NORTHWESTERN COMMAND – Monday night’s Chick-fil-A Bowl was the most compelling game I’ve witnessed in my four football seasons on the Clemson beat.
The 2009 Clemson overtime win in Miami was also an exceptional game to watch as an objective observer. But the walk-off victory over LSU – particularly in the context of ACC vs. SEC and Clemson looking to validate its season against a ranked opponent — was the best theater of the Dabo Swinney (and Travis Sawchik) Eras.
I completed my video review this morning. I could have posted 40 clips as there so much interesting stuff, but let’s start with the throw of Tajh Boyd’s life …
This is the best throw of Boyd’s career considering the circumstance, the pressure and the coverage. The size of the window he was throwing into was about 7 millimeters wide and three across, and he did it with pressure encompassing him, on 4th-and-16, on a do-or-die play. It was nearly an impossible throw and it was perfect ball placement. Legend status.
Chad Morris is a good OC. He might be a better quarterback’s coach.
Remember when SCar defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said he didn’t think Boyd went through his progressions, well? Well, Boyd debunked that hypothesis here. Boyd’s first option was a zone-read play, it appeared his second option was a short pass in the flat to a WR, and on his third read he found Hopkins in the back of the end zone to cut the LSU lead to 24-22. Boyd might have struggled in the past with progressions, but he’s made progress in regard to his decision making this year.
The story of 2012: Boyd’s feet
While Boyd has improved in regard to decision making, in no area has he improved more than with his footwork and mobility. We first saw his improved mobility on display in the opener against Auburn. Boyd was able to maintain that elusiveness, and keep his weight down, throughout the season. Quite simply if this is the one-dimensional Boyd of last season, Clemson loses to both Auburn and LSU this season.
Boyd avoided pressure time and time again and carried the ball a whopping 29 times.To me, the biggest improvement of 2012 was Boyd becoming a dual-threat QB.
One more Boyd video: grown-man performance
Think about this: the average FBS team ran 69 offensive plays per game in 2012. Tajh Boyd threw or ran the ball 79 times vs. LSU.
And Boyd was taking shots and finishing runs (See above).
LSU coach Les Miles was shocked Boyd was able to perform like he did in the fourth quarter after absorbing so much contact. So was I.
Malliciah Goodman goes all Jadeveon Clowney on us
What a performance by Goodman. Spirited, physical and explosive. Where was this his entire career?
Battle’s baptism by fire and DeAndre Hopkins’ competitiveness
If you look up baptism by fire in a dictionary you’ll see a picture of freshman OT Isaiah Battle playing against Sam Montgomery on Monday night. Battle was inserted in the game to protect Tajh Boyd’s blindside due to Gifford Timothy’s injury. Battle wasn’t perfect but he held his own and even got Montgomery on the ground a few times. The 6-7, 280-pound Battle is what future NFL left tackles look like. He has star upside
As for Hopkins we can talk about the hands, the high-pointing ability, his improved foot quickness but perhaps his most special trait is his competitiveness. His competitiveness is off the charts. And if you make a new chart, it’s off that one, too.
Clemson DL gets after it. Monday’s big winner: Joey Batson
Watch D.J. Reader blow up this 3rd and 1 play in the first half vs. LSU. The biggest surprise of the game to me was how well the young Clemson defensive front played. This is incredibly encouraging for Clemson’s 2013 prospects. To think about a freshman like Reader blowing up this play and now having another year in the weight program along with Carlos Watkins and Vic Beasley, Clemson should be much better up front. Elite teams need elite defensive fronts and Clemson’s front should be largely improved next season if the Chick-fil-A Bowl is an accurate forecast.
The Clemson defense was at its best in the fourth quarter. In part this is from Clemson’s offense being able to run 100 plays and keep the defense off the field, but it also must mean Clemson’s playing strength and endurance was outstanding. Strength coach Joey Batson has taken a lot of heat. He’s become an easy scapegoat … and I’m not sure how much is deserved. But it appeared he and the Clemson sports nutrition staffs have the team in good shape. I don’t hear anyone griping about Batson today.
It was a complete performance from the Tajh Boyd to the DL to the weight room staff. Upon review, it was the top moment of the Dabo Swinney Era.