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QT’s Take, Straight From the Armchair: Louisville’s Wings Clipped, Clemson Cruises

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

DEFENSE

This was a quality offense that the defense smothered. Apart from the 4th Q UNC drive, the defense has really played lights out all year. They likely won’t be challenged until Wake and USCjr too. Remarkable feat. Overall, a great job by the defense, but there were a bunch of missed tackles.

The offense presented problems for the Clemson D. Becton should go to the NFL. He is a massive LT who gave Chad Smith a wicked one-handed pancake on the first drive (the play right before the Wallace interception). Cunningham has shredded opposing defenses with his athleticism. Hawkins is a good back who got a hundred yards (the first time Clem has given up a hundred yard rusher in forever). Fitzpatrick, Dawkins, and the speed of Atwell are formidable at WR.

Got to call out one play from the replay booth. And I try to do this sparingly but this one got to me. Tutu Atwell caught the ball, tucked it, and took two steps but the replay booth STILL overturned the call on the field. Just horrid officiating where the replay booth got caught slowing the play down too much. If you catch a high ball and are able to tuck it completely—and that some steps—you can’t overturn a call on the field. It denied Simmons of another forced fumble and flipped the field for Louisville.

STANDOUTS

Simmons is reaching legendary levels. He missed a crosser exchange against UNC that gave up a TD, but other than that his play has been spectacular. Cunningham gets tackled on a rollout on second and three for a six yard loss. Cunningham is an athlete, but no one is getting away from Simmons this year.

Nyles Pinkney played the best game of his career. Caught the fumble recovery and consistently got good penetration and shed blockers. Venables has started mixing in more four lineman fronts on some running downs and it seems to be working well.

Tyler Davis continues to disrupt plays and hasn’t hit a freshman wall yet. On a play in the redzone where Louisville cuts the Dline, but Davis keeps his feet and gets the tackle. I thought Davis would be great, but he has exceeded even my expectations. Davis was around the ball all day.

Justin Foster also had his best game to date. For the defense to get to elite levels against better competition another defensive lineman will need to step up. XT can be elite, but Foster showed he has a chance to get there. Foster caused the fumble and did better than the other DE’s at setting the edge and pursuing on the backside. Still hasn’t figured out all the details/assignments and misses some assignments, but this was a step in the right direction.

This was a really good game for the defensive line to continue to mature and learn.

During the first part of the game AJ Terrell was getting some heat, but he played a fine game. On the big play to Fitzpatrick he should’ve had help from the Safety Nolan Turner over the top (actually Turner had one of his weaker performances but playing that Safety spot is tough because of all the discipline it requires). K’Von Wallace turned in another solid performance and his ability to fit the run and cover, coupled with Simmons, allows Clemson to match up against anyone in the country.

Goodrich had a nice pass breakup and showed he can log more snaps as the season continues, especially if DK is dealing with any lingering turf toe.

Overall, the secondary and LBs didn’t bust on hardly any plays until deep into the 4th quarter. Louisville challenges a defense with their eye candy and has been able to get players out of position, but Clemson was in position on the backend. Guys missed tackles, but, in general, they were in position.

4TH DOWN STOPS CONTINUE! Don’t try to run on this defense on fourth down—especially up the middle.

The Rest

Tackling was a problem. Younger and inexperienced players are still learning how to finish. Last year, that defense knew how to finish. This year we have some players overrunning plays and letting guys slip through tackles.

The other problem was setting the edge at times. Henry, Foster, and others lost the point of attack and have to be stronger in this area.

Everything else is nitpicking but the backups didn’t play as well as they could have on defense. Mike Jones Jr is going to be the next man up at the SAM spot (likely with Phillips). The run fits with Jones and Patterson were not where they need to be ultimately. The safeties are also a work in progress. They need the reps, however, heading into next season where only Turner will be back. Phillips isn’t going to redshirt and needs to get to 100 snaps (currently at 28). Charleston is also not redshirting and is only at 39 snaps. Patterson is at 44. Zanders is at 51. These next three games should be where these players should get the bulk of the snaps. Booth and Jones also are burning redshirts and need the snaps (obviously Booth is going to take a seat for awhile).

OFFENSE

Good

After the rough first quarter, the offense performed better. TL was not fazed by the two interceptions and was perfect in the second quarter, although the offense really got on track at the end of the third quarter with 5 minutes to go. The Louisville defense isn’t great, so not much to really take away from the game. The offense did its job, but wasn’t clicking the way it was against FSU (and that is ok with this defense). The team still seems to trip a bit on the road, which is something to monitor going forward.

