Well, we’re back, and there is another football game to dissect. The Tigers were beaten in an all too familiar fashion in double overtime in Miami on Saturday night. We are going to rate each position group on a scale of 1–10. These ratings are my own and are subjective, so don’t take them to be an exact science. Let’s get into it and leave your thoughts in the comment section!
Quarterback - 3
This was Cade Klubnik’s worst game of the season. The stat line would not really tell you that, with the sophomore quarterback going 18–34 for 314 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. Some great plays were made with his legs that allowed him to make some impressive throws downfield for big gains. The flip side of that is his decision-making. The decision to overrule the play call on the final play of the game for a quarterback keeper on the goal line is inexcusable and a shocking mistake. Cade needs to stop playing hero ball, this is not high school anymore.
Running Backs - 2
Ship happens! The Tigers RB1 inexplicably dropped the ball on the “inch line” as he was diving for a touchdown in the 1st quarter—resulting in yet another turnover in the red zone and another mental hurdle the Tigers had to overcome. There was virtually nothing redeeming about any of the performances from the backs. Shipley and Mafah combined for 58 yards on 20 carries for 2.9 yards/carry. Shipley needs to reel in the emotions a little bit. It seems he creates a little too much drama in between plays. If he keeps it up, he could find himself on the bench, which at this point may be warranted.
Wide Receivers - 6
If there was a bright spot for the offense in this game, it was some of the big plays that were made in the passing game. Adam Randall reeled in a catch on 3rd down and showed some speed to extend the play to a 34-yard gain in the 1st quarter. It was probably his best play in a Clemson uniform to date. Antonio flashed some speed and quickness on his return from the injury list, which was good to see. He provided a 33-yard chunk play and totaled 47 yards on the day. Tyler Brown and Beaux Collins also flashed. This group has improved throughout the season, but it is still not at the elite level that we have come to expect.
Tight Ends - 9
MASERATI JAKE! Briningstool, fondly known as “Brinny,” must have read my article after the Wake Forest game where I essentially said he was one of the biggest disappointments of the season up to that point. The junior tight end did not disappoint against Miami as he hauled in 5 catches for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns. Both touchdown catches were extremely impressive and showed off his concentration and athleticism to bring them both in. He also looked fast on some catches over the middle and fought for yards after the catch. We need more of this every week from Brinny.
Offensive Line - 2
Whoof. Where to begin on what I would describe as one of the worst O-line performances I have seen with my own two eyes. The offensive line gave up 5 sacks to the Miami defense, and the Tigers rushed for 31 yards or 34 carries for a total of 0.9 yards/carry. Several names were rotated on the offensive line in some attempts to find someone who could play mistake-free, but nothing ever clicked. The Miami front 7 provided pressure on almost every throwing down with stunts and unique blitzes. Clemson’s line could not cope. Short-yardage situations are still a problem due to a lack of push up front. Starting center Will Putnam looks like the only one of the five who either cares or knows what to do. Blake Miller was beaten all night. A major step back for this unit.
Offense - 4.4
The story of the game for the offense was—and you may have heard this before this season—turnovers, red zone scoring, and decision-making. To start with turnovers, we fumbled 4 times on Saturday night, and we lost 2 of them. Shipley’s turnover right before the endzone proved costly as it provided essentially a 14-point swing in points.
The Tigers also found themselves in 3rd and long too many times—which explains the season low in 3rd-down conversion rate. They converted 4 times on 14 attempts for a 28.6% rate. The offensive line was not able to create any space for the backs, and most of the run plays killed drive momentum. The screen game is still proving to be ineffective.
I was talking to a family member, and they were saying our offensive issues all come back to the offensive line. They may have a point. Klubnik had little opportunity to make timely throws in the pocket, and we had no run game. You cannot win many football games with that recipe. Seventeen points in regulation will not win you many games either. Overall, a very frustrating night for the Tiger O.
Defensive Line - 3
I thought this group looked very pedestrian on the night. Graduate senior Xavier Thomas did not make the trip, so the lack of depth at the defensive end made it more difficult for this group. Miami was starting a true freshman quarterback in his first-ever start, and we did not pressure him enough. Not one sack registered. The Miami offensive line started to dominate in the 4th quarter and pushed this group around. We are definitely not used to seeing that. Miami rushed for 211 yards on the night for 5.6 yards/carry. Not good enough.
Linebackers - 4
There is not much to say about this group either. They made good plays most of the time throughout the night but went missing when they were needed the most in the 4th quarter. Both Trotter and Carter registered some TFLs and were the main disruptors on defense. Trotter did lead the team in tackles with 11 and looked a little quicker than he has for most of the year. I still would expect more from two linebackers who were preseason All-Americans.
