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In-Depth: Clemson Delivers Historically Crushing Defeat to Buckeyes

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NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I’m so happy I don’t know where to begin (act like you’ve been there QT, act like you’ve been there...).

Dabo Swinney and his staff flat out-coached Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes coaching staff. All three facets of the game.

Let that sink in.

This was one of the worst losses in Ohio State’s entire illustrious football history — and it could have been worse, we played a backup QB in a college football playoff.

I have a list of negatives though, I always do (unless we win the title, all you will read is a bunch of incoherent rambling and mashing of the keyboard). I’ll also go on record now saying we cover a 7 point spread. Make no mistake though, this was a dominant, statement performance.

Negatives

Greg. Against Alabama kick the ball in the endzone. You won’t have any desert air, just Tampa humidity—kick it out of the back of the endzone, please. Every single time. I was surprised to see some guys get knocked off of their lanes. Ohio State wasn’t statistically great going into the game at returning kicks, but Meyer had obviously worked on it. Clemson can’t give Alabama a chance to flex its five star muscle. By that I mean letting Bama use 4* and 5* depth guys on special teams. Punt away, kick far far away...

Disappointed in the breakdowns, but the group has been really good this year and didn’t give up anything after letting the one get past the 50 yard line. Remember that last year teams were routinely getting past the 30 yard line and it wasn’t a big deal. It was a big deal when we gave up two kicks, that mentality is an improvement.

What an amazing wheel-route and throw from Deshaun Watson to CJ Fuller. If you watch the replay, the ball is so perfectly thrown that it literally doinks straight off of Fuller’s facemask into his hands. Watson threw it so perfectly, Fuller literally could not drop the ball. That put Clemson up 17-0 and the game felt out of hand. Clemson, however, missed a bunch of opportunities to seal the game much earlier. Getting the ball on the two yard line and then settling for a botched snap/offsidesish/missed kick from Huegel? Can’t have that lack of execution against Bama. We must go for the proverbial jugular.

I remember last year Clemson had the ball leading in the fourth quarter at about the 50 yard line and went three and out, opening the door for Bama to come running back into the game. Clemson must execute for four quarters again next week.

Watson threw two picks but the second was a great effort from Hooker and the first Mike Williams can’t fall down like that again. That wasn’t the safest throw to make and one not to replicate against Humphry and Fitzpatrick. I do think it was a good test for the Clemson offense. The Buckeyes secondary was legit and Clemson proved they could pass on them. That same performance can be replicated against Bama if DW has time in the pocket and doesn’t get baited into any bad throws.

Ohio State’s LG Jordan hurt his ankle early in the game and it hurt the Ohio State running game. It let Clemson impose its will on their offensive front. It wasn’t like the entire game changed with the injury, but it made it much easier to defend the perimeter against Samuel and allowed Ferrell to have an even better game.

Bama’s interior line isn’t as good as it was last year, but should be better than OSU’s with the injury of Jordan. Again, not making excuses for Ohio State; you must have depth along both lines or you will be exposed at this level of competition.

The pass interference calls exposed how we can be exploited on the backend. Tank is usually fine and shut down Ridley last year, but the second corner needs to step up (I would be using Mullen more personally...). Guys just not trusting their positioning and playing with good technique with the ball in the air. Luckily Barrett couldn’t do anything and Hurts isn’t a good passer either.

Cut it out with all the visible butt grabbing, etc. guys. Its the era of YouTube and video, it’s not a good look...

Special Teams

Maybe we have been saving Andy Teasdall’s Aussie twin for the entire season. He has barely attempted any rugby style punts all year and, well, look at that 67 yard thing of beauty. Jadar Johnson goes in motion (Bama will have this scouted so please break this tendency, Ohio State thought they could block a punt according to Herbie so fyi). We haven’t flipped the field like that the entire year. From the 20 to to OSU’s 13 yard line—I still can’t believe it.

