Making the grade

Making the grade

Football

Making the grade

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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 fourth-ranked Tigers’ performance at every position from Saturday’s 52-6 victory over The Citadel.

Quarterbacks

Grade:  A

Tajh Boyd made his final game in Death Valley a memorable one. He threw five touchdown passes to five different receivers. He threw for 288 yards on 21 of 28 passing and he ran the football for 20 more. He looked sharp. He looked quick and more importantly he looked like he was having fun. That will be the most important thing for him next week in Columbia. If Tajh Boyd is having fun, Clemson is going to win. You can count on that.

Running backs

Grade: A

The Tigers are down to two healthy running backs, which truly is a running back. Zac Brooks reinjured his shoulder Saturday and is likely done of the season. With C.J. Davidson still nursing a knee injury suffered against Virginia three weeks ago, that leaves Clemson with Rod McDowell and D.J. Howard. McDowell, in his last game in Death Valley, rushed for 108 yards on 21 carries, while Howard rushed seven times for 22 yards. Tight end Jay Jay McCullough carried the ball the last seven times for 43 yards on the game’s last drive.

Wide receivers/ Tight ends

Grade: B

With the exception of Jordan Leggett and Martavis Bryant’s dropped passes the wide receivers played well. Sammy Watkins again led the team with seven catches, but Bryant had four for 84 yards, while freshman Mike Williams had three catches for 70 yards, including a great grab for a 30-yard touchdown and a twisting catch in blanket coverage for another 30-yard gain.

Offensive line

Grade: A

The offensive line only allowed one sack and that sack will be credited to Boyd for hanging onto the ball too long. The running game garnered 208 rushing yards on 43 carries. That’s 4.8 yards per carry. With South Carolina coming up with its physical defensive line, it’s good to see the offensive line getting better and a little more physical at the same time.

Defensive line

Grade: A

Clemson’s defensive line continues to be impressive. They held The Citadel to 176 rushing yards – 106 yards below its season average. They also held them to 3.1 yards per carry. Corey Crawford and Josh Watson each had a tackle for loss.

Linebackers

Grade: A

Clemson’s linebackers were all over the field. Ben Boulware had nine tackles, Spencer Shuey had seven tackles, Tony Steward had six, Stephone Anthony had six and Quandon Christian had five. Christian recovered a fumble and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown. The linebackers also recorded four of the Tigers’ 10 tackles for loss.

Secondary

Grade: A

Though The Citadel does not like to throw the ball very often, I’m sure they had plans to do better than 1 for 5 for minus-four yards. That’s the lowest number of passing yards allowed in Clemson history. The secondary also recorded four tackles for loss as they played the option game and tackled very well in space. Cornerback Garry Peters forced a fumble that Christian returned for a touchdown.

Special Teams

Grade: A

Bradley Pinion had only one punt for 40 yards, which he laid down inside the 20 – his 23rd of the season. Chandler Catanzaro made a 32-yard field goal and was 6-for-6 on extra points. The nine total points allowed him to move into second place on the ACC’s all-time scoring list.

Coaching

Grade: A

Dabo Swinney made sure his team was not overlooking The Citadel for South Carolina. The Tigers were hungry and focused and for the 18th straight game they beat a non-ranked opponent by double digits. Clemson led 42-0 at halftime. The defense looked sharp and aggressive and the offense continues to play its best ball as the regular season comes to an end.

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