow's aggressive play to leave his feet and go get the ball on the 2nd onsides kick.

Summary:

We have avoided the trap game and are going to enter the big showdown with Florida State undefeated. We have an opportunity next week to do something that we haven't done in 34 years, and that is, be in the National Championship picture in November.  Think about that. Take a moment and breathe that in.  We have not gotten this far since 1981.

Hopefully, the team has accepted this challenge in a business-like manner and will come out next Saturday ready to handle it.  Hopefully, the moment will not be too big for us and play with confidence and focus. This is getting good.

Goodbye, STS readers, posters, and writers:

This is a very bittersweet post for me as it is going to be my last post here at STS.  It has become time for me to move on.  I'll have a fanpost at some point really soon about my new whereabouts.  I would like to say thanks to Brian Goodison for allowing me to post here. It has been a blast writing and commenting with you all about something that I am greatly passionate about, Clemson sports. I want to thank all the writers as well for being awesome. Go Tigers!

Soon,

TheKraken.

QT

Lipstick on a pig indeed. This is the first time I have been disappointed in this team all year. Hopefully this puts to bed any notion that Clemson can simply line up and beat anyone on their schedule. If the defense plays at this same level we will lose to Florida State. This team reminded me of the Clemson of old. Plenty of talent to win each game, but a bunch of stupid mistakes and mental errors. Uncharacteristic of this years team.

On a recruiting note, the guy you saw break the 100 yard kick return Nyheim Hines favored Clemson throughout the recruiting process. Ultimately we were full with severely undersized DBs and legacy offers to be able to offer him a scholarship. Who would you rather have returning kicks, Amir Trapp or that Hines guy. Recruiting numbers matter.

State has recruited well with Street, Roseboro, Hines, McGirt, etc. We definitely don't want Dexter Lawrence or Diondre Overton helping to close the talent gap. Both were in attendance, but both should also be at the FSU game.

Special Teams

Oh goodness. Couldn't cover a kickoff yet again. Couldn't punt the ball 40 yards. Couldn't make all of our extra point attempts. Pooch kicks that we couldn't cover. Not being set for an onside kick. Tons of mental errors. You can not make these kind of mistakes against a team like FSU or a playoff team. The kickoff decisions were egregious. Really disappointed in Kearse on kickoffs. He had one of his poorer performances--looked worn down and tired today. Hopefully not dealing with an injury.

These are things that are easily correctable. Huegal needs to get it together or be replaced by Lakip. Teasdall needs to stop doing air bomb pooches and just boot it as far as he can. We need to have better coverage and trust in our coverage units. Teasdall needs to work on that get off time again as well--30 yard punts won't cut it. Their punter killed the field position battle all day.

I did like RayRay McCloud returning kickoffs despite the possible fumble. He was close to breaking a few kicks.

Defense

I don't have all that much to add to what Kraken said above. Defense had trouble lining up all night. We weren't getting calls in fast enough and getting set. Boulware and Kearse had very average games. Blanks had some nice plays but also could have been exposed with shoddy pass coverage at times.

We seemed to make adjustments in the end of the first quarter and second quarter, but kept giving up chunk plays all evening. This looked like the 2012 matchup with both offenses racing up and down the field.

Our depth was exposed. We again couldn't get home with a consistent pass rush and Brissett made our guys look silly and weak consistently. Very surprised with how State was able to run on us up the middle. Green and Kearse were not the enforcers today, we were not the aggressors. Shaq Lawson got double teamed effectively. The State offensive line played a great game and the State offensive coaches had a good gameplan, but we shouldn't have given up this many points. W got lost on some motion and suspect run fits. Wheelroute on 3rd and 1--even Cunningham saw that one coming...

The defense did bend, but didn't break in the end. We got the fourth down stops and live to fight on. Tank and Mack again came up big.

Offense

This wasn't the old Clemson teams, however, because of one Deshaun Watson. Watson was stellar. No interceptions and 6 total TD's (5 passing, 1 rushing). Those are Heisman numbers. Other than a fumble/strip and a few errant throws, Watson was close to flawless and was the clear difference in the game. Hunter Renfrow had himself a day.

The difference in the game were a pair of touchdowns to true freshmen Deon Cain and RayRay McCloud. We ran the ball well (a few too many negative plays, however). Brooks keeps giving us such a lift off the bench. Great complimentary running back pieces. Not going to say anything about the O-line without another look at the tape. We struggled at pass pro at times in obvious passing downs. Mixed back.

The NC State RB coach who shoved Deshaun Watson should be suspended. The ACC league office should address this--a simple apology is not enough.

If Ed Cunningham were a coach he would be known as the greatest riverboat gambler of all time. The guy thinks you should go for two or go for it every time. Every broadcast I watch he demonstratively decides that the coach absolutely must go for it at least once. I...I just don't understand.