There's no two ways about it, that sucked. Yes, we were competitive, even better than Alabama. Yes, we stopped Henry minus his one long run, but this one still hurts. This one was lost on 4-5 key plays. It was not a hammering like some teams have taken in the national title game. It was close the whole way, and Clemson easily could have come out on top. Here are a few expanded thoughts from last night's loss
The single biggest factor in this game was the loss of Mackensie Alexander to injury. A lot of fans and the media are going to talk about the onside kick, but Alexander's loss to injury paved the way for Alabama's 2 long TD passes to OJ Howard. There was too much confusion and blown assignments, likely because players were doing things they were not used to doing. Alexander is also likely there on that sweep play at the end of the game that went down to the goal line. We mentioned earlier in the day how critical he was to Clemson's defensive gameplan, and now we know why.
Clemson's DL came to play last night. The Tigers had 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. That's pretty good. Shaq Lawson looked like his nice was close to 100%, and Kevin Dodd absolutely balled out. We mentioned the possibility Dodd leaves after this season, a game like tonight will only increase speculation.
That was not a pretty game for TJ Green. He was responsible for both blown coverages. Yes, he was one man covering 2 receivers on the first TD, but he made absolutely no move to signal for help there or indicate the problem.
As some of us thought, Mr. Henry is talented, but he wasn't going to run much on us. He went for 4.4 YPC, almost a 1 yard lower than his season average. He had one big run for 50-yards, take it out and those numbers drop to 3.08 which is pedestrian. We said all along Brent Venables would take away the run and make Coker beat us.
The one true glaring disappoint from last night was the yards after catch we were allowing. At some point, early in the 3rd quarter I believe, we had allowed over 90 yards after the catch. Now some of that comes from Alexander being out, but some was also missed tackling and letting guys into space. That's the one big football thing we can take from this game.
Deshaun Watson is the best QB in the country and we saw why. All week long we were told that Watson wasn't going to be able to scramble, that he wasn't going to do well on this stage against an Alabama team that could spy him with amazing athletes. Well he ran for 73 yards on 20 carries and threw for 405 yards. I'd say he pretty much decimated this vaunted Alabama defense.
Related, my unsung heroes of this game are the Clemson OL. They had the hardest job of anyone last night and they did an amazing job. The Alabama DL is the best in the nation, as good as ours was last year, and not only did they protect Watson, but they game him time to make plays. Their performance was why Clemson was in this game until the end, and any of our previous OLs from the past 7-8 years would have been blown out of the water.
Hunter Renfrow, I love you, that was some amazing stuff and the Alabama DBs will be scratching their heads when they watch the film.
It was a good season, a fun seasons, even a historic season. But it still hurts to fall short. Only 7 months until fall camp.