An ugly win is still a win. My hands are still shaking.
This is a wake up call though to all the Clemson fans who thought we would simply blow Louisville out of the water. We should have but we didn't. Right now--right this very moment--we are not a playoff caliber team. We can be and I think we proved that, but right now we aren't. Luckily we have time to clean things up and we get our toughest opponents at home. I said coming into the season that this was going to be one of our toughest games and I think we passed a major hurdle.
Not at all Special Teams
I said on Twitter that the number one thing I wanted to see was better kickoff coverage. We actually have good personnel in the game but we are awful. We didn't get to the returner even when they bobbled the ball. Giving up a TD when you have Kearse, Green, etc. is just inexcusable. It is on Pearman but even more it is on Dabo because he takes the charge with a lot of that preparation. I hope Lakip can just kick it out of the endzone every single time.
We need to remember that they missed a 38 yarder to tie it up or we are going into overtime with freshman kicker (could have been like FSU last year).
Teasdall (the punter) has to improve that get off time--shaky punting and the last one should have been blocked.
Scott should have fielded a couple of those balls, but glad none were dropped.
Lets start with the good. Gallman ran with serious purpose and carried the offense. Watson looked good running the ball, not as explosive as he was pre-injury but that will return. Scott fought hard. Renfrow?? Kid proved he deserves that scholarship. I liked what I saw from RayRay and Deon Cain. Cain snatched a low throw. Got to keep giving them snaps and reps.
Deshaun Watson looked very human tonight. Hate to say it, but not at all a Heisman candidate. He missed a ton of throws. He definitely battled and didn't completely lose his confidence after some bad interceptions, but it was the worst we have seen him play. The pass to Leggett that came up short was just an awful throw. He has played on the road before, so I didn't expect that to bother him so much.
We really didn't have a downfield threat. The frustrating thing is that we did move the ball but kept stalling because of bad throws and drops.
We really, really miss Mike Williams.
Peake dropping a ball like that is almost unforgivable at this stage in his career. He needs to work through it the same way Bryant did but we don't have that luxury with ND and GT coming up. I don't have much faith in Hopper at this point. More Thompson and more young guys.
Stanton Seckinger ran like the old savvy guy in the rec basketball league. He shouldn't be on the field (I say that, but at least he caught that ball). A few times Leggett caught the ball and seemed to stall for what seemed like forever before turning it up field (maybe that was just me).
Can we not figure out how to block odd fronts? We will be faced with the same situation against GT. When Gore and Fruhmorgan went down it got ugly. I'll spare you this particular dead horse but yeah--offensive line depth, especially at Tackle is a self inflicted issue. Need to go back and watch again but lots of communication issues to clean up. Ultimately though we gained 401 yards and a lot of it was on the ground, which you have to be happy about. Offensive line needs to stay healthy and continue to gel. Jay Guillermo played well (I think), at least his snaps were much cleaner.
Shaq had some bogus calls against him. The defense gave up one drive and really two long passes but only gave up 10 points. That is winning football. I thought Tankersley really showed up and played well as Louisville tried to pick on him. The Nickel player is the weak spot in the defense, which is a shame because that wouldn't be the case with Wiggins. Carter played a decent game though, we will just have to accept that Blanks and Carter have limitations. I think that and depth are the only things holding back the defense.
We did struggle at times to generate a pass rush with only rushing four lineman. Venables knows this and gets creative with the blitzes. Green, Kearse, and, of course, Boulware all had excellent sacks/blitzing. Boulware played a great game.
We got a bit tired at the end of the game--something to watch as the season progresses.
Wilkins continues to show up in the middle but we were stout there all night, especially at the beginning of the game. If we can stop the run, I don't see many QB's that can make us pay consistently over the top. They might get a few like they did tonight but we will win the vast majority of the time.
Overall we need the offense to show up in every game. Too much talent not to score more than 20 points a game. We won and the hunt for the playoff continues. Dance away, Dabo...dance away...
Whew...sigh of relief. This is the type of game we would find a way to lose during the Tommy Bowden years and, even though this was an ugly win, I'll gladly take it.
Wayne Gallman is a man and ran his butt off tonight. He ran physical. He ran angry. He looked like an NFL Running Back tonight...and we needed it.
