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Clemson vs. Miami: Tigers Humble the Hurricanes

Clemson easily defeats Miami 42-17 to cement their hold on the #1 ranking.

NCAA Football: Miami at Clemson
It was the Trevor and Travis show in Death Valley tonight.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

The #7 Miami Hurricanes blew into Death Valley with confidence buoyed by a 3-0 start, including a win against then-18th-ranked Louisville. But the Cardinals have been in a turnover-induced tailspin since then, and I am wondering if Miami’s ranking based on wishful thinking for the U’s return to their days of national championship wins, or are they for real? Today’s game against the #1 ranked Tigers would answer that question. Clemson would be facing a good running quarterback for the second week in a row, but one who is also a good passer. Clemson’s young defense would have its work cut out for it.

Clemson received the opening kickoff and took the touchback. The turf monster got Amari Rodgers on 1st down for no gain but he picked up 7 on a hitch on 2nd down. The Rodgers show continued on 3rd down as he picked up the first down. Hunter Renfrow Brannon Spector picked up 10 to move the chains again. A few plays later it was 4th & 4, and Miami came close to an interception, but the Canes were offside. Travis Etienne took a pitch for 8 . Then Braden Galloway took a throwback pass to the end zone, and with B.T. Potter’s extra point it was Clemson 7-0 with 11:35 left in the 1st quarter. Potter’s kickoff sailed into the end zone and Miami started at the 25. Baylon Spector smothered D’Eriq King for a loss of 5. A short pass and a false start put the Canes at 3rd & 12, but King connected with his receiver for the 1st down. Lannden Zanders was then called for pass interference on a hitch and throw, but the Clemson defense then started swarming and sent the Miami offense to the bench. Rodgers fair caught the punt at the Tiger 11.

Etienne picked up 6 on 1st down on a nice pass fake by Trevor Lawrence,

NCAA Football: Miami at Clemson
Travis Etienne rumbles for yardage against Miami.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

but then committed a false start. A short pass to Etienne set up 3rd & 9, and he then took a screen pass out to the 24. Lyn-J Dixon showed nice acceleration with a 10-yard gain. D.J. Uiagaleiei came on an had a nice run, then took a high snap and launched it downfield for Frank Ladson, who couldn’t come down with it. On 3rd & 9, Lawrence scrambled for the 1st down, but the Tigers were called for holding, while Miami was called for a late hit, giving the Tigers a 1st down. After a review, targeting was called. Lawrence underthrew Etienne on a go route down the field, but then hit Rodgers who made a nice run for the 1st down. After an Etienne run and a Spector catch, a 3rd down run by Dixon got the 1st down. An incomplete pass and a TFL on Etienne made it 3rd & 14 for the Tigers at the Canes 24. Etienne took a screen pass down to the 2 to end the 1st quarter. He then took it up the middle, got stuffed, and then bounced it outside to score. At the 14:54 mark, the Tigers led 14-0. Miami started their drive at the 25 and promptly fumbled the ball, but they were able to recover it. On 2nd down, King was sacked by Justin Mascoll. A false start put the Canes at 3rd & 19, and Andrew Booth broke up a long pass down the sideline. Rodgers fielded the punt at the Tiger 39.

Lawrence rolled right, but the coverage was good and he was sacked for a loss of 3. The turf monster reappeared and got Dixon for another loss. Ladson was wide open down the sideline but dropped a sure touchdown. The punt put the Canes at their 15. King had a nice run on 2nd down, picking up 5 before Zanders laid the wood to him. An incomplete pass on 3rd down forced the punt, and Rodgers returned it to the Clemson 30. A 2-yard Etienne run and an incompletion set up 3rd and 8 for the Tigers, and Lawrence connected with Ladson down the left sideline to the Miami 37. A defensive holding penalty on an incomplete pass to Rodgers put the Tigers at the 27. Two plays later, it was 3rd & long again and Lawrence hit Rodgers for the 1st down. Etienne appeared to get it down to the 1 but the Tigers were called for holding again. On 2nd & 20 from the 22, Etienne took a flare pass to the 20. After an incomplete pass, Potter’s FG attempt hit the crossbar after it was deflected. Miami started at the 20. A couple of plays in, the Tiger line and linebackers lost their rush lane discipline like they did so often against Virginia, and King took off for 56 yards to the Tiger 22, where Booth caught up with him. The Tiger defense stiffened, and 3 plays later Miami kicked a FG and it was 14-3 Clemson with 3:53 left in the half.

NCAA Football: Miami at Clemson
Trevor Lawrence throws a screen pass to Travis Etienne.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Galloway took a pass over the middle down to the Canes 49 and Miami was also called for unnecessary roughness, putting the ball at the 35. Rodgers took a pitch for a 1st down, but Jackson Carman was called for a hold for the second time. Rodgers picked up 12 on a hitch pass and Etienne picked up the 1st down with a nice spin move down to the 22. Ladson got another 1st down coming over the middle to the 11. Galloway took it in on the next play after he snuck out into the flat. With 1:14 left in the half, Clemson led 21-3. Miami couldn’t do much on their possession, and Rodgers fielded the punt at the Tiger 23. With less than a minute left, Clemson stayed on the gas and moved into Canes territory. Potter eventually came into to try a 61-yard FG and Miami blocked it, scooped it up, and scored. At halftime Clemson led 21-10. I understand giving Potter a chance, but why they didn’t have someone back to protect against that situation, I do not know. Dabo accepted responsibility, but that was one of the poorest coaching decisions I’ve seen from Clemson in a while.

