Welcome to another edition of the Clemson Tigers post-nail biter players of the week. For the record, five of the Tigers’ matchups (all the power five ones) have been decided by one possession, including a loss to Georgia and a final minute win against Syracuse…???
OK, so Friday’s night’s results didn’t qualify as ideal for the heart rates of Clemson fans, but neither did timing, or the location, or the circumstances surrounding this football team for that matter. D.J. Uiagelelei was mediocre, the defense solid, and Dino Babers blew his big day thanks to an ill-advised late-game FG decision. Got it? Great. Now let’s get to the good stuff.
(Note: I have changed the format since my last article. All features will now focus on the three best players overall rather than the best at each side of the football.)
S Tyler Venables
The theme of this season for the defense has transformed into the “bend but don’t break” ideology. In other words, allow your opponent to form brutally effective drives, but in the process, hold them to a maximum of three points, if any. It divulges from a similar style of play compared to the current New England Patriots minus the fact that the Tigers are still managing to win games these days.
“I’m not a bend but not break kind of guy,” Tigers DC Brent Venables said. “So we got to be cleaner, and that’s the bottom line.”
Venables did rekindle his spirits later thanks to a big day from the antics of his son. Sophomore Tyler Venables registered four solo tackles, a sack, and an interception against Syracuse. The interception qualified as the first of his career, and more importantly, gave his team a crucial game-altering red zone stop in the primary quarter of play.
RB Kobe Pace
One of the big questions entering Friday night’s showdown was whether Clemson’s struggling quarterback — D.J. Uiagelelei — would finally find his rhythm against a mediocre Syracuse team. The overall stats said yes to a degree (Believe it or not, 21 completions is the most he’s thrown all year) but his performance hinted at a different story.
Clemson really struggled to get the big plays going from the air. And arguably their biggest game-changer from the sky came from the hands of their punter, Will Spiers, on a 17-yard fourth-down conversion.
Thus, the offense revolved around Kobe Pace. The sophomore RB hauled in 14 carries on Friday for 76 yards and touchdown, including a go-ahead score in the third that the Orange failed to surpass. He’s managed 52 general carries in 2021 for three scores and a yardage total of 294.
LB Baylon Spector
Baylor Spector encroached himself onto the list for the second time this season after a ten tackle, nine solo tackle performance. The senior linebacker from Georgia stands as the team leader in the category with 44 total takedowns thus far into 2021. It’s only being himself in a way — after all, Spector lead his team last year with the gross product at 65 — but trends show that he will break his 2020 total by the end of the season.
“You’ve got to celebrate every win,” Spector told the media Friday night. “... It may not be flashy or it may come down to the last couple plays, but we always find a way to keep winning.”
Spector also earned an appearance as the ACC co-linebacker of the week three weeks ago thanks to a whopping 19 tackles in a Tiger defeat to NC State.
Syracuse Player of the Week: RB Sean Tucker
If there’s one thing Syracuse football can boast about in their history, it’s their past core of halfbacks that includes a top-five player in NFL history (Jim Brown), a national champion (Ernie Davis), and Floyd Little. Oh, and don’t forget about Joe Morris, Larry Csonka, Jim Nance, or the rest of them either.
The newest possible addition to that group includes 5-foot-10 Sean Tucker from Owings Mills, Maryland. The second-year running back is leading the ACC in rush yards, and is nipping at the heels of Kenneth Walker III (Michigan State) for the highest rushing yard total in the country. #34 produced 155 carries for 948 yards and nine touchdowns over the first half of the 2021 college football season. He failed to find the end-zone against the Tigers, but a pair of big carries — including a 54-yarder — made for a fantastic performance.