It is hard to say anything too critical after a 63-3 smashing of Wake Forest on the road. The list of positives is impressive: three one hundred yard rushers with 471 total yards or 11.8 yards a carry, all 72 travel players get to play, Trevor Lawrence is 20-25 for 175 yards and 2 TDs and no interceptions, Dortch is limited to 37 yards, and the defense was absolutely dominant, tempo offense from Wake obliterated.
Clemson fans can travel. Clemson was easily the home team. Kudos, again, to all of you! This was only a 28-14 win last year. Blowing people out is fun!
The only caveat I would throw into this dominant performance is the fact that Wake just didn’t have any clue what it was doing on defense with their run fits. Wake is down 5 LBs at the position and lost their top MLB. When their veteran SS Cameron Glenn was ejected for targeting, the wheels completely fell off the wagon. I’m not taking away from the performance of ETN, Choice, and Dixon, but Wake could not stop the run. They already came into the game as one of the worst run defenses in the country and if you followed my pre-game tweets—this one was easy to predict (and easy money).
My only serious critique (apart from some positional players on the offensive line) is the first quarter offense. The play calling to start the game was questionable. And I do not buy that the coaches knew that the run would be there so they wanted to start with a clumsy set of opening plays to test TL. Doesn’t make much sense.
If that was somehow the plan, it almost resulted in TL getting seriously injured. TL looked like he rolled his ankle/hurt his leg (he said it was just a thigh bruise) in the second series and got hit awkwardly again.
Yes, everyone gets to play on the offensive line, but lets not risk the health of our starting QB just to get backups reps. With the talent at RB and a team with a bad run defense, why not run to set up the pass, at least initially? Right guard continues to be the position that needs to be shored up during the bye week.
Everyone knows I love TL. And I have full confidence that he will continue to improve, but he needs to quickly learn a few things. First, his offensive line isn’t all that great at pass blocking and he can’t hold on to the ball as much as he is doing right now (he can’t keep taking this many hits every game). He also missed some easy checkdowns again this week, which isn’t a great sign. He struggled on third down and wasn’t avoiding the rush.
The one chink in ETN’s armor so far is his hands. Rodgers can’t beat his man on first and ETN drops an easy pass on 2nd. Then on a 3rd down pass to Garrett Williams, he had ETN who had leaked out and Renfrow was also open. Three and out to start.
The fumble just can’t happen. Second drive ends in a turnover. It is amazing—Kelly Bryant would’ve won his job back after that fumble if he hadn’t against Cuse. I see Bama getting Tua and Hurts on the field at the same time—what could have been?? (and that is the last I will bring up KB)
On the third drive he starts to settle in, but a third down blitz from Wake’s MLB disrupts the play (Feaster is going to run a route out of the backfield and Simpson can’t get over in time). The nice thing about Wake running tempo is that it gave TL and the offense more series and reps to figure things out.
Fourth drive is a handoff TD for ETN. Great block by Garrett Williams to spring him.
Fifth drive is a three and out again. Nice pass to Ross, Choice falls with first contact and then Choice comes up a yard short on the third down pass.
Sixth drive we start favoring the run and mixing in the pass. ETN takes over.
On the seventh drive you have the promise and peril of TL right now. On second down Cade Stewart misses his assignment and can’t get out to block, giving a free rusher to the QB. TL is sacked. The next play on third and long he hits Ross on the post route for a 55 yard score. Accurate ball that hits Ross in stride as the Safety bites on the Renfrow route.
The drive before halftime was a thing of beauty. It is capped off with a TD pass to Higgins. The rout of Wake is on...
Overall, this was a good game to settle in despite the rough start. He doesn’t make these mistakes in practice and didn’t in high school. I’m still hopeful he is getting the kinks worked out. He will be fully healthy after the bye week and able to play his best game against NC State.
Domination. This is what I wanted to see from this elite unit. This was legit. Wake has scored 50+ points twice this season and was trying to run over 90 plays. They were moving the ball against Notre Dame and scored 27 points.
Change of possession with the TL fumble and Wake goes three and out. Fourth down stuff in the red zone.
