Complete dominance. This should be a quick and easy wrap-up. I’ve never witnessed a GT team get throttled like this at Bobby Dodd. This was a recruiting statement for Clemson in the Atlanta area. It was cathartic for many a Clemson fan who has felt the sting of so many tragic Bobby Dodd stadium losses, from games in the 70’s and even Danny Ford losses, Reggie Ball and Calvin Johnson to PJ frustration, all the way up to Deshaun Watson getting knocked out of a game.
Bring your weights to Death Valley at your own peril, potentially feeling the wrath of Dabo. Haven’t felt this good since John Heisman went 73-0 on Tech.
But let’s address the idea of running up the score here for a minute. Collins was asked about it at a press conference after the game and gave an almost passive-aggressive, lukewarm response. If you complain about anything before halftime, yikes. It was 52-7. The game was a blowout regardless. Trevor Lawrence played one series in the second half and didn’t score. Clemson then played a third-string QB for the rest of the third Q with the second- and third-string O-line (we don’t have anyone after that) and all second- and third-string skill players. Then a walk-on 4th-string QB with all third-and fourth-string guys plays the 4th Q, finishing the last five minutes with our emergency punter QB 5th-string combined with walk-ons and 5th- and 6th-string players. You are complaining about that? It isn’t Dabo’s fault you couldn’t stop Hunter Helms. Nonsense!
Alright, alright. I can’t go any further without some CORNELL POWELL LOVE. I almost, almost publicly gave it up to Tom Luginbills after last week. But I kept the faith. Powell had his best day ever as a Clemson Tiger. Great third down conversion and TD catch. Made a couple nice of plays for long gains. I’m so excited...I’m so scared.
I’m going to try to provide some analysis of what might need to improve rather than just gushing with praise everywhere, but it is slim pickings.
WHAT TO GET FIXED
- Pass protection on the offensive line has been very good—way ahead of schedule, but the A-gap runs are still not clicking for the Oline. Carman had a nice bounce back game. Putnam still is the weakest link with run blocking. The effort and hustle are there but just lacking some execution. When ETN gets stuffed—someone missed a block. He has had far too many two-yard or no-yards-gained rushing plays. On one run early in the 1st Q both Galloway and Putnam miss blocks and ETN gets hammered. Clean it up...
- One botched blitz pickup. ETN missed/whiffed, but Stewart also didn’t give any chip—straight rusher to TL. Not a big deal. RB pass pro wasn’t great all day though.
- Turnovers. ETN with a fumble and TL with an interception. TL was so close to breaking the Wilson record. He hadn’t thrown an interception since Oct. 19, 2019. Part of the interception was Powell getting pushed off schedule, but it was an ill-advised throw.
- Defense was close to flawless. Booth wasn’t in a zone flat coverage on one first down to a RB and Goodrich got absolutely torched and turned around on some poor coverage for the long TD. Gibbs is a very, very good back (and one Clemson likely could have taken but opted instead for Pace), but too many missed tackles/broken arm tackles. Sims and Gibbs are slippery, but too many guys aren’t wrapping up. Mike Jones, Jr. had another hit where he didn’t wrap up. Only one other play where the defense got behind Jones (probably should have had Safety help though—not sure).
- Dixon isn’t my favorite taking the ball on kickoff (wish Bowman could’ve done that...). He still runs too high despite that nice Wake return. Punt protection still giving up free runs to returner, but it was improved from Miami.
- I wanted to see DJU play, just to give him more passing experience.
- Spiers was a QB in high school and can sling it. He could’ve played QB at some lower tier school if he wanted—that was no accident. Helms put some good throws together and played within the system.
PRAISE, PRAISE, AND MORE PRAISE
- Dabo could have pulled ETN and TL before the half but he let both amass stats to be able to potentially win the Heisman. Generally I like how Dabo protects his stars, which helps keep them healthy, but both of these guys came back to at least have a shot at some hardware. Let them run it up a bit in the first half.
- Wide Receivers Stepped Up: Really liked how Rodgers took on the role of alpha WR. Great routes and hand catches for big yards all over the field. Obviously Cornell Powell. But I want to highlight EJ Williams. He has really stepped up and entered into the rotation as a de facto starter. His emergence is really big for a solid two-deep of players rolling into the game. Catches the ball with his hands, good route running, and decent speed/quickness. He is small and needs to get bigger, but he is a physical blocker.
- Frank Ladson continues the uneven performances. Drops another easy TD. But I do like that he comes right back and makes good plays after dropping one and is also able to get open by a mile. Experience and repetition. Ngata got in the game, but you can tell he is still bothered by the injury.
- Davis Allen. Man, I love Allen, but this was another level. The TD catch over THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD was beautiful. Great ball placement and another pluck out of the air hands catch. But I really want to draw attention to the TL throw before the half where he moved up in the pocket and threw a laser, staying behind the line of scrimmage, to a wide open Allen who stayed with the play. MOAR Davis Allen.
- Some of the crispest, cleanest passes we have seen from TL. Complete command. The back shoulder to Powell, the dart angled for a TD to Rodgers, the running-to-his-left frozen rope to Ladson for a TD. The long ball was humming and accurate, and a sweet throw to ETN in stride for a third down conversion. Now we just need to see this against better man coverage (won’t happen until the playoff).
- RBs were fine. I’m always wanting more from Dixon, but he seems to fall forward and has just enough speed to bounce things to the outside when needed. Mellusi continues to impress me with his patient running and ability to get north in a hurry. Dukes has some amazing plays and some “what direction are you going?” plays...(I still think a move to the ‘2’ spot at WR wouldn’t be bad). Need to see more of Pace too. Flashed some good hands.
- Mason Trotter and Walker Parks got extended looks with the first team. Both played well. Trotter had some moments where he got bull rushed a bit, but Parks looked like he was in complete control. He is tracking as your starting LT or RT next season. Rayburn also played a bunch of Tackle to show you the lack of depth we have behind Parks (Mitchell Mayes was out). Paul Tchio also showed continued progress.
- I’m going to start with praising my Trenton Simpson bandwagon—everyone is invited. I said last week he needs chances to get on the field. He is explosive, strikes, gets to the QB, and plays well in space. Impressive snaps at Nickel/SAM.
- Baylon Spector is becoming a rock for this defense. Definitely an upgrade at the WILL position and one of the stronger WILL players in the BV era. Fast to the ball, striking, and very few missed gaps or busts overall.
- Tyler Davis makes all the difference in the world for this defense. He is a rock on the interior and really makes the defense go. Davis may not be the most talented player on the defense, but he gets my vote for most valuable.
- Myles Murphy needs more love. Sims scrambles, might get the first down. Nolan Turner crashes and stops him, but Myles was able to pursue down the line and beat Sims to the spot. Violent, long, and improving each week. Forced a fumble with a great rip move.
- No corner is better at coming up in run support than Andrew Booth. Made a spectacular play on punt coverage (and seemed to be banged up on the play but was alright after).
- Tre Williams shows you his quick twitch, power and ability to finish. I see a good bit of Grady Jarrett in his game.
- Nolan Turner with another strong game. Interception and stiff arm return.
- Xavier Thomas makes his return. He looked much better than the few snaps he took against Miami. A couple more weeks and I think he can start taking some legit snaps in a rotational role.