For the 7th time in 8 years the ACC stands for Another Clemson Championship! Clemson mauled UNC in Charlotte to once again firmly establish itself as the best team in the conference. The Tigers decided to hand the reigns over to Cade Klubnik and he rewarded that decision by playing a nearly flawless game. The offense as a whole looked revitalized and while some of that is due to UNC having an atrocious defense, no one can deny that this is the best of offense has looked in a game from start to finish since perhaps the Wake Forest game.
Let's see how each group graded out.
The DJ era at Clemson is over. DJ was a great teammate and leader for the team and his play early in the year got Clemson past tough challenges against Wake Forest, NC State and FSU. Unfortunately, after the Syracuse game DJ’s play began to decline. Some of that blame lies with the WR group and the coaching scheme but his confidence and command of the offense was visibly different and it seemed to permeate through the team. He was given two series against UNC to show that he had gotten out of his own head and was still the player we saw earlier in the year but when his first throw of the game was a bounced pass to a wide-open Ngata it was apparent that he was done. He graciously went to the bench, cheered for the team, said all the right things in the post-game and has now entered the portal to find a new home. The Clemson family wishes DJ the best in his future and hope he finds success at whatever school he lands at.
You can’t ask for a better performance from a true freshman handed the reigns than what Cade displayed. This wasn’t like the Syracuse game where Cade was asked to do very little and allow the running game to dominate. This game was entirely on his shoulders and the team was going to win or lose based on his performance. After he went in on the 3rd series, he didn’t have an incompletion until late in the 2nd quarter and that was a dropped pass that hit the WR in the hands. UNC does not have a good secondary at all but when you’re playing a weak back 4 you want your QB to do what Cade did, 20-24 passing for 279 yards and a TD. He had complete control of the offense and moved the pocket at times very well. His performance was night and day from what little we’ve seen this year and while some of that may be due to the defense he played, his development and improvement is evident.
This is Cade’s team now and if this is what we can expect moving forward, Clemson will be just fine at the QB position. Now, the staff needs to go out and get him some more weapons on the outside.
There was not a commitment to run the ball this game and it wasn’t needed given how well Cade was playing. The OL did a good job keeping UNC from getting to Cade Klubnik. A clean pocket is a big help for any QB and doubly so for a freshmen asked to pick apart a secondary. The OL has been good to very good most of the year in pass pro and were again this game. Clemson hopes to see the same against a Tennessee team that can put up points but also has a weak secondary. The success of that game will fall on the OL and how well they allow Cade and the RBs control the clock and put points on the board.
Clemson didn’t run the ball very much this game. There were only 9 total rushing attempts by Shipley and Mafah combined. Cade rushed 7 times himself and the team rushed for only 68 yards. Some of that is due to Clemson being able to exploit UNC’s terrible secondary. Though they had limited touches Cade, Shipley, and Mafah all recorded TDs and in short yardage picked up 1st downs. Unfortunately, Kobe Pace has decided to enter the transfer portal so Clemson needs to add fresh bodies at the position but the combination of Shipley and Mafah is potent and dangerous should the staff ever decide to line up and run the ball at teams.
Davis Allen caught 3 passes for 20 yards and a great TD in the back of the endzone. Allen has been consistent and reliable all season and Clemson will miss him if this is his last year. Jake Briningstool needs to add some weight and was called for a holding call once again this game but his talent and drive to be great are plain to see. Look for them to be a big part of the game plan against the Vols in a few weeks.
We finally had a WR record over 100 yards in a game this year. That it took this long is beyond disappointing but it happened. While many assumed it would be Antonio Williams to finally achieve this, surprisingly it was another true freshman in Cole Turner.
Cole was seen as a fall back pick up in last year’s recruiting class to provide depth to the position and not much was expected from the former 3 star recruit until at least his redshirt sophomore year unless circumstances demanded he play early. Those circumstances did in fact occur with Dacari Collins leaving the team early in the year, Beaux Collins being injured and out for the rest of the year, EJ Williams all but disappearing from the depth chart, and Adam Randall still getting comfortable after coming back from offseason knee injury.
While the sample size is small, Cole has shown flashes of the player he can become and the thing that stands out the most is that he will fight for the ball. It’s been over 2 years since we’ve had a WR that will elevate and bring the ball down despite the coverage. It’s a big reason this group and the QB have struggled. If Cole can be the guy to fight off coverage and make contested catches then Clemson will have someone to go with Antonio Williams, Beaux Collins and possibly Adam Randall next year.
As prefaced before, UNC’s pass defense is bad but any signs of potential from this group is welcome. We’ll see how they perform against another shaky secondary against Tennessee but for now this is the best this group has looked for weeks.
Once the staff made the decision to go with Cade the play calls seemed to change immediately. We saw more two back sets, we were moving the pocket, and we actually saw creativity with a throw back to the QB for big yards after the fumble recovery. There have been questions as to why Cade didn’t play against South Carolina, but that game was lost by the staff due to their refusal to run the ball and costly turnovers. Regardless, the staff now needs to focus on ending the year strong with a win against Tennessee, rounding out the recruiting class and utilizing the portal to it’s fullest extent to shore up the OL, RB, WR and DE positions.
What grade do you give the Clemson Offense against UNC?
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