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Straight from the Armchair, QT’s Take: BC Eagles are Grounded by Clemson Tigers

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NCAA Football: Clemson at Boston College Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Lets get all the happy stuff out of the way. Clemson won yet another Atlantic division title. Clemson needs to win three more games (maybe just two) to make yet another college football playoff. Clemson exited the game relatively healthy apart from some stingers to Mitch Hyatt. Clemson’s defense didn’t give up a score the entire game. Lots of great plays to celebrate on both sides of the ball.

But lets get real for a minute. Once Christian Wilkins unceremoniously knocked Anthony Brown from the game on a legal, clean, devastating hit—the game was all but over. It was only 13-7 at halftime, but BC wasn’t going to score.

I came away from watching the Alabama/LSU and more specifically the Alabama/Miss St games thinking that Clemson really had a good chance at beating Bama. I was moving from thinking that Clemson had a puncher’s chance to really laying down a solid rationale for how we were going to win. That confidence eroded as the BC game continued.

A few gripes about the game:

  • Did we really need to mic the BC band? All game long ESPN. It was unbelievable distracting and annoying after a quarter or so. Bad.
  • Rodgers was interfered with when a BC player, on their own, ran into him and invaded his one yard catch halo thingy. That was one of the worst blown calls I have seen all year. That was laughably bad (and why is that not a reviewable play, it isn’t subjective—you are just seeing if the player was hit before the catch??).
  • Travis Etienne had 11 carries for 78 yards, an average of 7.1 yards a carry, and HE ONLY GOT 11 CARRIES? We threw the ball 40 times for an average of 7.4 yards. Sometimes you need to just call runs and not RPOs. ETN for Heisman?
  • That was an ugly two minute drill. It doesn’t help when the refs fail to stop the time on a first down, mind you, but there was not great situational awareness. TL needs to have a better sense of urgency. Receivers, especially Rodgers, need to get out of bounds when they can. And you can’t take a sack—you just can’t. I know the wind was swirling and that hurt some of the deep balls, but you need to give your guys a chance in the endzone.
  • Clelin Ferrell sneaking up to the line to listen to the BC Oline’s calls. LOLZ.

OFFENSE

This is close to what it will be like when Clemson plays Bama. Tough sledding in the run game. Lots of pressure. Needing to connect on down the field throws. Needing to play to the strengths of the individual Clemson players to offset those deficiencies (ex. rolling TL out more of the pocket). However, Q. Williams will be more disruptive in the middle, Bama DE’s have longer arms, and the secondary is more physical and athletic overall.

I will say that this game was a positive just because it shows where we need to improve.

The offensive line play average. I saw for the first time in many games a bunch of missed assignments. Simpson doesn’t get over in time to cut off the backside pursuit, Pollard misses his man in the hole, can’t hold up in third and short etc etc. It is also obvious that Elliott does not want to help the Oline out by going mass protection or chipping with TE’s. He wants the ball out fast or he just doesn’t want to sacrifice a player by having them block (I understand, it ruins the scheme but you need those Tackles to hold up).

Tremayne Anchrum had one of his worst games of the season. I hope this doesn’t hurt his confidence and he is able to bounce back because overall he hasn’t played poorly for much of the season.

Anchrum looked fine when matched up against #11 Ray, but when they changed #2 Allen over to his side almost exclusively—it got ugly. Like turnstile, get your QB injured ugly. Anchrum struggled with Allen’s bigger body and power. He couldn’t get sufficient push to move him beyond Lawrence in the pocket (and TL wasn’t helping much by rarely stepping up as much as he could). Pollard went in for a series at RT and was awful. He almost got TL killed—didn’t even put a hand on Allen.

