Clemson, if you haven’t noticed, is rolling. This was a statement game to the playoff committee and to Dave Doeren. Dabo didn’t like a post-game press conference question about a frosty handshake (and with good measure—no need to create storylines around a handshake), but these two programs have had some testy back and forth exchanges over the past four or five years. Dave D has wanted a statement win over Clemson desperately. And he has almost had it with close games and overtime games complete with laptop accusations, stolen towels, and assistants slapping intercepted balls out of Clemson player hands (K’von).
It was a cold, wet night in Raleigh, NC and this team hasn’t played particularly well on the road. However, this game felt like it was 21-0 before you could blink. A quality performance on both sides of the ball.
Curse you SOD! What an ugly field. Very glad that no Clemson Tigers sustained any major injuries because guys were slipping all over the place. Twice my heart skipped a beat when Trevor Lawrence slipped (one of those times TL gathered himself and threw an absolute laser beam to Ross in the back of the endzone, a laser beam I tell you...).
Mini-Dave D Rant
I was very pleased to see Dave D completely frazzled in the first quarter. Dave isn’t a bad coach, but he thinks very highly of himself and his coaching acumen. He also has been aided substantially by good assistant coach hires (who then left him). Look, this season has been a rebuilding year and the injuries have added to the problems, but you have to chuckle and then laugh a bit more when you realize NC State made this game their homecoming (and then didn’t want any recruiting targets to be there...). Very happy NC State gave Dave D an extension and that he will be there for at least another couple of years. Same situation as Muschamp (PS Muschamp has like a 19 million dollar buyout?? He isn’t going anywhere). There is a cap on these programs and if they are struggling through mediocrity—it just helps Clemson.
But to suggest that Clemson is trying to rub it in the noses of NC State?? Come, on. NC State muffed the punt (or weirdly tried to jump on it for no reason). If you can’t stop Will and Drew Swinney then don’t be angry.
Booth with another block in the back. This was a pretty close call that negated a really good Rodgers return. Booth was riding the NC State gunner by the shoulder for most of the way down but probably got one hand on the back.
Punts were much better this game. Average of about 46 yards a punt in some wet conditions.
Skalski!!! He actually is a good kicker.
For the third straight game the offense has come out humming and playing crisp football. Lots of variety early, with the offense throwing a bunch of different looks at the young NC State defense. Don’t like those false start penalties and the snap when no one was set and TL wasn’t ready, but going back and looking at the two false starts, they were very questionable.
Only real critique from the game is the Center snaps. They have to get better. Pollard is usually pretty solid, but he and Cade Stewart were snapping high and outside. I guess we can blame the wet ball, but that needs to get cleaned up.
Yeah, at this point we take ETN for granted. He got shoe string tackled on one play that would have been a TD where I had to remind myself—he just broke two tackles to get to that point. HIS HANDS! Congrats to Travis for putting in the work in that area. He couldn’t catch a cold his freshman year—it wasn’t in the play book for him. He has become dynamic and able to transition from catch to run, which isn’t easy for a RB. He is going to break all the records.
Lyn-J Dixon had a decent game. He missed a blocking assignment that almost got Trevor killed on the backside from a Safety blitz. He is also taking too many TFL’s and needs to continue to add good weight, run a bit lower, and make sure he has proper ball security (he put one on the ground that should have been a fumble). But, again, it was a slippery field and he was able to get outside and make a couple good cuts.
Trevor did a really good job of reading the three by three stack look of the State defense. He was hitting intermediate routes and throwing some of his best deep balls of the season. But again, he was reading through progressions and not just hitting the first man he saw. He also made good decisions on when to run. TL has 7 TDs on the year (I’m fine with him sliding but if he didn’t slide on his long run I bet he could’ve beaten those safeties in a foot race).
When TL ran for the opening drive TD and Tee Higgins got bent backwards—I was about to lose it. Higgins had his first two drops of the season (I’m chalking it up to the cold weather for the drops from him and Ngata). Higgins has clearly turned into the alpha WR after Ross has had a bit of a Sophomore slump. It was really good to see Ross get some yards after the catch and bring in the beautiful ball from TL in the back of the endzone. The next three games I want to see more of Ngata and Ladson. It is their time to emerge.
Wasn’t a fan of the ETN pass back to TL, but TL was able to scoop it up and make something out of a near disaster. Those are Coach Swinney plays and I am fine with throwing in some things to get on tape that defenses have to think about, but not a fan of the risk/reward on that one.
Big John Simpson got to score a big man TD.
More Davis Allen, less Chalk. Price continues to excel as a blocking TE.
When you blitz a team like Clemson did against NC State and go up by that much in the first quarter—can you really be upset about anything? State did put up 290 yards (so the streak of keeping teams under 300 yards continues) and the defense lost contain on numerous plays, but the field was so slick that it is hard to fault the defense. This defense has turned into an opportunistic turnover machine. Chad Smith gets the ball after Skalski knocks it out. Tyler Davis gets a strange fumble by Leary. Really happy with the backend coverage for most of the game.
XT was a bit rusty in his first game back from injury. He gave up the edge a few times. That is where Justin Foster has improved, but Clemson will need XT’s pass rush as the season continues.
Disappointed with the defense right before the half and coming out of the half. Spector and Venables gave up some gaps, but it was worth it to see Dave D think he was going to score before halftime only to have NC State turn the ball over hilariously. XT did a great job recovering the bad snap by pushing the QB out of the way. Dave D had such a mad face. NC State RB Knight just broke that long run and the slickness of the grass made it hard to cut and catch up. Knight rushed for 139 yards on 12 carries. Sloppy field makes it hard to know if there was anything the offense was doing that could be used by other teams, but State’s scheme can be good at out-leveraging the defense.
Backups got more reps and experience, which is really needed for next season. Good to see Mike Jones Jr. play better with his reps, for example. Sheridan Jones is also making a case for playing significant reps next season. Still want to see more Phillips, Charleston, Zanders, and Booth.
This should be a challenge for Clemson. I think the 32 point spread is a bit high (I’d have this in the 25-28 point range. If Clemson can shut down the Wake Forest offense and blow the doors off the defense—this team is ready for postseason play. Washington and Hinton are good wide receivers (Surratt is out, which is a big blow to the Wake offense) and RB Cade Carney has been at Wake for a million years. Sam Hartman is a decent QB, but when Jamie Newman is on his game, he is one of the better QBs in the country. The slow motion option read will be an interesting play to see BV defend (does he bull rush it or just keep everyone disciplined and let the normal pass rush work).
The Wake defense has taken a step back, however, especially with the season ending injury to LB Justin Strnad. But they still have talent like Carlos Basham who is one of the top pass rushers in the ACC.
It is also going to be Senior night, which comes with a lot of emotions that can make it a tough game to play (sometimes teams focus even more and other times they let the pageantry get the best of them and don’t come to the game with the same kind of preparation).
This win was extremely satisfying.