CLEMSON — It may be Homecoming Weekend, but school’s still in session as we grade the Tigers after their 56-7 win over Wake Forest Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Let’s see, where can we nitpick this week … total yards? (567. Wake Forest’s defensive average was 311. Not even close.) Completion percentage? (28-of-36, and 11.3 yards an attempt. Heck, no.) Total plays? 83. Time of possession? 30:17. Third-downs? 8-of-17 (plus 3-of-4 saves on fourth down.) Red zone? Six trips, six touches. Egads.
Well, OK, the 3.5 yards per rush is less than inspiring. And the stat sheet says Clemson fumbled three times, though it’s hard to remember all three and the Tigers recovered all of them anyway. And the Tigers allowed three more sacks, so the offensive line is still far away from the Hogs. But hey, nobody’s perfect.
One thing that grinds my gears: those little tip drills (a shotgun snap that the quarterback deflects to a receiver cutting across on a hot route or jet sweep) count as passes. They totally should be runs. Which is what skews the statistics; negatively for rushing, and positively for Tajh Boyd and Cole Stoudt when they do it. Also don’t forget, the D.J. Howard 75-yard touchdown was out of the backfield; it just happened to be a swing pass. So don’t get too hung up on the rushing numbers. Clemson’s got a talented backfield.
You combine the third-down prowess (Wake was 2-for-14. Two for fourteen!) with the stingy rush defense (1.9 yards per carry), and it’s yet another game where Clemson’s defense has done everything it’s been asked and more. Good stat from Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret: first time since 2008 since Clemson’s put in three straight efforts of allowing 14 points or less. It’s fair to point out this stretch has come against the No. 61 and 106 scoring offenses in the FBS, and a mediocre FCS squad. Syracuse is No. 35, though, and Florida State is fourth nationally at 51.3 points per game, so the challenges get tougher.
Special teams (B+)
Pretty irrelevant for the most part Saturday. Adam Humphries and Daniel Rodriguez each showed some spunk returning punts; Humphries had an 18-yarder and Rodriguez a 16-yarder. Bradley Pinion’s punt average improved from his last game to 43.8 yards, without allowing a return. Some of Pinion’s kickoffs were iffy, but it was a windy day, so it’s forgiven. And after an 8-for-8 day Saturday, Chandler Catanzaro is now 151-154 on extra points for his career.
Again, it’s hard to gauge this on an easy day like that. Probably this staff’s greatest accomplishment is getting Clemson to take care of business like professionals against a far weaker foe; and Dabo Swinney’s right to credit his leading players in key positions, but remember, it’s a small senior class. Some of that leadership has to come from the adults with whistles.
I continue to question Chad Morris letting Tajh Boyd run it 17 times, but Morris told me only about four or five of those are designed; the rest are Boyd choosing to tuck and run. Interesting. Will have to watch tape and see if that breakdown is accurate (and I have no reason to disbelieve him.)
The question was raised both in the press box and on Twitter: was an entire half holding out Martavis Bryant excessive for the N.C. State celebration which was fleeting and barely anyone noticed live during the game? Maybe a little. But consider the offender. It’s not Bryant’s first stay in the doghouse. The more guys get called into the coach’s office, the harsher the punishment to get through to them.
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That’s the way it’s supposed to look. Now the road trip to Syracuse could be interesting, but not if Clemson plays like it did Saturday. Then home for Boston College should finish off a pretty simple first half to the season (minus the Georgia opener, of course), and the second half of the season gets pretty interesting.