OFFENSE

I really liked the offensive gameplan and I haven’t said that often this season. We started by taking shots down the field to loosen up the Buckeyes corners and then when they started giving Clemson the short passes we kept attacking the perimeter. I thought the OSU defense would be too fast to really get much horizontally, but it was an important part of the offensive effectiveness. I think that will be there against Bama too (the worry is always ball security with hard hitting Bama Safeties and LBs coming over to cover).

We ran a lot of quick counters that took advantage of the aggressiveness of the defense. We will need more of that against Bama. The short passing game really worked well. OSU took away Jordan Leggett for much of the game but the horizontal game was working.

We saw some real creativity too in the game. The quick pitch to Gallman on the last score is the kind of creative wrinkle we need just a bit more of moving forward.

When Deshaun is clicking he is able to hit those quick slants. Renfrow and Cain had some key quick passes. No balls in jeopardy or real drops, tipped balls from wide receivers. Renfrow out in the flat in the redzone=money (i.e. scores).

Watson was just a slippery runner, making good cuts all night, especially in the redzone. I loved the third and goal from the six run call at the goal-line that scored the second to last TD. Ohio State had put in four pass rushing DEs and Clemson made them pay. There was one predictable QB power that I thought was a questionable call on third and short, but other than that, our redzone and short yardage calls were very good (I am going to forget about the first and goal blunder with the third down sack and the botched kick).

Clemson won first down all night long.

Great perimeter blocking by the wide receivers. RayRay McCloud had some really nice blocks/shots in.

This was a really good OSU defense and it was a good warm-up for the Alabama game. OSU’s DE’s in particular are elite (Hubbard and Lewis). McMillan is an elite LB. Safety play from Hooker was as good as Bama and the corners were pretty good but a bit overrated. My guess is that Bama will do more press man coverage with two deep safeties. They believe that their front four will get pressure without bringing much consistent pressure.

I don’t think the Bama Dline is as deep as last year, Allen is a more versatile beast who can line up inside or out and Tomlinson is the next great DT, but Jack LB Tim Williams hasn’t progressed all that much from last year--still a great player though. Watch for Hand to make a difference like he did last year with his quickness off the ball and Ryan Anderson is another to watch.

DEFENSE

Brent Venables was an evil genius in this game. Breaking tendencies and playing a bunch of zone. I thought we were slow to get to the QB at times but a large part of that was trying to keep Barrett in the pocket and confused by the coverage. They forced Barrett to beat them with his arm, to pick the defense apart, and he wasn’t confident enough to do anything like that to the defense.

Some of Ferrell’s splash plays came at the expense of Ohio State’s injured and reserve LG, but overall he did a great job setting the edge and limiting Curtis Samuel. As I said going into the game, Samuel is the dynamic weapon that makes OSU go and you saw that when he got a tiny bit of daylight on his one long play from scrimmage. I was so glad that Venables decided to gameplan around stopping Samuel and the perimeter running game. I think he will do the same thing with Hurts. Take away the running game but more specifically the outside rushing attack and keep things bottled up/funneled to your DT’s.

Clemson held up well around the 30 yard line and pushed OSU back or made them turn the ball over on downs. They bent a little and never broke once.

Dorian O’Daniel is becoming a much more important part of the Clemson defense. He played an integral part in covering and keeping JT Barrett contained in the pocket. He needs to have an even better game containing Hurts and possibly covering Howard out of the backfield.

I heard Fowler say he expected to call Dexter Lawrence’s name more. Flip on the tape and you see that Ohio State was double teaming Dexie almost every play. It is one of the reasons Ferrell was able to be so disruptive.

Edmond played well against the run. His TFL on Weber at the end of the 1st Q was huge. We played musical pass interference chairs in the second half with the DBs, but Edmond had a solid game overall (can we play Mullen a bit more??).

I thought Carlos Watkins was the defensive player of the game. Batted down some balls that would have been completions and likely first downs, rushed the QB, got some TFLs.

The game was a blowout because of the forced turnovers and the OSU offense dropping balls and not executing. Clemson will need a similar kind of performance on defense against Jalen Hurts.