Rewatching this game was actually really fun.
Watching in real time, however, was extremely frustrating. Clemson had completely dominated defensively and had multiple time-of-possession chewing drives that threatened to completely demoralize Miami. Up two scores, Ladson dropped a sure touchdown, and Clemson had an ETN pass down to the one yard line called back for a hold by Cade Stewart away from the play. Then a FG got blocked.
And then King finally got free for about 50 yards on a bad job of contain from Upshaw, a horrible angle from Turner, Zanders poorly getting off a block, and Goodrich embarrassingly getting pancaked down the field—lots of blame to go around (granted, Mike Jones Jr. was held on the play). The starters came back in and Miami was held to a FG.
Clemson was poised again to land the kill shot before halftime, up 21-3, but sputtered, then tried a 61-yard FG. Once upon a time Dabo did this successfully with Richard Jackson (with time still on the clock), and Brent Venables, in his first year coaching at Clemson, gave him an earful about it (probably the only time I have publicly ever seen Dabo’s current staff not being on the same page). Down 21-10, Miami had new life with the ball first in the second half (PS It was awesome to see Dabo take responsibility for the call the way he did). Miami would continue to hang around in an eternal third quarter and eventually cut it to 35-17 in the 4th Q with 8 minutes to play on a 4th down play.
In reality, Clemson dominated the entire game and only really gave up 3 points in non-junk time (Elijah Turner was in the game on the late King drive and score, for example). Total domination against a supposed high-octane offense. Lots to celebrate as Clemson leaps over one of its toughest hurdles to the playoff. Now only ND and avoiding a letdown/trap game (BC or possibly VT) stand in Clemson’s way.
(**My apologies to Ryan, I didn’t see his earlier article on TigerNet that had almost the same headline...this one has been changed accordingly.)
THINGS TO CLEAN UP
The field. That was the worst I have seen the field in a very long time. I can’t remember that many players falling down from turf monsters in a long time. Part of it was the field, but part of it was guys needing more experience executing. The conditions impacted execution. Yes, I am talking about sod...
First and Second down. Tons of miscues (related to the above conditions for many plays). Guys falling down, penalties, and getting stuffed on too many early downs. The overall team needs to do better because relying on ETN and TL to consistently bail you out on third-and-long is a recipe for eventually getting bitten.
Penalties. Had some killer penalties in this game that took probable points off the board. Miami shot themselves in the foot, but Clemson had an uncharacteristic amount unforced errors.
Kick Protection. Right side of the kick coverage was very bad. Neither of those kicks were on Potter. Guys standing around doing absolutely nothing to block the defense.
Punt Return Protection. Miami had some lightning fast gunners (poor Malcolm Greene was burnt toast a couple times), so maybe they were just that good, but our protection is letting guys have free releases all the way down the field regularly.
The Miami defense is legit. They challenged Clemson with their team speed, physical hitting, and ability to get after the QB. In all honesty, Clemson was aided by the targeting penalties (the penalties were legit but the depleted secondary helped Clemson wear down the defense overall).
I saw two Heisman moments in the game. One where ETN hurdled and then threw down Bolden and the other where Trevor Lawrence ran it in and then spiked the ball. I don’t care about the penalty—you don’t mess with the TLaw. Clemson effectively eliminated King from Heisman potential and, other than Justin Fields and maybe Najee Harris, I don’t see anyone taking it from Clemson.
Clemson played ball control and dominated the first half of play. This kept the Miami offense off the field and led Miami to get more desperate as the game went on (not sure why Manny Diaz went for it on fourth down from the 34 yard line with 7 minutes left in the 3rd Q).
Ladson can’t drop touchdowns. But Ladson had that monumental drop and came back to make a spectacular contested catch down the sideline on third down shortly thereafter. He just needs more reps, experience, and confidence (i.e. don’t take him out for Will Brown or whoever at the end of games—all of the starters and second string need more game reps to develop, and that even goes for a player like Cornell Powell). Ladson also missed a block that almost resulted in a turnover when Powell got blown up.
Speaking of Powell, he needs to step it up in a hurry. He has had some good catches, but he needs to be more explosive in the open field. Rodgers had another quality game, and Spector is showing he can be a threat in the slot.
