Let us start by addressing this. Christian Wilkins has revealed his true identity as the White Ranger and the Clemson Dline call themselves the Power Rangers, complete with a Pink Ranger Dexter Lawrence. The Oculus is the Command Center and Coach Brooks is Zordon. Wilkins said today that he responds to early morning Brooks texts by texting back, ‘Affirmative Zordon, on my way to the Command Center.’ It is too perfect, and everything makes sense now...
So about the game, all of the hits on Francois from Clemson were textbook execution and completely clean. There was no missed spear. All of the hits were not with the crown of the helmet and to the midsection. Head up, wrap up, tough but clean. That is where Jimbo goes overboard. The targeting call for the FSU player was also cut and dry. Leads with the crown (top of the helmet) and makes forceable contact to Mike Williams head or neck area (hits MW’s helmet—one of the four criteria that establish targeting). If you do that you are toast (it doesn’t matter if an offensive player ducks or anything if the defender leads with the crown).
Again, I don’t want forget the fact that we just defeated Florida State two years in a row and are now set up for a run at the national championship. But when you review this film you feel like Clemson can’t seem to put it together. It is so frustrating because you see a team oozing with talent, talent that ultimately carries the day, but plagued by inconsistency. Clemson is the superior team for half the game, ready to blow out the Noles, but for the other half is either playing down to the competition or looking lost.
Lets talk about the early sequence first. With 42 seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Noles punter shanks a bad punt. Clemson gets the ball on the 49 yard line up 14-0. Clemson goes for the kill shot with an overthrown deep ball and then on the next play Nnadi tosses Guillermo to the side and tackles Gallman for a loss. Jay did not have a good night (really he hasn’t improved much from last year unfortunately) and consistently got beaten. Granted, a healthy Nnadi is an early round NFL talent and a completely different player than last year. When Demarcus Walker moved inside, he really gave Clemson problems too. Then DW is flushed OOBs on the next play (with a little facemask tug as he goes OOB, I would add...). Clemson gets another three and out and gets the ball on the 47. Then on 3 and 1, knocking on the door of FG range, DW doesn’t take the open lane and run for the first or the open check down but forces it to Cain down the field where it gets picked off.
Huge swing in momentum and then Clemson has one of its worst defensive sequences of the year. The D gets tagged for two PI’s in a row. The first is clearly PI and Tank is going to need to clean up his technique. He is being watched more closely now that he is the lead corner and the entire Clemson secondary was called out after the Louisville game. Fields also commits PI because he doesn’t release his arm bar with the ball in the air. That is going to get called, especially if you don’t turn to the ball. Fields also does this funny lung thing at the end of lots of plays that he needs to stop because it makes things look worse.
Then Boulware, who had another bad game, grabs the jersey and back of Izzo in another blatant PI. He is such a liability in man coverage. Izzo isn’t even that talented of a TE, but Boulware gets beaten badly. Also you see Tank hold Rudolph and fall on his backside on the play. This won’t be popular, but I think part of Clemson’s problem in the two minute drill is keeping BB on the field. I know he comes up with big plays when helped by the goal-line, but if he isn’t blitzing he is a liability.
Anyway, this is capped off by perhaps the worst defensive call of the game by BV who sends 6 on 3rd and 11 and Francois hits the underneath route to Murray for the first down. Wallace and Johnson don’t crash hard enough or get off blocks to come close to the tackle.
I have no idea how we let a fumble squirm out so that an FSU lineman, who comes in super late, can pluck the ball out of the pile as it is inexplicably nestled between Lawrence and Wilkins. Crazy luck for FSU. FSU scores and it is a ballgame.
Got to clean up those illegal formation and illegal motion penalties. Very uncharacteristic for this veteran group.
We moved the ball really well for most of the game, but the stalls in the redzone and some short and manageable third downs must get better. We had a third and three on the 45 where Gallman misses a block on Lane who tackles DW. Then in the redzone we have second and three from the six and throw a fade to the back of the endzone into double coverage that didn’t have a chance. Then another miscommunication between MW and DW in the endzone. We have seen far too many of these this season. That needs to stop. On that missed throw, Walker again burns Guillermo up the A gap.
Also not a fan of the first two point conversion play. Don’t like the design and the low percentage pass to the corner. Wasn’t at all open. I don’t understand not giving MW a chance to go up and high point a ball if you are going to throw something that is 50-50.
Lets get this out of the way. Jay played one of his worst games. He couldn’t handle Walker’s speed in the middle and struggled against Nnadi and Christmas.
Deshaun Watson must not be a fan of Demarcus Walker. Walker has knocked down more of DW’s passes than any other player in the nation. Part of it is Olineman (mainly Fruhmorgan) not getting up and pushing the Dlineman back when they jump, but part of it is also predictable play calling. The FSU Dline knew later in the game that on first down Clemson was going to the short pass/slant game. Walker wasn’t even trying to rush the passer but was reading DW’s eyes and trying to knock down the ball.
Jordan Leggett: This is the Leggett we saw at the end of last year and the player we desperately needed to show up tonight. No jogging or loafing. He was determined to get to the endzone and made it happen. Only missed the lunging third down pass in the fourth Q, but other than that tough ball, he was NFL money.