Really liked many of TL’s throws after the first quarter. He was high on a pass to Chalk when he could have jogged to a first down early in the red zone and threw the two bad interceptions, but he also continues to impress running the ball. He was lightning fast on designed run, draw plays with the defense spread out. Very effective. Remember Trevor ends the day going 20-29. I really liked a pass from the far hash to TJ Chase that was a frozen rope that only TL has the arm strength to throw in college. Those are the throws that challenge any defense.

ETN was a beast on the ground. He got banged up early in the game, but worked through what seemed to be a stinger or some lower body injury he is managing. ETN running fierce is obviously an important part of the success of the team, but good to see more explosive running from him. YAC machine.

Reserve lineman continue to impress. Bockhorst is playing like a starter and has shown there isn’t a dropoff when he enters the game. Glad to see Putnam is getting the snaps he needs for next season. He is not redshirting and at 78 snaps.

Cornell Powell with the touchdown (looking like a 4* player, right—right!). Ngata with the endzone grab. Rodgers breaks a tackle and almost goes the distance. Ross with the circus catch on a ball TL probably shouldn’t have thrown (with 17 seconds TL held the ball too long and it is a low percentage throw regardless), but he somehow rips it across his body and across the field for the score.

Davis Allen had a nice grab and broke a tackle for a first down. Lay is going to redshirt so we are riding with Chalk, Allen, and Price until Galloway can come back. Moar Allen (he had 25 snaps against Louisville!).

Good to see Rencher find the endzone in a real game situation.

Bad

False start on Cervenka, hold by Simpson, plenty of missed assignments by the Oline in the first and second quarters. When a running play failed early on, it was basically because there was a missed assignment. There was a substitution near the end of the half that cost the team about 7 seconds when TL was trying to spike the ball.

The offense really didn’t start humming and turning drives into points until there was about 5 minutes left in the third quarter. The offense wasn’t bad and moved the ball, but the game could’ve been over in the second quarter or over in the third quarter. The offense was relying on the brilliant play of the defense (if Atwell catches a couple of those deep balls, then the game could have been different).

The screen game was a mess. TE’s missing blocks. Ross got way too deep on a tunnel that could’ve gone for a big gain. Attention to detail will be critical as the season continues.

Dixon needs to be more consistent. He has the talent, but needs to take another step. Dixon was great at slashing tired defenses late in games last season, but finding it a bit tougher against the fresh starters to get as many YAC yards. ETN is a YAC machine. Dixon caught some words from Dabo when we went backwards on a play and got close to fumbling near the goal-line.

RUN THE BALL. Safeties were sitting back on passing downs and the middle of the field and underneath were open (which they knew were coming based on scouting of our offense). When a team like Louisville is so bad with run fits, just run it like we did last year against Wake. TL wasn’t giving to the backs on a few RPO plays where he could have and Elliott probably should have called more straight running plays earlier in the game.

SPECIAL TEAMS

First, there is no excuse for what Andrew Booth did at all. Knowing him through the recruiting world, however, this is very uncharacteristic. I don’t think you will ever see something like this again. It is a shame, but he completely brought it upon himself. I was glad to see Dabo kick him out before the refs. He is one of the most talented players on the defense and will prove himself in the coming years.

Players need to keep their cool though. This is something Dabo has done a great job of controlling throughout his tenure (I will say that Louisville got away with a couple of chippy shots on Clemson players prior to the punch. Will Swinney got shoved to the ground in the endzone of the muff, for example).

One area that could improve related to the Booth punch is punt return coverage. Clemson consistently gives players free releases and there is no reason for it with all the talent on the team.

DK is the more explosive punt returner, but his muff that luckily went into the endzone for a touchback (thank you Ngata!) likely means Amari Rodgers takes that spot back. Rodgers is solid as he returns to being able to cut on a dime, but DK could be elite. Got to catch the ball though.

Ngata is one of our best kickoff returners in a long time. Love it.

POTTER! Redemption game. Potter’s kickoffs were key. The one time he put it on the goal-line the returner got near the 40 yard line. Potter should command the starting job from here on out.

The schedule once again sets up nicely. BC and then a break with Wofford. Clemson goes on the road to a depleted NC State team and then hits the final stretch run with Wake and USCjr. Wake has talent, but isn’t very deep so the injuries really pile up for that team. USCjr isn’t going to be easy on the road, but it will be a nice warm-up for the ACC Championship game.