So I was wrong, Clemson blew the Wolfpack off the field for homecoming and look like they might be the most complete team in the country. The relatively maligned secondary was impressive against NC State, holding what appeared to be an elite passing game to under 200 yards. Doeren and Co. came in with a clear plan on defense, shut down the run and hope Lawrence can’t beat them. Part one of that plan was a relative success, the Tigers running game was going nowhere outside of the red zone. Part two didn’t go nearly as well, Lawrence was able to hold up his end of “taking what the defense gives you” by taking advantage of one-on-one matchups vertically and on the sideline. The Tigers managed to pass for nearly four hundred yards and run for four touchdowns, this was a more balanced offensive performance than it looks like on the box score.
Lawrence isn’t scaring anyone on the power read variation Clemson has favored for years. He’s not the inside runner Bryant or Watson was, and tends to pitch the ball too quickly to really “hold” the defensive end he’s reading.
The Tigers gave up more pressure than you’d like to see, with both the running backs and offensive line blowing coverages. On this drop back the offensive line is in “full slide” protection, with Etienne entirely whiffing his block.
The front seven struggled more against the run than one might expect. The Wolfpack running game wasn’t particularly efficient, but they were able to generate the occasional 8-10 yard run. The defensive ends, for all their hype, were all reach blocked at one point. J.D. Davis and Kendall Joseph were hit or miss when it came to getting off blocks and shutting down cutback lanes. Combine that with excellent perimeter blocking and you’re moving downfield.
The lions share of Lawrence’s passing yardage came towards the sideline. With NC State packing a safety or two in the box for most of the game there were one-on-one opportunities out wide all day. Clemson’s WR’s are too good to be left one on one for particularly long, and Lawrence has the arm strength to stretch the field down the sideline. RPO’s such as this one can threaten the entire field by combining a bubble screen, inside zone and backside comeback. Multiple receivers, especially Higgins, were able to cook the Wolfpack with this.
The Tigers were able to turn to their running game in the red zone, such as with this belly zone. Williams block opens the hole for what looks like a designed cutback run. Having tight ends who can block makes a world of difference on the goal line. The defense even had to respect the jet sweep fake, Clemson’s started to hand the ball off on jet motion again.
An interception and fantastic return from K’Von Wallace (who will get an INT TD against NC State or die trying) almost allowed the Tigers to go to halftime with a 28-0 lead. A false start penalty on the goal line robbed us of an opportunity to feature the Beef Package as the Tigers would kick a field goal to go up 24-0.