By Will Vandervort
Each week we take a look back at what the Clemson Tigers did right and what they did wrong on the gridiron as we grade the third-ranked Tigers’ performance at every position in Saturday’s 24-14 victory over Boston College.
Statistically Tajh Boyd played a good game. He completed 30 of 44 passes for 344 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a touchdown and did not turn the ball over. But statistics don’t tell the whole story. The Clemson quarterback put the ball on the ground twice, missed on a couple of open receivers and at times starred down his receivers to point the safeties were reading his eyes.
Roderick McDowell became the first Clemson running back to gain more than 70 yards in a game since he gained 132 against Georgia in the season-opener. He rushed for 91 yards on 18 carries, while Zac Brooks rushed for 42 yards on six carries. The Tigers finished with 162 yards on 37 carries. Both did well in pass protection, but they also but the ball on the ground, causing Clemson to lose its first two fumbles of the season on offense.
Wide receivers/ Tight ends
Sammy Watkins had seven catches for 101 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown pass from Boyd, while Adam Humphries led all Clemson receivers with nine catches for 81 yards. Martavis Bryant had two catches for 48 yards and could have had a 48-yard touchdown, but a penalty negated the score. Speaking of that the penalty was on a Clemson receiver, while four passes were dropped by Clemson pass-catchers including two by Watkins.
The good news is the offensive line did not allow a sack, but they were very inconsistent with their running blocking. Since the Georgia game, due to injuries and suspensions, the offensive line has not had much continuity and part of the blame goes there. Clemson did average 4.4 yards per carry but several times runners were caught behind the line of scrimmage or for no gain. Left tackle Brandon Thomas was named offensive player of the week by the coaches, however, for his performance.
Boston College running back Andre Williams came into the game averaging 5.8 yards per carry and led the nation with 153.9 yards per game. But the Clemson defensive line, led by Grady Jarrett, Corey Crawford and Vic Beasley, held Williams to a season-low 70 yards and 2.9 yards per carry. As a whole, BC gained only 94 yards and averaged 2.4 yards per carry. The defensive line was credited with 2.5 sacks and Beasley returned a fumble 13 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
Stephone Anthony once again led the Tigers in tackles, while also getting two tackles for loss and a sack. He was named the team MVP from the defensive side of the ball because of his efforts. Spencer Shuey was flying all over the field, too and after a couple of breakdowns in pass coverage, he got the defense lined up and the breakdowns ended. Shuey’s ability to drop back and cover the tight end down the seam even led to a sack for Anthony.
The secondary played well. However, it did have the one breakdown where Alex Amidon got behind safety Jayron Kearse, due to confusion by the freshman, and scored on a 69-yard pass. Other than that, the secondary played very well and allowed just 192 yards on 13 of 21 passing. As a group, the secondary tackled well as safety Robert Smith recorded nine tackles and broke up a pass on one third down play. Smith was also named MVP for the defense.
Chandler Catanzaro missed his first field goal of the season—a 25-yard field goal. His first from 40 yards or in, in 28 tries. The Tigers also muffed a snap that cost them potentially another three points. Bradley Pinion once again punted the ball well, averaging 43.4 yards per punt, while Humphries was again solid in the return game.
No matter what Dabo Swinney tried to say last week, several players said after the game they were looking ahead a little bit to the FSU game and they were not totally focused on Boston College. However, they also admitted that was no excuse. Regardless, the blame for that falls on the head coach and it nearly cost the Tigers a win. Defensively, Brent Venables had a great scheme and besides two breakdowns, his defense executed the plan to near perfection. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris was stubborn almost to a fault, as he stuck to the run game a little too long which led to execution problems on the offense.