For whatever reason, Watson showed up tonight not ready for primetime. Watson was shockingly off his game tonight and never did seem to fully settle down. Both of his interceptions helped provide confidence and hope with Louisville that this would be the night that they knocked off an ACC heavyweight.
The Offensive Line was serviceable tonight. There was a mixed bag of solid run blocking and pass blocking struggles. Those were grown men in the UL Front 7 and I thought that we may not have consistently won at the point of attack but we performed better than we have in the past against a team like that.
I'm going to reserve judgement on the play calling and gameplan until I rewatch the game but, I felt like, if you're keeping score at home, UL DC Todd Grantham won this round against ScElliot. In the 3rd quarter, I thought ScElliot finally figured out that they were soft on the corners and ripe for outside runs, screens, and quick outs. However, we never really went "Full-Spurrier" and aggressively forced them to stop it. That is important because when you do that, it opens up other things.
The gadget play worked to perfection and was probably the call of the game so, when it works, you have to give the OCs credit.
Overall, we did not move the ball as well as we would have liked and Watson's play was concerning. I saw a very good Clemson team out there but, I don't think we racked up any "style points" that most fans like to see.
Defensively, we showed a lot more pass rush than I thought we were capable of. Kevin Dodd gets better every game and, as it turns out, got the big sack to force UL into a Hail Mary situation.
They set out to test our secondary and get our guys rolling back and out of the box. We saw Mac give up a deep ball for the first time since "the fall heard round the world" against FSU. T.J. Green also got beat deep. We're not used to seeing that but, we play a very aggressive style and that is going to be the tradeoff.
Out two ILBs put on the same physicality clinic that Gallman put on for the offense. Goodson probably had his best game in a Clemson uniform (I'll verify that on film, of course) and what more can you say about Boulware's motor. He is go, go, go all the time with total disregard for his (and others) bodies. He might be the best havoc player in college football.
Don't worry about Boulware's numbers. He is a splatter guy. The splatter guy forces the QB/RB to make his best move to avoid him. That leaves the QB/RB in a prone position. The 2nd guy comes in a cleans it up and gets the stats but this is a team and about half our positive stats on defense could just as easily be credited to Boulware.
Tank should've given up a deep ball early in the game but, I was happy to see that when they threw the fade at him later in the game, he got a PBU and an INT. They specifically targeted him for first down throws on two consecutive drives and he made them pay. Loved that for him.
Ryan Carter looked much better in coverage tonight. He got beat on that same deep crosser from the slot that we got beat on last year. That's one of those slow developing routes that your pass rush should negate. So yes, it's on him but, it's just as much on the pass rush.
We certainly did not get the calls/non-calls in the game. The "hands to the face" call on Lawson was determined by replay to be incorrect and extended their TD drive. The Tank holding call negated a Kearse interception that would've happened without the holding. The referees could have have called pass interference on the UL LB covering Hopper at the goalline. The worst one though was the face mask on DeShaun on his 3rd down run late in the 4th quarter. Also, I disagree that the UL Center snapped the ball outside of the pocket. That looked like an easy intentional grounding call to me.
Speical Teams were a mixed bag but overall did not deserve a passing grade tonight. The good news is that Greg Huegel made both of his FGs in a close game situation and those makes likely kept the game from going to overtime. Initially, it looked like we were going to go for it in the 3Q at the 19 yard line and that would've made a huge statement about Dabo's confidence in Huegel. I'm glad we took the timeout and Dabo changed his mind. To Huegel's credit, he made two very clutch kicks for a guy with his limited experience in a close game at a hostile environment.
The kickoff coverage remains horrific and as I said in the film review, a better team will take advantage of that. We spent a good chunk of the spring working on special teams and I agree that we needed the emphasis placed on them. When are we going to see the results though? It's clear that this needs to get fixed pronto.
Louisville is probably the best 0-3 team in the country. They matched our physicality and played very hard tonight. They are young like us and they are going to get better if they can stay focused mentally. We are fortunate to be 3-0 right now and still be viewed as a playoff caliber team.
There is no need to panic at all though. All of our goals are still in play. We all thought we would be a work in progress at this point and guess what? We are one.