Mike Williams: He played a great game apart from the goal-line miscommunication. If any NFL team had a question about his neck strength, look at the (correct) targeting call. MW wasn’t even phased. If his MRI checks out he should be a first rounder despite his lack of TD receptions thus far.
Deon Cain: You know who doesn’t drop passes against Florida State or in big games? This guy. Curiously turning into are only legit deep, deep ball threat.
Hunter Renfrow: Wow. He may be our best pure pass catcher on the entire team. What a catch at the 7:21 mark in the 4th Q. That made the 4th down conversion a possibility. If we have to punt at that moment, the game could be over since FSU would score again. What a throw by DW in that pivotal moment, as well.
Offensive line: Falcinelli got time for Jay. John Simpson even played for a series. Sean Pollard got a quick drink in the 2nd Q and played a good bit midway through the 4th Q. Pollard also got the call on the final drive and played nicely, not giving up any sacks or penetration on Watson (he did kind of whiff on the 2pt conversion though). I like these moves. Fruhmorgan and Hearn need to step up.
Disappointed in our two minute drill defense before the half. Wallace got burned and had to tug a jersey that wasn’t called. Jadar seemed to strain his calf on the overthrow. Van Smith and Tank let a ball awkwardly fall in to Murray. We couldn’t quite tackle Cook on a third and 1. Van Smith had a chance to make the TFL but whiffed. Whitfield got behind O’Daniel who is just covering air and in front of Johnson. Then the corner throw for the score. Francois got the ball out quick and picked our defense apart. He isn’t all that accurate with the ball (I think this will come with time and a better Oline), although he does have the arm strength, so it is a serious concern for the defense going forward.
Jadar Johnson had an amazing interception playing center field in the first half and was sorely missed in the second half. He has done a good job this year of not letting any plays get behind him and not giving up any explosive runs. We need Jadar healthy for the future (maybe even the Cuse game). Safety is a position we said at the beginning of the year that couldn’t sustain serious injuries.
The secondary was depleted in the game and in the second half. Mark Fields basically doubled his snap count during the FSU game, playing 55 snaps. Edmond played sparingly in the first half and sat the second half and Mullen was injured before the game. Edmond logged just 12 snaps in the game. We finally had a Wiggins sighting, who played the entire second half, but it was apparent that he is far from 100%. He doesn’t look as good as he did at the beginning of the season.
Change of possession. After the 2nd interception, on the first play from scrimmage, Clemson failed to set the edge, play with gap integrity (Boulware and Smith getting sucked into the B gap as Cook bounced it outside), and everyone on the defense pretty much sucked. Wiggins took a horrid angle. Tank couldn’t get off his man. Joseph also takes a poor angle and is jogging. Everyone expects Smith to push Cook OOB and doesn’t pursue as hard as they should. Bad team defense on that play.
On the 70 yard run, its the same thing. Smith and Boulware in the B gap, Boulware get blocked by the TE and can’t keep contain. Tank can’t get off his block. Smith takes another poor angle and Wiggins just isn’t healthy enough or fast enough to help. Yick.
Disappointed that we couldn’t stop Stevensen at the 4:02 mark in the 4th Q when Smag came into the game. He isn’t fast and shouldn’t have beaten the entire defense to the edge. Double Yick. O’Daniel was even in the game at the time.
Mark Fields: His PI calls were very suspect, especially the second call that I thought was garbage. He could have been called for a third after the illegal block below the waist call where he had his arm around Auden Tate. One thing to watch is Fields inability to get off blocks and get to the ball on running plays. He must do a better job in that area.
Austin Bryant: had an amazing sack but still needs to round into shape. He got stoned at the line of scrimmage more than he did at the end of last year. I’m hopeful he will get there in the next few games. With Bryant back we no longer need to put Register or Jabril on the field. Yeargin is also having a hard time seeing the field, but will get more reps in the coming games.
Dexter Lawrence: At the 3:25 mark in the 3rd Q, the DexStar introduced himself to Francois. The hit was brutal, the move to shed the lineman brilliant, and the Francois body position looked like something from a hard boiled novel. I thought we might have to get the chalk line out—and I think Dex went easy on him and didn’t plow with his full weight!?! Big Dexxy is already commanding double teams and made the FSU center look silly much of the night. The pink ranger and the white ranger teamed up to triumph on third and 20. That was such an impressive rush from a 340 pound man.
Ben Boulware: Yikes. Not a good night for our hero. FSU was tough on BB. More specifically Dalvin Cook was tough on BB. Cook burnt him on a key play in the 4th that Cook just dropped. Got burned to the edge. He also didn’t get home nearly enough when he blitzed. He kept getting bounced out by Olineman, not breaking through. Tough night.
Well, that is all true up until the last play. BB comes through when the chips are down (and the FSU Oline completely busts).
Tank: At the 4:01 mark Tank get called for PI. Usually when a receiver is double covered then they let more grabbing and hand fighting go, but Tank needs to tone it down. He didn’t need to grab with his left hand. On that same play Joseph lands a great hit on Francois, right to his stomach/sternum with his helmet up. It wasn’t a spear in any way, shape or form.
Kudos to the Clemson band. They were loud and made an impact.
Again, I’m not sure how we pulled it out, but make no mistake—this was an historic victory.
Dino—you and your loveable ways are next. Get healthy secondary...