Cornerbacks - 7
The cornerbacks played well on a night where they did not have to play against gunslinger Tyler Van Dyke, but true freshmen Emory Williams. Nate Wiggins made an extraordinary hustle play to run down the Miami running back on the 80-yard run to force a fumble, only to have it recovered by the Miami player in the endzone. Wiggins did get surprisingly beat for a touchdown in the second half where he was outmatched by 6’5” Colbie Young. Sheridan Jones had an interception late in the first half. Overall, the corners played well when matched up 1v1 against the Miami wideouts for most of the night.
Safeties - 5
Nothing really special from this group. I don’t think this group tackles all that well in space. Mukuba is probably the best tackler from the safety position, and I saw a couple of missed tackles from him. One thing I will say about this group is that they do not get beat very often over the top. We needed more help from them in run support on Saturday night, and we did not really get it. Very average night.
Defense - 4.7
Saturday night was one of the most disappointing defensive performances we have seen by a Clemson defense in the post-Brent Venables era. The reason is the Tiger defense’s inability to close the game out in the 4th quarter. Before the start of the 4th quarter, Miami only had 214 yards of offense, and 80 of those yards came on one play. The defense had played a solid game against the true freshman QB Emory Williams, only giving up 7 points, but the 4th quarter was a much different story.
Miami had possession of the ball for 13:40 in the 4th quarter alone, as they went on two long scoring drives where they were able to collect 10 points. They were also able to put together 115 yards of offense in those two huge drives that allowed them to tie the game up for overtime. They gashed the Tiger D for what seemed like a minimum of 5 yards on every run play, and when they decided to throw the ball, they had success. The Miami offensive line started to take over the game, and the Tiger defensive front could not provide any push. It was demoralizing to watch as a Clemson fan.
This game was not all bad from a defensive standpoint, but you would expect for a Clemson defense to dominate against someone who was starting their first game as a freshman quarterback. There were not enough blitzes, and we did not make it difficult for the young QB. Frustrating.
Special Teams - 6
Surprisingly, the special teams had one of the better performances on the night in a season where they have had minimal positive storylines. Kicker Jonathan Weitz was 2-2 on field goals, kicking a 41-yarder and a 31-yarder. This was by far his best kicking performance so far this season. There was nothing of note in the return game, but it was good to see Antonio Williams fielding punts and looking more comfortable in that role than Tyler Brown. Aiden Swanson continues to be able to flip field position and provide quality punts.
Overall Team Performance - 4.7
A very bad performance for the Tigers on Saturday night resulted in a very bad loss. One thing that I heard Dabo say in his postgame was that the Tigers did not deserve to win—which I think resonates with a majority of the fanbase after watching that game, including myself. We have continued to look sloppy and play in a manner that does not produce winning football. We make way too many costly mistakes, and we are now a team that cannot be trusted to make the right decisions.
The Tiger offense now leads the nation in fumbles lost with 10; Klubnik has lost 5 of those. Our identity has become a team that consistently makes mistakes in crucial situations. Our red zone conversion percentage is 129th out of 133 teams at 68%. We struggle with doing the basics of football correctly.
There are too many issues at this point to single out any one problem. That in itself is a huge problem, and I am not sure if that really can be fixed over the next 5 games. I think I speak for all Clemson fans when I say we just want to watch a team that makes us excited to watch them. And this current team is far from that. Even if you lose, just play in a way that makes us proud to be a Clemson fan.
Coaching - 3
Wes Goodwin did not have himself a great day. The decision to rush 3 on the 3rd and 13 in the 4th quarter should be giving him nightmares for the rest of the season. In general, our game plan should have been to blitz that quarterback so much that he had no idea where to look next. In reality, we hardly pressured him and did not even register a sack. That is almost indefensible. Venables would have had that dude looking out of his ear hole.
As for the offense, I do not think much blame can be put on Garrett Riley at the moment. I do believe is he doing a decent job with the cards he has been dealt. One thing I do think he could help with is the red zone play calling. Forget Cade’s “disaster class” on the final play—we have to find a way to punch the ball in creatively in the red zone. It’s obvious our offensive line is not good enough to just line up and beat the D-line. Also, it would not hurt to line up and go under center. Put your 230-pound back in and let him get a full head of steam from a 7-yard run up. That’s the way football is meant to be played. Sigh.
Bonus Rating: Jonathan Weitz’s Hair - 5.7
I am not sure what kind of look we are going for, but if bleach-blonde hair can make us go 2–2 and not miss a chip shot, then I am all for it.