Game 4 is in the books after another crazy week of college football that saw two top ten teams go down. Despite a wild back-and-forth shootout, the Clemson Tigers stayed undefeated and earned another tombstone for the graveyard after taking down the No. 21 ranked Demon Deacons. Let’s take a look at how the offense performed this week.
(Spoiler Alert: they were pretty good.)
Have yourself a game DJ!
On the day our defense picked to have their worst overall outing of the year, the offense did the opposite and played their most complete game of the past TWO years. Leading the charge for this was DJ Uiagalelei - he became just the 3rd Clemson QB to have over 400 total yards of offense (370 passing/50rushing), 5 passing TDs, and no INTs in a single game. He joins the ranks of Tajh Boyd (all-time ACC leader in passing TDs) and Deshaun Watson (too many accomplishments to list, honestly).
DJ put the team on his back and carried them to victory with amazing play after amazing play. His passes were on time and accurate; his maneuvering of the pocket was great. He forced Wake to keep an LB as a spy later in the game which will free up other opportunities going forward as teams respect his increased running ability. He was poised, calm, and collected, and is the unquestioned leader of the offense.
This is the DJ we have been waiting for since ND in 2020. We needed excellent QB play this game and we got it.
The OL was very good in pass protection. They kept DJ clean and gave him time in the pocket to work through his progressions and find the best play to make. Blitz recognition and communication can and should continue to improve but we don’t win this game without the OL keeping pressure from disrupting DJ.
The OL was less than impressive in run blocking. They did open a big hole for Shipley on the 1st offensive play of the game and in total Clemson ran for over 180 yards on the ground. They noticeably got push on short yardage opportunities but on the whole, they didn’t dominate up front as they did last year on the ground.
With a tropical depression ready to slam into Clemson this Saturday, the ground game could very well be the determining factor for either team and we need to see more improvement.
Shipley is our best RB and ran hard this game. That last TD was all guts and a refusal to be denied by the sophomore back. We finally leaned on him and he carried the ball 20 times, while also hauling in 3 catches as well. He made the most of this opportunity and broke 100 yards rushing with 5 yards per carry. The only thing he needs to work on is blitz pick-up. There looked to be a sure TD opportunity on our last dive in regulation if Ship could have stalled the blitzer from sacking DJ. We should continue to feed the beast and let him make plays, especially this coming weekend.
Mafah has firmly taken the 2nd string position. Some of that is Kobe Pace still not looking like he did last year, but Mafah has definitely taken a step forward in his sophomore year. He’s just a load to bring down and will be the power back to grind down defenses as Shipley dices them up. It would have been nice to have given him more than 7 carries this game and moving forward he should see more utilization to keep Shipley fresh.
It was upsetting seeing Pace get shaken up. He hasn’t been able to really get his legs under him this year and the hope is he doesn’t get frustrated with himself or his position on the depth chart. He’s a very good RB and an asset to the team.
Davis Allen and Jake Briningstool are difference makers and they showed it in this game. This is the best our TE position has looked from a talent and depth standpoint since we had Dwyane Allen and Brandon Ford. Leggett was a great college TE but he was really all we had as a playmaker at the position the years he was here. Both Allen and JB are matchup nightmares for LBs as receiving threats like Leggett was, but they also block better than Leggett could. They are complete TEs and it was very satisfying seeing us use them to their fullest potential.
The two had 10 passes caught between them for a total of 108 yards and 3 TDs. Fans have been begging the coaches to use them more and this was the game to showcase what they could do. Opposing teams are going to have to account for both of them whenever they are on the field; they will open up the offense in ways we haven’t seen since 2016.
This is what WRU is supposed to look like! We needed the WRs to step up in a big way and they had their best overall game this year. DJ put the ball where it needed to be and the WRs helped him out by making lots of great catches.
Ngata especially has been under fire to step up as the alpha of the team and he led the way with 4 catches for 84 yards. He looks very good at catching slants, as long as he doesn’t hurt himself, and won a 50/50 deep ball at the end of the regulation that we desperately needed to tie the game up. More of this, please!
Beaux Collins was reliable as always bringing in 4 catches for 60 yards and a beautiful TD catch. Antonio Williams continues to shine with 3 catches for 51 yards and though Brannon Spector only caught 1 ball it was for a 41-yard TD!
Adam Randall is still recovering from his injury but looks the part and has the tools to be another weapon. Hopefully, with Ngata and Spector showing some signs of improvement, we don’t have to rely on him as much as it appeared we would have to just a few games ago.
We used the middle of the field!
We had been holding out hope that the staff was playing a vanilla scheme against our earlier opponents to work on the basics, see what they had from a talent/consistency standpoint, and not reveal everything they wanted to do. The staff seems to have justified that belief as we saw everything we had been shouting for. Clemson attacked all areas of the field, leaned on Shipley for 20 carries, and used the TEs to perfection. We needed the offense to bail out the defense and time after time that’s just what they did.
The only criticism to lobby their way is it still felt they got conservative at times. If the two trips to the red zone in the 2nd quarter had resulted in TDs rather than FGs then the game would have never gotten to OT. Some of the calls on those drives looked more like what we saw in games past. We also didn’t look to attack at the end of regulation and see if we could get in range for a game-winning FG. Still, the staff called a good game and the players executed.
This offense looked like the Clemson offenses of old and there was no better time than last Saturday for it to emerge.
We don’t win this game without the offense playing the way that they did. Wake doesn’t have the best defense but neither did any of our earlier teams and we still didn’t look this crisp and efficient. Until we can get our secondary fixed, we will need the offense to continue to improve and dominate.
Defense is up next...
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