Trevor Lawrence didn’t have his best game either. He held on to the ball a little too long. He missed deep throws again (yes, some of it had to do with the wind) and the timing was off with some wide receivers. The offense struggled in the red zone without a consistent run game. The offense struggled on third and short without a consistent run game. We needed the beef package fake throw to score on fourth down (a great call and play design, but also—we shouldn’t need it right there). TL missed where blitzes were coming from and BC did a good job mixing up their looks and who they were sending.

TL didn’t look all that comfortable on the road, something he is still learning how to handle. He threw an interception. And even with all of that, he won the player of the game on offense—rushed for a score and threw for a score. He had a beautiful ball to Rodgers for 41 yards on the opening drive. The throw to Renfrow on the far hash just as he exits his break. The ball to Kendrick was indefensible (and the type of pass he will need to complete against a team like Bama).

What is obvious is TL is elite (like NFL elite) with the intermediate game. David Hale had a tweet that between 6-15 yards TL has the highest completion percentage of any QB in the country. He is also elite with the speed and delivery of balls in the horizontal game. BC knew a ball was coming, broke on it, but still couldn’t get to it in time because of the velocity. The last piece of the puzzle is connecting down the field more and the offense taking advantage of the middle of the field with greater frequency.

ETN showed his YAC prowess. Taking hits but not going down.

Tee Higgins showing his big play ability, Moss’d the BC defender.

Hunter Renfrow! Run for the pylon, my man, the corner of the endzone. You can get in the endzone!! That is like three times this season where he has tried to cut it up and not gotten the yards he could get heading for the pylon.

I’m not sure why we didn’t try to take advantage of our speed differential with the BC LBs and lineman more in the game. We seem to be adverse to running more than one jet sweep in a game. It also would be nice to have a weapon like Galloway ready to go at this point in the season to attack the middle of the field (except he is one of the freshman with a burned redshirt sitting below one hundred snaps), especially if Williams leaves for the military and he and Chalk are your de facto starters next season.

DEFENSE

24 yards in the first half for the BC offense.

Granted a bunch of those are from bad snaps, but once Brown went down—the game was over. AJ Dillon just wasn’t fully healthy and it showed more and more as the game continued.

A lot of those bad snaps had to do with Mr. Dexter Lawrence, however. Like I said last week, the past couple of games he is starting to round into his freshman form. Knocking back centers with reckless abandon. I’m also seeing Big Dexy pursuing the ball more sideline to sideline. On an early third and one, Dexter split the Center and Guard (WHO WERE BOTH HOLDING HIM AROUND HIS WAIST) and he made the stop.

Wilkins was playing for the home crowd and was unblockable at times.

I thought AJ Terrell played one of his better games. He was very physical in run support. He didn’t allow BC to get to the perimeter.

Same with Tanner Muse. Unfortunately, with Brown out, BC simplified their attack and didn’t play with as much misdirection. The Safeties weren’t stressed in this game like they could have been, especially without the BC tempo being used as much with the backup QB. I will be watching the secondary against Duke and their QB tomorrow as the main matchup in the game. Duke is undersized, but they can get Safeties and the secondary out of position.

Enough. The defense was stellar.

SPECIAL TEAMS

BT Potter has hit a freshman wall. He must be dealing with some dead leg, which happens. Hopefully the slightly warmer temperatures will help him get some more depth on his kicks. He has been so good all year.

I think it is beyond time to start opening up the punting competition. I wouldn’t mind seeing Renfrow being used legitimately. Spiers is not getting it done with regards to distance, but his get off time isn’t great either. Playoff teams will try to block some punts and Clemson needs to be ready.

TJ Chase and Terrell blew it as gunners on punt coverage. It was a mistake, but one they should easily correct. Judah Davis also played with poor effort on the play. The snapper and Judah should have that next line of defense on that side. Snapper just barely missed him.

Wow. The blocking for Amari Rodgers on his punt return TD was so much better than normal—when the defense was in to defend on the play...Hmm...wonder why? Look at all of that down the field blocking. Our punt team is one of the weakest links on the entire roster. Everyone gets a free release!!