It was another win for Clemson, but it was ugly. I began to get uneasy when I saw the Tigers come down the hill in what struck me as a rather unexcited way. It was a harbinger of what was to come. Like last week, the Clemson offense seemed rusty and out of sync. Although they made a few mistakes, the Tiger defense again played a solid game and caused some timely turnovers to get Troy’s offense off the field.
Troy came to Death Valley prepared to play, and they gave the Tigers fits on both sides of the ball. Clemson fans will certainly point to the many mistakes made by the Tigers, but the Trojans came prepared and executed their game plan pretty well. Trojan fans, your team came away with a loss, but they played very, very well.
The Tigers, on the other hand, still have a lot of work to do to get their offense going. I didn’t expect to see Deshaun Watson playing after the 3rd quarter, but he was obviously needed to get the win for the Tigers. In the coming days you should expect to see a lot of talk about the rather lackluster performance by the Clemson offensive line. During the summer there was talk about the offensive line’s perhaps being one of the best in the country. I certainly didn’t get that impression today. The success of an offense begins with the play of the offensive line, and the Tigers were lacking there, as evidenced by the near complete lack of a running game. Wins against teams like Louisville and FSU will not be forthcoming if that becomes a pattern. It was clear that Troy’s defense was getting tired in the 4th quarter. Against teams with greater depth, the Tigers will not be able to depend on that to save them.
So, there was poor play by the offensive line, but that’s not to say that the rest of the offense looked great. They did not. Watson still looked a little rusty with many of his throws, and his receivers dropped passes that they should have easily caught. Offenses do often take some time to get clicking, so don’t hit the panic button just yet, but the Tigers do still have a lot of work to do.
The defense again played very well, and lots of backup players got some valuable playing time against a pretty good offense. Once again, Dexter Lawrence showed why he was such a highly recruited player out of high school. He’s only played two games for the Tigers, but already I am seeing play that reminds me of the days when another huge, freakishly athletic lineman, wearing number 66, prowled the field in Memorial Stadium.
Speaking of freakishly athletic defensive linemen, can we petition the NCAA to let us take the number 42 off of Christian Wilkins’ jersey and replace it with the Superman symbol? Defensive tackle, defensive end, fullback catching touchdown passes. What can’t he do? There was some joking around earlier in the week that he might try to take the QB1 position from Deshaun. I’m not so sure that it should really be considered joking.
Other individuals that stood out to me were Ray-Ray McCloud, Hunter Renfrow and Artavis Scott. Ray-Ray had a beautiful punt return for a TD negated because he wanted to celebrate more than he wanted to score. He did redeem himself with some solid play the rest of the game, but that was hopefully a lesson about getting the job done first. Hunter made another beautiful catch for a TD. Being the Denver area, I got to see Wes Welker play a lot. Hunter reminds me a lot of Welker, with beautiful, crisp route running, and football magnets for hands. And Artavis had a solid game, getting the ball in his hands and making things happen afterwards.
So, like last week, it was not pretty, but it was a win. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tigers drop a bit in the polls because they are not playing to expectations. The defense is playing well, but the offense is still not getting into that rhythm you need to dominate an opposing defense. As the season progresses. I expect them to get there, but today it didn’t happen. Again, no need to hit the panic button, but the Tigers have a lot to work on. Tune into STS in the coming week for the details.