It wasn’t always pretty, but on Saturday night Clemson defeated Boston College on the road in a game that wasn’t as close as the scoreline indicated. The Tigers dominated the stat sheet, out-gaining the Eagles 424 yards to 113. With the Offense not performing as well as they could have, the Defense stepped up and eventually suffocated Boston College. The Eagles had no answer on Offense, and were only able to put up points through a punt return for a Touchdown. Here are a few major takeaways I had from last night’s game:
Clemson’s Defense continues its run of dominance
Right from the very beginning of the game, Clemson’s defense completely dominated the Boston College Offense. Specifically, on the interior Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence were phenomenal. Their impact on the game manifested itself in a variety of ways. The first of which occurred early in the game, when a Christian Wilkins pass rush resulted in a punishing take down that knocked BC’s starting QB Anthony Brown out of the game. Dexter Lawrence made a freakish tackle to prevent a 1st down despite being held by 2 Offensive Lineman! There was constant havoc from both Defensive Tackles, and it is obvious that having both fresh for this point of the season has made a huge difference.
Clemson’s front 7 held the Eagles to 9 total rushing yards and an average of .3 yards per carry. Boston College’s star Running Back AJ Dillion averaged just 2.4 yards per carry, and was unable to make any impact at all. Many players are really coming into their own. Xavier Thomas continues to impress on a weekly basis, Isaiah Simmons becomes more comfortable every game, and Tre Lamar has become a force in the middle. Although maligned early in the season, the back end of Clemson’s Defense is leaps and bounds better than before. Tanner Muse and AJ Terrell are becoming stars, and both played a huge role in keeping the Eagles at a mere 104 passing yards last night. Clemson’s 1st Team Defense has not allowed a Touchdown since the Syracuse game, that’s 5 games and 43 days since a team last scored on the starters.
Clemson’s Offense still working out the quirks
While the Defense maintained its level from the prior month, the Offense did not. There were various issues when the Tigers had the ball, and it perhaps started with the Offensive Line. Pass protection was not what you want to see at this point in the season, most notably at Right Tackle. Tremayne Anchrum was consistently beaten by Zach Allen on the right edge, while other errors along the line led to consistent penetration into the backfield throughout the night.
Trevor Lawrence didn’t play a bad game, but there are some things he can work on He could have done a better job reading blitzes, avoiding pressure in the pocket, and connecting on his deep passes. Trevor did make some “wow” throws, like the one to Derion Kendrick downfield in the 2nd half. He also rushed for a score while the game was still only a 1-score game. Ultimately, he was a deserved winner of the Leather Helmet, which I’ll let you determine whether it looked good or not...
The 2018 O'Rourke-McFadden Leather Helmet Trophy goes to Trevor Lawrence, who went 29-40 for 295 yards and a TD passing, and also added a TD on the ground. pic.twitter.com/jQOPl2Bzhr— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) November 11, 2018
Boston College was physical, smart, and disciplined against Clemson’s Offense and as a result they rarely broke. This is the type of game that will make Clemson better going forward, and one that will benefit the younger starters immensely.
Special Teams play could hold the Tigers back
Punting. Punting. Punting. Clemson’s punting last night was dreadful. Will Spiers is punting for less than 40 yards on nearly every kick last night, as the Tigers sometimes struggled to win the field position battle. One punt in particular failed to travel even 30 yards. That’s remarkable for a college Punter. This is an area that needs to be address if at all possible. Never winning the field position battle is not a recipe for success against the best of the best.
On the punt Boston College housed, Spiers took too much time to punt the ball and nearly had it blocked before finally getting the ball off. The timing of the punt coverage was thrown off as a result, and when you throw in poor tackle attempts and coverage discipline you have a play that gave the Eagles the only lead they’d have for the remainder of the contest. The bottom line is that Spiers is not getting it done. Looking ahead, this could be a huge liability should Clemson reach the playoffs for a 4th consecutive season.
All in all, however, Clemson did what was necessary to win on Offense while dominating on Defense. The offense has growing pains because they are still inexperienced in spots. The Offensive Line troubles are worrying, but nothing new, while the Wide Receivers continue their strong seasons. Trevor Lawrence was thrown everything Boston College had, and made some freshman mistakes. On the flip side, there were plays to be made, and plenty of experiences for Trevor Lawrence to learn from. This was his first true road night game as a starter, and he passed the test. Lawrence will experience his first night game in Death Valley next weekend, and it’s safe to assume he’ll feel much more comfortable. By beating BC, a 4th straight ACC Championship game has been clinched, and there’s never been a more successful stretch in program history. Not a perfect performance by any means, but it’s still a tremendous accomplishment and a testament to the longevity of what Dabo Swinney has built.