Miami got the ball to start the 2nd half and started off with a false start. The Tiger defense forced 3rd & 5 and Miami couldn’t convert. Rodgers fielded the punt at the Clemson 28. The Tiger drive started with a tackle for loss on an Etienne flare pass. An incomplete pass made it 3rd & 14. Lawrence scrambled and was tackled short of the 1st down, appearing to fumble the ball. Review upheld the call on the field of a fumble. Miami had the ball at the Tiger 40.

NCAA Football: Miami at Clemson
Braden Galloway heads for the end zone.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Miami moved the ball on the legs of King, but Sheridan Jones made a nice interception in the end zone to get the Tiger offense back on the field. Lawrence had a nice scramble on the drive, but it seemed like the Tigers were getting predictable, and Miami was taking advantage of it. Clemson punted and the Canes return man let the ball hit him, but it went out of the back of the end zone for a touchback.

Miami couldn’t do much on their possession and ended up punting. Rodgers fielded the punt at the Clemson 28. Etienne then exploded off left tackle, with the line making nice blocks, and no one could catch him. Clemson led 28-10 with 7:56 left in the 3rd quarter.

Miami moved out to their 35, but Clemson had them at 4th & 1 and James Skalksi made a great tackle to keep the Canes from converting. A personal foul penalty moved the Tigers to the 18. On 3rd & 6, Lawrence had an uncharacteristically inaccurate throw and the Tigers had to settle for a Potter FG attempt. It was blocked again. Clearly the Tigers have some work to do on FG protection.

The Canes got lucky on the worst pass interference call I’ve seen in a while. It didn’t matter. Derion Kendrick snagged an interception on the next play to give the Tigers the ball at their 40. Chez Mellusi picked up 9 on 1st down and then took it to the Canes 47. Lawrence tried to hit Spector but it fell incomplete and Lawrence stayed on the turf after taking a helmet shot to the midsection. Much to the relief of Tiger fans, he got up and appeared to be ok. Miami was called for targeting again because the defender used the crown of his helmet. D.J. came in again at QB. Etienne picked up 9 on 1st down and took a handoff from Lawrence down to the 2 with a beautiful run, going airborne at one point to avoid a defender. After a 1-yard TFL on Etienne, Lawrence took it in from the 3. At 2:31 mark of the 3rd quarter, Clemson led 34-10.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 03 Virginia at Clemson
Travis Etienne goes over a Miami defender.
Photo by Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Canes had one nice long completion on their drive, and moved out to the 42, but on 3rd & long the Tigers sacked King. Rodgers fielded the punt at the Tiger 23. Etienne picked up 5 as the 3rd quarter ended. The play-calling got annoyingly predictable and I found myself yelling “Forget the hitch passes and throw the damn ball down the field or run it!” Miami was feasting on the bad play calls and on 4th & 23, Will Spiers’ punt rolled to the Canes 29.

Miami pulled some razzle dazzle, and their receiver got behind the Tiger safeties for a 42-yard gain to the Tiger 18. A 2-yard loss on a run made it 2nd & 12 from the 20. Some good running by King and poor tackling by the Tigers put the Canes at the 5. Miami appeared to score, but they were called for too many men in the backfield. Eventually reaching 4th & goal, King scrambled and got into the end zone. Clemson led 35-17 with 8:31 left. Clemson took over at the 35 after an out-of-bounds kickoff. Etienne got loose down to the Miami 43. Another run and the ball was at the 32. A few plays later, Lawrence hit TE Davis Allen down the middle for a TD. Clemson had a 42-17 lead with 4:32 left.

Miami ended up throwing an interception to Kane Patterson, but one thing really caught my eye: an appearance by the X-Man, Xavier Thomas. Taisun Phommachanh nearly threw a pick-6 on, you guessed it, another very predictable hitch pass. Time for a hitch and go, maybe? The Tigers pushed on down to the 1, but the clock ran out before the reserves could get it into the end zone.

The Tigers played well tonight. The offense, although too predictable at times, was able to move the ball effectively against a good Miami defense. The Tiger defense also held the Miami offense in check most of the night. Travis Etienne’s decision to return for his senior season is paying huge productivity dividends for the Tiger offense. Next week, the Tigers travel to take on a resurgent Georgia Tech team. Check back with us over the next few days as we review tonight’s victory and preview next week’s game against the Yellow Jackets. Georgia and Alabama played well today. (Well, Alabama’s offense played well.) Do you think the Tigers are the best team in the country? Let’s discuss it in the comments section below.