RALEIGH – While giving way to the slew of college football games yesterday, it’s time to clear the notebook from Clemson’s 26-14 victory Thursday night at North Carolina State, hearing from a number of the noted difference-makers.
We start by giving you what is known about Clemson sophomore defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, who was in a car accident near his home of Forest City, N.C. The players were given the weekend off, after a full week of preparation for the Wolfpack. Watkins was hospitalized and spent last night there, but a school release indicates Watkins is “free of any serious injury.” We’ll get an update from head coach Dabo Swinney tonight on his usual Sunday teleconference.
1) The question was actually asked, at a press conference Sept. 3, if Martavis Bryant would see his playing time decrease in light of a poor opening game with several drops.
Kind of like wondering if a first-year head coach should give up his day job after an 0-1 start.
“Martavis had a rough first game, but nobody was panicking,” head coach Dabo Swinney said after Bryant vindicated himself Thursday night. “Came back and had a great game against South Carolina State, and then tonight was awesome. He had one bobbled ball on the sideline, where instead of just feeling the sideline with his kick-drag technique, he was trying to look up and down. But what a great game. Just a tremendous game.”
“The fade ball was a well-placed ball, but Martavis just went and snatched it. That’s what we’ve got to have; guys have got to make plays.”
2) More praise of Bryant, from offensive coordinator Chad Morris: “That’s a guy that needed to play well. In order for this whole thing to work, he’s got to be a guy that comes on. I think you saw that tonight, and I was glad to see that for him. A big, big plus for us offensively in this game, was to see the growth of Martavis.”
And some more, from wide receiver Sammy Watkins: “That’s what we’re wishing he’d do, and he stepped up big-time. That should give him confidence for the next game, and the next game (after that.) He made two big plays that helped us go up 14. He’s a great athlete, great player, great person.”
3) Another order of business on tonight’s teleconference will be any punishment for left tackle Isaiah Battle, who socked a Wolfpack defender in the chops for no apparent reason late in the fourth quarter.
He was immediately ejected. The ACC has not officially handed down discipline.
“Very disappointed in Isaiah Battle. Man, that can’t ever happen,” Swinney said. “Really, really disappointed. That’s not Clemson. That’s a lesson for every one of those guys, and it’s something we talked a lot about in the locker room. But I will say this: he took ownership, he immediately apologized to the team, and that won’t happen again, I can assure you.”
A few of you protested on Twitter, and I did see it myself on the press box TVs: Battle seemed to be laughing about the incident just after he was tossed. A really dumb, and really ill-timed, move leading into a Wake Forest game when Battle conceivably could play a ton of snaps, especially since Morris doesn’t seem particularly thrilled with his offensive line at the moment.
4) Yeah, Morris was an unhappy camper, other than acknowledging that the win’s the thing.
“I think we looked like an offensive football team that hadn’t played in about ten days, to be honest with you,” Morris said. “And even ten days prior to that, they really didn’t play together very long. I never thought that we ever got in a rhythm in the first half. Obviously, Tajh missed some throws he normally doesn’t miss. But that’s part of it. Thought we rallied back in that second half. Just trying to get in sync.”
Watkins admitted, “Just having a week off, everything was kind of off.”
5) Tajh Boyd hasn’t thrown an interception this year, but he came darn close to a pivotal pick-six when he simply hit Juston Burris between the numbers when looking for Bryant and Burris raced the other way untouched.
Luckily for him, Swinney had called timeout just before the snap.
“I called a timeout right before we threw a pick over there, because we didn’t have the right situation,” Swinney said. “That’s a tough break for them and a good break for us, but you’ve got to get a few of those along the way. That’s just part of football.”
6) Luck was definitely a factor Saturday night. On defense, you all know about the two sideline-stepping jobs when N.C. State flanker Bryan Underwood barely tipped the sideline on would-be long touchdown runs – the second of which looks inconclusive on replay whether he was in or out.
“You’ve always got to have some luck. Just part of the game,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “We’ve got to leverage those plays better. One they caught us in a good coffin there, and the other we just did a very poor job of our rotation. But that’s part of the game; there’s a lot of breaks like that that go both ways that you don’t see. Shoulda woulda coulda, I’m not big into that.”
7) And finally, the few days off were mentioned. Obviously, Carlos Watkins found himself in a tough situation up in North Carolina, though we’ll find out soon how serious it is and what happened.
“Guys will get a couple nice days off, where they actually don’t have to practice,” Swinney said Thursday night. “We didn’t have an off weekend – I know everybody thinks we did, but we practiced. But they’ll actually have some off time this weekend, and looking forward to them getting that.”