Sorry for the delay, just couldn’t get it done this week. Now I’m just going to jump to the things that need to get fixed heading into ND. If you saw my live-tweeting of the game, it was probably for the best that I didn’t overreact and gave the game some time to breathe. First, though, I am super proud of this team. Many teams would fold being down that much. Next—I am super impressed by DJ Uiagalelei. It is one thing to start your very first game and do really well, it is another thing to have to come from behind and to have that level of poise.
THINGS TO FIX
- WIN FIRST DOWN. Clemson, especially with a rookie freshman QB, must WIN first down. The Notre Dame front four are much better than the BC front four and Clemson’s Oline couldn’t give the best RB in Clemson history enough space to average more than 2 yards a carry on first down runs. It was really bad, and stacking the box isn’t a good excuse. I agree with running the ball and forcing the issue, but we need more production and need to get a bit more creative.
- Better offensive gameplan. In the second half the offense got super efficient and scored on 5 straight possessions, so things weren’t bad. But we didn’t take advantage of the weaknesses in the BC defense. They were super slow sideline to sideline, and the one jet sweep (which VT used to gash this same defense) went to the boundary, the short side of the field. It was baffling that ETN wasn’t given more toss sweeps or outside zone runs. The pass to ETN in the flats is great but it is a tendency. Unleash the playbook.
- Kyle Hamilton is an elite Safety for ND and a problem for Clemson. He has the range and athleticism to track ETN. Clemson won’t get away with getting in third-and-long and converting with him on the field with consistency. Stay out of third-and-long with the young QB.
- DJ was throwing absolute lasers. He also likes to look over the middle of the field more, which can be dangerous for a young QB if he is late over the middle. Something to watch with a better ND secondary. DJ only really struggled, however, with the touch throws and outs to the left side. Hope that was drilled this week. He let those throws sail on him. But again, he played phenomenally.
- The reason that DJ didn’t run much is that his shoulder has been hurting. He has a big pad on it and they were trying to save him. I think he will run more this week, but again it won’t be a huge part of the offense.
- On defense—the first half was really bad. No way to sugarcoat it. Busts in the secondary, bad tackling, and missed assignments. Luckily, ND isn’t a great passing attack. However, run fits against ND have to improve. It all starts up front. Our Nose tackle isn’t doing a great job of holding the point of attack and getting off blocks. We REALLY miss Tyler Davis. Jordan Williams knee isn’t 100% and he struggled at times. Bresee is amazing, but he is out of position at the 0 tech over the center. Spector went from playing like an All-American to having two pretty bad games.
- Things improved as the game went on, but BC went mass protect against Brent Venables defense and blitz packages and was able to hit downfield passes. They had a great game plan, just abandoning the run for the pass for the first half. They tried to run more in the second half and had more success (but that was part of BV willing to give some of that up for limiting explosive plays). ND’s Coach, Brian Kelly, is super conservative and stubborn about this and will stick with the run (just like he did in the playoff game). That is where the game will be won and lost.
- I want to see more Booth. He made some really important plays late in the game, coming up in run support. DK appeared limited last week and hopefully is back to close to 100% for ND. Losing Mike Jones is also a big deal for scheme versatility and knowing assignments. The Nickel/Dime player that has rotated in has been prone to busts.
- Really happy to see Cornell Powell step up. He had to play a ton of snaps and wore down but he came up with key, clutch third-down catches. Looked like a true 4*. Without Ladson and Ngata, the WR depth has been depleted and that is a recruiting issue. WR’s will need to continue to make plays for DJ. PS—I almost had a heart attack when Rodgers put the ball on the ground with the punt return.
- Coaching?? Yikes. Worst coached game with regards to timeout usage and other things in a really long time. Luckily it didn’t come back to bite Clemson. Win and survive.
Ultimately, this should be a very close game tonight. Notre Dame has a quality running game, good offensive line play, and weakness at WR. On defense they have a big front that doesn’t give up much on the ground, but there are yards to gain. Hamilton gives the secondary an elite talent, but I would attack these corners and use the TE if the defense keys on ETN.