Four times in last Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh, Clemson’s defense made a stop and thought it was getting off the field. Or so they thought. Instead, they were penalized and the Panthers’ drives continued.
The Tigers, who play at Wake Forest on Saturday with the ACC’s Atlantic Division Championship at stake, were flagged for two holding calls, a pass interference call and a personal foul on the four scoring drives. What hurt the most is Pitt finished each of those dives with a touchdown.
“It was very frustrating,” Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel said on Tuesday.
The two most frustrating calls came in the third and fourth quarters. After being killed all day by the shovel pass to the tight end, Clemson was finally ready for it on a third-and-three play from the Clemson 39.
Linebacker Ben Boulware sniffed out the play and stopped Pitt’s Dontez Ford for a two-yard gain. However, as the whistle was being blown, Boulware continued through the whistle and tackled Ford to the ground. Head referee Duane Heydt flagged Boulware for a personal foul, moving the football to the Clemson 22, and accompanied with an automatic first down.
Five plays later, Nathan Peterman hit Scott Orndoff with another shovel pass, which covered the final seven yards for the touchdown.
Obviously, O’Daniel did not agree with the call. He feels Boulware gets singled out because of the physical way he plays the game.
“Ben is a physical player. It is no secret. Anytime a ref or official sees something that they might deem too aggressive or unsportsmanlike, they are going to call it because he has that track record of not being dirty, but just being a physical hard-nose football player,” O’Daniel said. “It is unfortunate that it is that way, but it is what it is.
“I hope he does not change his style of play because that is what makes him a great player.”
The Boulware penalty was the third one that led to a touchdown, the fourth came after quarterback Deshaun Watson threw a costly interception at the Pitt goal line, which the Panthers returned 70 yards to the Clemson 30-yard line. But it appeared Clemson got a big stop three plays later when Peterman overthrew Orndoff on third down-and-10.
However, the back judge threw the flag, calling freshman K’Von Wallace for holding, which replayed showed was a slight touch by Wallace as Orndoff started his route. On the next play, running back James Conner broke off a 20-yard touchdown.
O’Daniel says the Tigers have to do a better job of forgetting about what the officials call and play the next play, no matter if the call was right or wrong.
“It’s very frustrating because at multiple times during the game it was third-and-long, and regardless of the call, whether you agree with it or not, it happened. You just have to go out there with that next-play mentality, and try to stop them,” O’Daniel said. “You can’t control everything, but you can control your mindset and your effort and your technique of how you’re going to play the next down. So, that’s what I think the defense’s mindset was after they got first downs because of penalties.”