Brent Venables had a great observation that Wake uses tempo and their veteran offensive line to push the pile and turn those three yard gains into four, five or six yards. Not happening with this defensive line.
Tre Lamar obviously had a good game with the two sacks and 8 tackles, but the DT’s really held the point of attack and opened up those rush lanes for LB fills. Lamar also did a good job of pushing the pile. Still struggling a bit when the LBs shift from man to man to zone concepts. Lamar at the end of the second quarter wasn’t able to pass his man off to a Safety properly and he had a big gain down the seam.
Can we talk a minute about Xavier Thomas? Jet sweep—not happening. TFL (tackle for loss). Slow developing play? XT chases down with the back side pursuit, TFL. Dortch kickoff return getting to the thirty yard line? Who forces the fumble? Just an impressive athlete.
Tanner Muse played his best game overall. He didn’t bust. Got an interception and filled rush lanes. Very hopeful he can keep this up heading into the NC State game, which will be the toughest test of the secondary until the postseason.
Mark Fields with the greatest stone hands in recent Clemson DB history. Missed another easy interception. Mullen got on the field for a limited amount of plays. Nice to see Mario Goodrich and Kyler McMichael continue to see the field and gain experience.
Don’t look now but Dexter Lawrence is starting to pancake lineman with increasing frequency.
I was pleased with the play of the backup lineman. Jordan Williams looked impressive in his return from injury, playing substantial snaps. Pinckney held the point of attack better and keeps improving. Rudolph got a nice sack/TFL. Foster got back in the rotation. Register got in there (but I am so glad his snaps have gone to XT). KJ Henry chased the ball all the way down the field and got more comfortable as the game went on. Very valuable.
PS. I think Hinton is the better Wake QB.
Cade Stewart had a rough day. Multiple blown assignments that got the QB blown up. He also had a really bad block in the back penalty that negated a big ETN gain. It wasn’t needed and killed the drive. Cade did have a great couple of blocks that opened a huge hole for the Choice TD run.
I don’t want to take away from the offensive line as a run blocking unit, however. They paved the way against the Wake defense (granted it was depleted at LB and Safety). Pass blocking needs to be more consistent, but run blocking showed out.
Justyn Ross continues to catch everything thrown towards him and play fast, physical football. He can block. He can run after the catch. He is turning into one of TL’s primary targets. Also glad to see Higgins playing a more physical brand of football.
Nice jump ball by Brice to Overton who scored a TD in his home state. He is a redzone machine despite dropping below Ross on the depth chart.
Derion Kendrick is one of the best blockers on the team. Would love to give him a few more targets in junk time and a few jet sweeps in games.
Choice had his best game in years as a Clemson Tiger. Played with better balance and was able to gain some YAC (yards after contact). Lyn-J Dixon!! He just knows how to find open gaps and cut back lanes. At this point, who cares if he doesn’t know where to go—it seems to be working out well for him so far. Dixon also showed he has better speed and although not a burner, can beat defenders down the field. It is hard to find more reps for everyone, but Dixon should be at the top of that conversation.
ETN is putting together one of the quietest, most prolific, offensive performances in Clemson running back history.
Not sure why Feaster went back into the game after his a/c joint sprain in his shoulder. Glad the bye week should help him come back healthy.
Garrett Williams had a great day blocking. I criticized him last week for a few missed blocks, but he showed out this week. He sprung the first ETN run and even caught a pass!
Really good job of punt return defense. Terrell had a couple of good stops to Dortch. Much better punting overall. One kick went beyond coverage, but overall a good job.
We brought a bit of pressure on punts this week, and I think it was positive.
Huegel—watch those PAT’s. A few got dangerously low...
Potter was automatic again. Even kicked some extra points.
The bye week comes at a good time for the team and for TL. Everyone can settle down, heal up, and focus on the stretch run. This team hasn’t played its best football yet (apart from GT). NC State is a team that hasn’t been challenged this season. Finley is a great QB with quality big bodies WR’s, but the team is a solid, average group overall. FSU showed some life against Miami and will be prepared for Clemson.