For the first time all year the Clemson defense was fully healthy and all hands were on deck. Though victory was won there were concerning issues that showed up this game that we hadn’t seen since early in the season. Some of that needs to be credited to Jordan Travis making something out of nothing and the FSU team as a whole refusing to give up. The rest is due to a lack of urgency and fundamentals by the defense. Thankfully it appears to be a discipline issue rather than one due to a lack of talent and the team has responded well to cleaning up mistakes from week to week.
Let’s see how they graded out.
Since the Wake Forest game, it’s apparent that the DEs took a long look in the mirror and decided to be great. Interesting enough, each of the last 3 games had a different DE step up and be the dominate player of the game. Against NC ST it was Henry. Thomas wrecked BC. This past game it was a return to form for Myles Murphy.
Murphy was looked at as a 1st round pick coming into the year with his blend of speed and strength. However he has looked inconsistent in some of the games this year and has had a problem finishing the play when he does get to the QB. That wasn’t the case this week. Early and often Murphy was in the backfilled and bringing Jordan Travis to the ground. In the 1st half alone he had 4 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks and a forced fumble at the end of the 2nd quarter that allowed Clemson to cash in a TD and break the game open. Every time they tried and option him, he blew up the play with his speed and instincts. This is the Murphy that we expected to see and that we will need in the post season.
While Henry and Thomas didn’t put up eye popping numbers, they pushed the pocket, applied pressure and made Travis’s life very unpleasant all game long. Henry’s spin move to knock down a pass on 4th down was a beauty. This group as a whole did great from a pass rushing standpoint. The run defense however was poor from each position and the DEs in particular failed to contain Travis and allowed him chunks of scramble yardage.
This was the first game all year that the DT position performed poorly overall. They were out played at the point of attack and FSU’s zone running scheme got them out of position time and again to open cutback lanes. The defense gave up 206 yards rushing. 64 yards came from Travis’ scrambling plays. The FSU RBs gashed the defense and normally it was right up the gut. We haven’t experienced this for a long time and it was a bit shocking to see. FSU went right down the field in the 1st quarter for a quick 14 points mostly on the ground.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom. The DTs did play better in 2nd half and consistently push the pocket up the middle. The DTs are a deep and talented group and they will rebound. Syracuse will surely try and run a similar scheme and it will be up to the DTs to show this was a fluke performance rather than a reoccurring concern.
This was one of the worst performances by the LB group as a whole this year. Trotter played well but every other LB in the game struggled in their run fits and allowed FSU to run for over 200 yards. Simpson was caught out of position a number of times as were Bentley and Maguire. When we blitzed, we rarely affected the QB. Most troubling was the poor tackling we saw. On FSU’s final drive of the game there were a number of arm tackles and lazy attempts to get the ball carrier down that directly contributed to the TD to bring the score within 6 points.
We know the talent of this group and how well they have performed all year but this game was not one to remember. Hopefully we get a better showing against Syracuse.
The secondary had all players available this game, though Greene didn’t play. It was good to see Sheridan Jones and RJ Mickens back in the lineup and making plays. The secondary as a group performed well overall. There were no true busts over the top and they were breaking on balls well. Travis throwing two TDs in the 4th quarter was upsetting and there was a lack of intensity in the back 7. Before that they held Travis to under 250 yards passing.
Wiggins in particular has greatly elevated his play since Wake Forest and may be our best cover CB at the moment. He had a number of big time pass breakups and it’s clear the game is slowing down for him. Phillips and Mukuba ended the game as the 3rd and 4th leading tacklers, respectfully. Jones had a tough PI called against him but was solid throughout.
Health and experience has helped turn this position from a liability to a solid group of contributors.
This game was an up and down affair for the defense. They started the 1st quarter poorly, tightened up through the 2nd and 3rd before ending the 4th looking disinterested. FSU was the more physical team to start the game and the more passionate team at the end. We didn’t handle their running scheme well and let them gash us up the middle. We didn’t tackle particularly well either and gave up yards after contact. It was a frustrating display and we’ve heard that the defense called a players meeting to make sure they don’t have a repeat performance. That’s good to hear and shows the accountability that has been installed in the players by the staff. It’s been rare for teams to exploit the same issue more than once against the team and I expect a much more focused defense against Syracuse to punch our ticket back to the ACCCG.
Special teams was excellent this game! Potter was a perfect 2 for 2 that ended up being the deference in the game. He’s such a reliable weapon and a big reason Clemson is perfect in the RZ this year. Swanson had a good game as well. He averaged 46 yards a punt and pinned FSU deep a few times. Antonio Williams didn’t have any punt returns but we know what he can do with the ball in his hands. Shipley got loose for a 69 yard run and set up a TD drive in the 3rd quarter. Lastly, the punt team did a great job recognizing the fake and kudos to Spector for making the hit.
What grade do you give the Clemson Defense and ST against FSU?
This poll is closed