By Gray Gardner.
The Tigers moved to 3-0 on the season with a 38-24 victory over Auburn Saturday in Death Valley.
How did the Tigers grade out in the game? Time for TCI to grade the performance of the Tigers.
Tajh Boyd continued to improve with a stellar performance versus Auburn on Saturday. The sophomore completed 30 of his 42 pass attempts for 386 yards and 4 touchdowns, leading his Tigers to a 38-24 victory. Boyd started slowly for the third week in a row, missing several open receivers in the first quarter. He wouldn’t struggle for long, though. After the first quarter, Boyd went on to lead a dominant offensive attack that totaled 624 yards of total offense. Tajh Boyd was named a Manning Award Star of the week and is now 9th in the nation in quarterback rating.
It was tough running for most of the game for Clemson’s running backs. Andre Ellington left the game early with a tweaked hamstring and finished with only 46 yards on 14 carries. DJ Howard stole the show on the ground in Ellington’s place, rushing for 86 yards on only 9 carries – an average of 9.6 yards per rush. Freshman Mike Bellamy tallied 40 yards on 11 carries, but turned the ball over on a fumble in the third quarter. The group ran hard all game but missed the hole on occasion.
WIDE RECEIVER: A+
What can you say about this group? They’ve been impressive from day one. Freshman phenom Sammy Watkins was stellar again, catching 10 passes for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns. Watkins added another 44 yards rushing. DeAndre Hopkins continued to prove his dependability, catching 7 balls for 83 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Dwayne Allen added another 7 catches – many of which will make the highlight reel – for 80 yards and another score. Few teams have the privilege of showcasing a group of receivers as talented and deep as Clemson’s.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B
The offensive line was much improved in game three, even with the loss of David Smith and Mason Cloy. After giving up 7 sacks in just two games this season, Clemson’s offensive line improved to not allow a sack against Auburn and paved the way for a 238-yard day running the ball. This group will have to continue to improve in toughness and push up-front as the season progresses, but you can’t argue with their performance from Saturday.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B-
Clemson’s defensive line improved as much as its offensive line did Saturday. The group recorded one sack and 5 quarterback hurries. Their was an evident effect on Auburn quarterback Brandon Trotter when Clemson’s defensive line created pressure in the backfield. However, Trotter had plenty of time to throw on more than one occasion, and was often able to wait in the pocket until his receivers got open. Auburn also successfully ran the ball right through Clemson’s front, finishing the day with 237 yards on the ground. The Tigers’ line will have to be consistent in creating pressure in the coming weeks if they hope to be successful on the defensive side of the ball.
This group stepped up to make plays when it mattered Saturday, but was not consistent throughout the game. Clemson’s linebackers over pursued several plays, including many potential tackles-for-loss. Tackling has been an issue for this group (and for the defense as a whole) this season and continued to prove deadly again on Saturday. Fortunately Clemson’s talent here is young and should improve as the season progresses.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B-
Auburn’s receivers were not denied the big play on Saturday, but Clemson’s defensive backs – much like the rest of its defense – made plays when it mattered. Auburn was only granted 198 yards and 1 touchdown through the air on Saturday. Cornerback Coty Sensabaugh dropped what would have been a pick-six on a busted route, and then later gave up a big completion in the third quarter. However, he would redeem himself, intercepting a Brandon Trotter pass on Clemson’s 15 yard-line. The resilience shown by Sensabaugh was representative of the Tigers’ whole secondary.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
For the first time this season Clemson’s special team units put up a solid performance all around. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro hit on all of his extra points and nailed a 38-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Punter Dawson Zimmerman and kicker Spencer Benton helped win the field position battle with great coverage punts and touchbacks on kickoffs.
COACHING STAFF: A
First quarter aside, this team was ready to play on Saturday. They were firing on all cylinders as Chad Morris’ widely acclaimed offense finally came to life in Death Valley. Morris still has a whole lot of playbook left to install, which should be promising for Clemson fans.
Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele’s defense met Auburn’s challenge, shutting them down and only allowing 3 points in the second half. Mistakes were certainly made on the defensive side of the ball, but adjustments were made that put Clemson’s athletes in position to succeed.