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QT’s Take: Orange Crush, Clemson Defeats Syracuse Giant Oranges

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

You know what I won’t mind when Clemson eventually leaves the ACC? Both Syracuse fans and playing in this dumb “loud” dome and its horrible turf.

Clemson played fine. When you drill down into the tape—they didn’t play that great. Certainly not anything to get too excited about, but I will celebrate any win at this point. Overall, it looked like the team had mentally rebounded from the loss to FSU, which is a testament to Dabo.

Syracuse made a bunch of mistakes and gave Clemson the ball in plus territory. Babers made a horrible decision to try and kick a 57-yard FG that let Clemson score before the half. Give them credit for getting up for the game, Syracuse hits hard and plays hard when Clemson comes to town (a few could’ve been targeting), but the early turnovers put them in a hole. Clemson also let Cuse stay in the game with the 4th down stop on the 5 yard line and the missed FG before the half. This was a ten point game in the 4th quarter.

Clemson’s offensive scheme is so much improved from last season but players need to execute. Offensive line was a mess this game, especially right guard with Walker Parks out.

Coming out of half-time you get a PI and a beautiful throw and catch to Brown inside the ten yard line and then Cade misses an read where he should’ve handed it off and then some weird play where Shipley loses 7 yards (someone missed some blocks or Ship was supposed to cut hard inside). Clemson ends up with a FG but a TD there and this is likely headed to a blowout. Again, you see the potential on offense but the execution is just a step behind.

Defense was a mixed bag. The Cuse offensive scheme stresses the defense and gets into favorable one-on-one matchups—they deserve some credit. But there were far too many busts from LBs and Safeties in the first half of the game. Some poor tackling and giving up a score on a sudden change aren’t great either. Only 14 points given up is a good day but you can still see the cracks that led to the two earlier losses. I think Wes Goodwin needs to attack a little bit more. More LB blitzes and pressure that let Clemson use its athleticism. I hope we see that more because it helps the defense play more instinctually.


Congrats to Dabo on win #100. Huge accomplishment.

This was the Tyler Brown true freshman party! TJ Parker is a starter. Interesting that both were ready made products who position coaches didn’t get a chance to “improve.” Tyler Brown was phenomenal. He basically caught everything thrown remotely close to him and a bunch of those Klubnik balls weren’t great. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that other receivers would’ve dropped those balls and the offense would’ve looked much, much worse. Brown gets open and makes tough catches—he makes contested catches—and he gets yards after the catch. Antonio Williams and Brown need to be on the field together. Huge third down conversions, continually working to get open (something other receivers just don’t understand).

There was a pass early in the second quarter (14:21) where Spector tries to catch a pass and rolls on the ground. It is incomplete. Not a great throw but Spector can’t help out his QB because he isn’t that talented. Brown makes those kind of catches.

Stellato got himself a touchdown and had another good game. Not the best blocker in the world but he sticks his nose in there and works.

It was good to see XT get rewarded for all the hard work he has put in with the scoop and almost score. Need more success for him. Both he and Mascoll are struggling at times with setting the edge but they are playing with more edge than they have in the past (see Mascoll’s hit on Schrader that could’ve been targeting but caused the turnover). Did I mention Parker should be a starter? He had another great game and provided a ton of pressure on the QB.

Gonna give Klubby a little love here because I am hard on him in some other parts of this recap. When he took off on third and 10 late in the second half and went and got the first down—didn’t slide. That was progress and Cade smartly using his athleticism in a controlled way. Good. The next play he stays in the pocket and STEPS UP and hits Beaux on the double move, wide open. Great. Running to his left at the end of the third Q he hits Brown on the sideline for a 15 yard STRIKE. Elite.

You don’t go up to a QB and chest bump him. Good job by Cade to sell it if the Cuse defender is going to be that brazen.

Loved that Mafah broke out and scored. We need to see more of this from the RBs.

Keep Shelton Lewis on the punt coverage team.

More Harris Sewell. Burn the redshirt. AJ Hoffler looked good out there too.

