Report Card: The grades for Clemson vs. South Carolina State

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner | Tiger Tracks on Facebook

CLEMSON — The grades are in for the Tigers after their 52-13 win over South Carolina State Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.

Offense (A)

It sure didn’t feel like a thrilling first half on the offensive side of the ball. Then you look at the stat sheet, and, oh! Look! 54 plays, 316 yards. Yawn. That’s the new standard for this offense. Of all the starting units that got most the afternoon off, the offensive line will feel especially fresh this weekend, since the second-stringers took care of two of the three first-half offensive touchdowns before turning it into a laugher. Very blah day for Tajh Boyd (14-23, 169 yards, no passing TDs) and the running game (4.2 yards per carry), but the wide receivers are back on track, especially Martavis Bryant. And there’s not much more you can say about Cole Stoudt (19-20) and 14 different receivers catching a pass.

GAMER: Jenkins, Robinson shake off injury past to contribute in 52-13 romp

Defense (A-)

Yes, the unit scored more points than it relinquished. Very cool, and very important, for the back four to get their swag back; they’ll need that heading into ACC play. SC State had a tough little runner up the gut, but got nothing going on the ground – Brent Venables will take 1.9 yards per carry all day, errrr day, regardless of the opponent. I saw Grady Jarrett push the poor center back 10 yards on one play, and I’m sure that wasn’t the only one. It would be an A-plus day, but we take off two points for each of the long, unnecessary passing touchdowns.

Notes: Kelly averts disaster in long-awaited return, Boyd gets ‘wind knocked out of him’

Special teams (A)

Not much to say here, really. Bradley Pinion continues to display a booming leg, with four punts and a 48.8 average, plus five touchbacks on six kickoffs. Ammon Lakip and Andy Teasdall also got in there, which tells you what you need to know. South Carolina State missed an extra point. T.J. Green had an 18-yard kick return. Ho-hum. We’ll address more of the punt return personnel in the next section.

Coaching (B-)

The Tigers played 83 guys. Great. That was the idea. Now, I have three questions for the staff this week:

- One, why put Tajh Boyd in unnecessary harm’s way? That one-yard keeper might have barely aided his Heisman campaign, but there’s just no sense in exposing his head and chest to possible injury with those lunges. Sure looked painful. Clemson made this same seemingly error in judgment against Virginia Tech last year.

- Two, is Sammy Watkins banished from punt returns the rest of the year, or what? OK, he dropped one against Georgia. A big one. But if the plan is to give Watkins as many touches as possible, it’s best to get his confidence catching the ball back in a low-pressure environment. And to those who want to keep Watkins healthy without exposing him to possible big hits … well, see question number one for a gauge on how the coaches feel about that.

- Three, and I can’t adequately address this topic here: Good for Chad Kelly. He’s made of platinum and can’t be kept down for at least five months from an ACL injury. He had his day in the sun. Now it’s time to shut him down.

Why, oh why, is Chad Kelly on the field right now? If he’s truly a part of Clemson’s future plans, why put his knee at serious risk for absolutely no reason? The “he’s cleared and ready” argument is completely hollow. Let’s face it: if Tajh Boyd goes down, the season’s probably screwed. Cole Stoudt could do an adequate job keeping the boat afloat, but definitely not full-speed ahead. Kelly’s not taking this team to Orange Bowl glory, folks. Keep the kid healthy. Wait on him for 2014. It’s a great inspiration, his vigor for rehab. But stop this nonsense, please.

Overall (A-)

What the Fox Sports Carolina lady (allegedly) was asking Dabo Swinney was based on the fact that Clemson appeared sluggish early on, even if the score didn’t reflect as such. But you know what? That’s to be expected. It’s an FCS opponent, through and through. Easy win. Let’s move on.

-AB

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