Week 7 is in the books and Clemson once again emerged victorious in a game that shouldn’t have ended as close as the score was. FSU is gradually returning to form and Mike Norvell is doing a great job. Clemson has now beaten FSU 7 times in a row and given how many upsets took place this past weekend with ranked teams falling in road games, we should be thankful that the Tigers didn’t falter and now return to Death Valley for 4 of the remaining 5 games. Let’s take a look at how the Offense fared against FSU.
DJ continued his high-level play in this game. FSU’s DL is good enough to cause issues for the OL and he was going to have to stay calm, protect the FB and make plays. Adding onto the pressure was the way FSU took an early lead and moved the ball seemingly at will against our defense. DJ lead the offense on 6 straight scoring drives in the first three quarters and matched FSU play for play. There were some throws and potential TDs that he missed early on but he kept the offense running well.
DJ ended the game with 4 total TDs (1 Rushing and 3 Passing) which should have been 5 if a questionable holding call didn’t negate another rushing TD. His first TD throw was a beautiful show of him maneuvering in the pocket to avoid pressure, keeping his eyes downfield, and dropping the pass in the bucket to Williams. Most importantly he once again had no INTs. DJ is taking care of the ball, keeping the offense on schedule, and playing like a Heisman finalist. Only ND has a defense that could cause Clemson some issues but so far every time DJ has been called on to play well against good defenses he has excelled.
Shipley was a possessed man in this game and was my MVP for the offense. He finished with an insane stat line of 121 yards rushing, 48 yards receiving, and 69 yards on KR that set up the offense in the 3rd quarter for a quick TD. We haven’t seen an RB make such an impact in all 3 facets of the game since CJ Spiller. Every time he has the ball in his hands he can make something special happen and it was encouraging seeing him heavily leaned on to jump-start the running game that has been somewhat of a disappointment this year compared to expectations. As we get into championship mode we should regularly ensure that Shipley touches the ball at least 20 times a game. Good things happen when we feed the Ship.
Mafah is the perfect type of RB to spell Shipley. Where Shipley slashes through holes, Mafah trucks through them. He punishes anyone that tries to bring him down and always keeps his legs pushing. He has also improved his catching ability and is a reliable receiver out of the backfield.
Halfway through the season, the OL has proven to be very good to great in pass protection and weaker in run blocking. Their lackluster effort against one of the worst run defenses in BC was disheartening and there were questions as to how they would hold up against a more talented FSU front 7. Thankfully the OL performed well against FSU despite some hiccups.
Clemson rushed for 174 yards against FSU and opened some nice holes for Shipley and Mafah to run through. They kept DJ clean for most of the game though they were beaten a few times by the speedy FSU DEs. It was very encouraging to see the OL put their heads down and bully FSU in the 4th quarter drive that took 5 minutes and 30 seconds off the clock and forced FSU to use their 3 TOs. It was a drive on which the OL was told to enforce their will, and they did so well before sputtering out, but that was more due to the coaching decisions.
Blake Miller in particular had a poor game and was benched for a few plays due to his struggles. He had a number of penalties and put the O behind the chains and he has to clean that up. Playing as a true freshman he’s done well considering the opposition and he will continue to improve.
The OL shouldn’t see a defensive front as talented as FSU again until perhaps ND and even they don’t have the speed ends that seem to cause Clemson some trouble.
The tight ends were once again dynamic in this game after being an afterthought against BC. Although they only caught 3 passes between them, two of those went for TDs. Both have a knack for getting open and exploiting LBs or DBs that try to cover them. Their blocking has also been consistent throughout the year with only a few miscues from Brinningstool. FSU made a point of doubling our WRs to force DJ to look elsewhere and he did that very thing, focusing on passes to the RBs and TEs to keep the chains moving and make big plays.
This was an odd game for the WRs. Only two of them recorded catches in Antonio Williams and Joseph Ngata and even then there were only 3 receptions between them. Like the TEs, the catches were significant. Ngata’s catch was on a 3rd down and moved the chains and eventually ended in a TD on that drive. Williams’ two catches went for a TD and a short pass that turned into a 1st down after some tough YAC.
This wasn’t however due to a lack of effort from the group as a whole. Collins, A. Williams, and Ngata ran some good routes and were open at times but DJ either didn’t see them or went to the safer RB/TE option. What the WRs did do well this game was block along the perimeter. Those swing passes to the RBs don’t work if the WRs aren’t getting a hat on a hat and clearing the path for them. Spector and EJ Williams caught my eye with their willingness to get physical and that is encouraging to see.
They should get more opportunities to make an impact in the coming weeks.
The staff probably didn’t expect to come into this game and watch FSU march down the field in two long drives for TDs. Unlike against BC, there was no time for a slow start from the offense or Clemson would have been in a big hole on the road against a team that is talented enough to beat them. Thankfully, after an initial 3 and out, the offense went on 6 straight scoring drives. They focused on getting the RBs involved in both run and pass plays to keep FSU guessing and stay on schedule. Against our last 3 opponents, Clemson has essentially won the game in the 4 minutes before halftime and the first 4 minutes of the 3rd quarter.
Much has been made of the staff getting too conservative after going up 20 points early in the 3rd quarter. Clemson had effectively 3 more drives in the combined 3rd and 4th quarter and the first drive stalled after three straight Shipley runs and a false start penalty against Putnam. The 2nd drive was after the D had turned FSU over at the Clemson 4-yard line and the staff went aggressive with two passing plays to try and get the 1st down but both were slightly off the mark.
The last drive was when the staff went to the OL and told them to “Man up”. They did what we’d been clamoring for and that was to assert dominance and run the ball with authority. FSU knew we were going to run, but the staff didn’t care and called run play after run play. Clemson bled 5 minutes off the clock, forced FSU to use their TOs, and got close to FG range. The frustrating part is that we stopped doing it! We could have continued to run the ball and get in Potter’s range to ice the game but instead, the staff decided to call some passing plays that resulted in a sack and holding penalty against Miller, and eventually a punt. Had Clemson just continued to do what was working then the game never gets close as FSU wouldn’t have time to scramble down the field for a TD and try an onside kick.
If the opponent doesn’t stop the run, keep running the ball!
What grade do you give the Clemson Offense against FSU?
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