The Bad

Cade didn’t exactly “grow up” in this game—that is more coach-speak rhetoric. Here is an example of middling Klubby. 2nd-and-6 on the opening drive. Cuse rushes both LBs and Cade has to get it out fast—he does, but the ball is to the inside shoulder of Brown and it is almost picked off. If Cade gets that to the outside shoulder, then Brown turns upfield for 30 yards with one man to beat to score. It is those little things that Cade has yet to clean up. I don’t see him double clutching as much. I see him being more decisive in leaving the pocket and picking up yards with his feet. But you can’t throw balls in jeopardy (granted his O-line played really poorly this game, so he gets a pass for this game).

Next play Randall has a step but the ball is underthrown (of course, Randall doesn’t really fight for the ball and despite coming off of surgery and being a young player—Dabo is already calling him out in public for needing more consistency and maturity, and when you heard maturity thrown around by Dabo it is not a good sign). If it is out in front just a yard more then Randall walks in the endzone. They call PI but the ball needs to be just a bit better. In the second possession of the second half Cade throws a ball that should’ve been intercepted and could’ve been brought back for a pick six. You just can’t do that against better teams.

More shoestring tackles for RBs. Also looked like Mafah banged up his shoulder at the end of the first half and Shipley got knocked around pretty good—not great for a RB room with little quality depth.

I’ve seen folks start to criticize the lack of run game diversity in this offense. Welp—the scheme spreads out the defense so that you have numbers that are favorable in the box. The O-line and RBs need to win on these simple interior run plays to keep you on schedule and punish the defense for playing more coverage or blitzing. It shows that the Clemson O-line just isn’t getting it done. In this game, Cuse was confusing Cade with some of their looks (Cuse was anticipating run but showing a lighter box and crashing after a pre-snap read) but the O-line has to do a better job with simple runs. The RBs should be springing free in this offense more often.

Seeing Jones, Mickens, and Trotter bust on a TD score to a former QB while taking turns missing tackles is almost comical at this point.

Trotter is frustrating. He gets the great interception in the second half (almost had another) but there are just too many busts for a talented defense.

I still want more from Carter and Ruke. Ruke has all the talent in the world but has trouble locating the ball and plays too high. Ruk did have a great sack though, which shows that potential. Carter is fine but also misses too many tackles and isn’t always playing gap sound defense. That said, he made a few instinctual plays where he got tackles for loss.

Sheridan Jones needs to stop tugging on jerseys. He and Lukus got beat a few too many times and Cuse wasn’t able to hit on the sidelines. Not horrible coverage but a better team takes advantage. Lukus did a decent job stepping into the starting role, however.

The Ugly

Mitchell Mayes had the worst game of his career. It was so bad that he had to be replaced by Trent Howard who was also bad, but not as bad as Mayes—which means Mayes was playing like a turnstile in the first half. Simple stunt and Mayes can’t pick up a spin move from a big DE and lets him get in for the sack. He missed like ten assignments (and that is being generous). Gave up sacks. No push. It was ugly. More Harris Sewell please.

3rd-and-2 on the five yard line and the O-line can’t get any push. Shipley stacked up. Fourth-and-2 and Putnum is pushed back 5 yards after the snap (no exaggeration). Neither tackle gets much of a hand on the pass rushers. Just a cluster that allows Cuse to stay in the game.

Shipley gave one of the worst holding blocks I have seen in awhile. Dives at the legs of the blitzing defender and tries to grab him. Ugly.

That fumble by Briningstool just can’t happen. Remember when Clemson told Brock Bowers thanks but no thanks—we were full at tight end? Brinny has flashed a little but seeing Bowers carry UGA last year and this year (he could legitimately be a Heisman finalist and definite first round pick) is depressing.

How many special teams scholarships does it take to make a forty yard field goal?

What do we do on punt returns? We don’t even block a punt. We don’t even block for a punt return and we get no yards on return. It just looks very bad and it has been bad for many years.

Overall, this team needed a road win and some victories to gain some confidence. Clemson can only hope for total chaos in the ACC but there still is a path to the championship game if they win out. Wake should be a blowout if Clemson is continuing to improve as a team.