By Gray Gardner.
CLEMSON, SC – Clemson became bowl eligible with six wins in as many games Saturday by knocking off ACC foe Boston College. The Clemson Insider has the final say on the Tigers’ performance with this week’s Game Grades.
Tajh Boyd’s stat line was looking good before suffering a game-ending injury early in the third quarter: 16-26 passing for 283 yards and 1 touchdown to go along with 6 carries for 37 yards and another score. Boyd did look inaccurate on some passes early in the game, leaving them high for his intended receivers on several occasions. But for most of the game, Boyd sat back and carved up the Boston College secondary.
RUNNING BACK: A
It was the game Andre Ellington has been looking for. The junior tallied 120 rushing yards on 22 carries and scored a touchdown Saturday against the Eagles. It was obvious that his hamstring was feeling better – Ellington had a quicker stride than he’s had all season. Mike Bellamy continued to show his potential to be electric on a few runs in the second half. Bellamy will be dangerous when he learns the plays and avoids disciplinary actions from the coaches.
WIDE RECEIVERS: A
Consistency is the name of the game. There’s yet to be a let down from this group. Sammy Watkins should be a shoo-in for the ACC Rookie of the Year, and could possibly find himself in the running for ACC Player of the Year. Dwayne Allen continues to make plays, and Jaron Brown has come on strong as a dependable playmaker on third down. Not to mention DeAndre Hopkins, who seems to make a great catch week in and week out.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B+
There’s not much bad to say about the offensive line’s performance from Saturday. They went in and got the job done. Everyone knew going in that Boston College was less than mediocre on the defensive front, so the key for the Tigers big men was to simply not have a let down. They did more than that, and finally opened up the running game for Andre Ellington. The group did allow two sacks, though, which detracted from their grade.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A
The Tigers’ defensive line was impressive for the second week in a row. They consistently pressured Boston College’s quarterback, sacking him 3 times. Andre Branch seems to have finally caught fire, while Malliciah Goodman had the performance everyone’s expected of him. Brandon Thompson has been quietly disrupting interior offensive lines all season, despite facing double-teams on almost every play.
I’m still not impressed here. Jonathan Willard has shown promise with his performance, and Quandon Christian and Corico Hawkins have made big plays here and there. But overall, this group seems to lead the team in missed tackles. It’s almost always a mismatch right now in pass coverage, too. The Tigers’ linebackers are just too slow to cover the running backs and receivers they’ve been up against. Granted, they didn’t allow big plays for big stats in any respect against Boston College. But let’s remember – it was Boston College. Expect to see better play from this group as the true freshmen continue to learn the defense and increase their playing time.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B+
The Tigers’ secondary didn’t make any extraordinary plays, but they didn’t allow any either. Only two blown coverages come to mind – one went for a long third down conversion; the other for long touchdown that was called back thanks to an offensive penalty. This group is improving each game and is showing that they are dependable. However, there’s still much room for growth. Blown coverages are not acceptable.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A+++
Yes, they do deserve the extra pluses. Chandler Catanzaro was gold all day, hitting all five of his attempted field goals. He also added three extra points without error. All other facets of the Tigers’ special teams were status quo – they didn’t win or lose the game. Catanzaro, on the other hand, may have won the game – or at least put it away – with his performance.
COACHING STAFF: A
The bottom line is always winning. Just win the next game. Clemson’s coaching staff again proved that this year might just be different than years past.
The fear going into lull conference games like Saturday is that the team won’t show up. They won’t take it seriously. They’ll flop and lose the game they should win. Clemson’s coaching staff has done well to keep this team from doing just that.
Offensively, Chad Morris continues to pay dividends as a homerun hire for Dabo Swinney. Defensively, Kevin Steele continues to prove that he can do more with less, and that he will always make successful adjustments.
Is this staff the right group to take this team to the next level? That’s yet to be seen. But as of right now, it appears that it might just be the right makeup to win a championship.