This game, however, belonged to the TEs. Galloway had two scores and a nice ball over the middle of the field (please continue to explore that part of the field, Clemson!). I told all of you about Davis Allen. He had the best block of the night on the ETN score. Just punished a very physical LB in McCloud. Perfect catch and score for the TD. Love his game.
ETN bailed out this offense at times. I don’t think Elliott called a bad game, but if ETN can’t get all of these third down conversions then the game looks a lot different. I want more Mellusi. Dixon needs to keep his feet (this wasn’t his kind of game, and he still runs too high and without enough forward lean). Why don’t we move Dukes to the ‘2’ position?
Carman got beat a couple of times and gave up a sack, got caught bending and not moving his feet. Putnam got bull rushed some and fell down pulling a few times. Cade had the hold and some very bad snaps (Thank You DJ!! His ability to catch the second bad snap was huge). But you watch the full tape and there were some really physical plays. Jackson got down the field and delivered some blows. The Oline was matching the physicality of the defense. Look, Phillips and Nestor and Silvera inside were a very good group, the best in the ACC. They had skill, and size, and some decent speed. The Oline got a bit tired as the game went on (because we have no backups), but overall they hung together. Putnam is still learning, but he continues to improve. McFadden is doing his first starting and Cade has been much better than I ever thought. They passed the Miami test.
Give DJ a series to just throw the ball against GT, please? I love the QB power though, and you saw his arm strength on the throw to Ladson.
TL played with passion and fire. What are you waiting for—crown him with the Heisman already.
Praise the name of Tyler Davis. What was the difference between all those UVA fourth down conversions and Miami getting stuffed? Davis. Anchor. He is only going to get better as the knee improves.
Venables scrapped moving a defensive end into the LB spt and went with more of a Dime look. With Charleston shelved with an injury (he injured it last week against UVA towards the end of the game—looked like a shoulder issue), BV turned to Jayln Phillips as the extra defender as a third Safety with Zanders and Turner. Phillips had played only a handful of meaningful snaps previously, including a play where he whiffed coming up to make the tackle against Wake. But he played very well against Miami. I had heard that he was a potential player in the secondary last year, but it never materialized. He wasn’t perfect, but he was steady and didn’t let anything get behind him. TE Brevin Jordan leaving in the 3rd Q. also helped a good bit.
This dime look with three down lineman and one blitzing player really confused the Miami Oline and King. They had no clue what was coming most of the night. BV sent Zanders a good bit on blitzes and kept three LBs on the field. I mean—it was so bad that the Miami Oline was double teaming Zanders and giving up free rushes to the QB at times. This wasn’t the game for Bresee, for example, as the defense prioritized keeping King contained and staying in lanes over aggressive pass rush. It means that guys like Nyles and Jordan Williams play less, but they didn’t have great showings against UVA.
Mascoll had his best game to date. Myles Murphy was again disruptive. Great to see Xavier Thomas in the game at the end. Hopefully XT and Justin Foster can be nursed along and help keep the Dline fresh down the back stretch.
Baylon Spector. From the very first play of the game, Spector made his presence felt. Miami wanted to run a bunch of zone read and RPO action, but it wasn’t going to happen. This is what the Clemson defense sees everyday, and they are extremely prepared to blow this kind of offense up. Skalski played much better than he did against UVA. This is the game and style more suited to his strengths. Attack the line of scrimmage and blow things up while blitzing. Mike Jones, Jr. (apart from the hit and lack of wrap up on the 4th down goal-line score for Miami) also played a good game.
Yeeeesssss siiirrr...DK with an interception and not giving up a single catch. Sheridan Jones with the interception and good body positioning. Booth with the freak show pass breakup. This is the best the secondary has looked collectively with the ball in the air in a long time.
I thought the PI on Turner, and even the one on Zanders, was a bit ticky-tack. Apart from the King scramble, the defense wrapped up and tackled much better. Miami had zero running game all night. Still some communication issues to clean up on the back end, but this was a good step forward after a very shaky game against UVA.
No one fumbled. Spiers averaged over 50 yards a kick in the rain?!? Got to fix the kick protection obviously.
PS. What was that Miami returner doing all night?? He got lucky booting the ball out of the back of the endzone (which is a weird rule to me—what keeps any player on offense from kicking the ball backwards on a punt and gaining that field position?).