Monday Morning Quarterback
I know this might sound a little crazy, especially coming off a loss, but if you look closely, you could see some improvement in the Clemson offense.
Now, before you start sending me DMs or coming at me on Twitter, I just want you to hear me out for a second.
Yes, overall, the Tigers played horrible in their double overtime loss to NC State this past Saturday. There is no disputing any of it. They had just 214 total yards.
Yes, there were bad throws. There were dropped passes and there were offensive linemen running around that looked lost and confused at times.
But there were signs that they did improve, a little. Go look at the two touchdown drives in regulation.
For the first time this year, the Clemson offense looked like its old self. Why was that you think?
It is simple. They executed.
After a 5-yard run by Will Shipley, D.J. Uiagalelei threw his best pass of the season, at the time, to Joseph Ngata. It was a 29-yard completion to the Wolfpack 46.
Following a penalty that moved the football to the 32, a play later, Uiagalelei rolled to his right and with all day to throw the ball, he then threw his best pass of the entire season, a laser to Justyn Ross in the back of the end zone.
He threw the pass where only Ross could get it and Ross rewarded his quarterback by making the best catch of the season. That gave Clemson a 7-0 lead with 9:11 to play in the first quarter. It was a five-play, 80-yard drive that took just 1:33 off the clock.
Another sign that the offense is getting better came in the fourth quarter, now with the Tigers trailing.
Again, the Tigers looked like the offense we all expected them to be at the start of the season. Down 14-7 with 13:33 to play, they started from their own 20.
On third down-and-eight, Uiagalelei completed an 11-yard pass to Ross on the near sideline for Clemson’s first third-down conversion of the afternoon. The Tigers were 0-for-7 on third down prior to that completion to Ross.
On the next play, Shipley ripped off a 16-yard run to move the football to the 49. After another completion to Ross, this time a 9-yard gain, Uiagalelei broke the pocket decisively and rumbled 37 yards to the Wolfpack 5.
Shipley then finished off the seven-play, 80-yard drive, that took just 2:11, by running untouched into the end zone. The 5-yard touchdown tied the game at 14-14, with 10:52 to play.
In overtime, the offense looked confident, especially the Tigers’ quarterback. Uiagalelei ran for 11 yards on one play, then on third-and-seven, from the NC State nine, he hit Ross in the middle of the end zone with a perfect strike. Even better, the offensive line gave him the time he needed to let the play develop.
In the second overtime, Uiagalelei opened that drive with a nice pass around the goal line. It was a pass only Ross could get, but as Ross tried to bring the ball in, the NC State defender got his hand in just enough to disrupt the catch and the Clemson receiver was unable to haul the pass in.
On the last play of the second overtime, Uiagalelei again threw a pass only Ross could catch, but again, the Clemson receiver was unable to bring in the pass. In both cases, though, they were difficult throws, Uiagalelei looked confident in delivering them and he threw them where only his guy could catch them.
So, the signs are there. Granted, they still have a lot of work to do, and they need to be more consistent. But for the first time this year, I saw some real signs of life in this Clemson offense, and that gives me confidence that they will get things turned around.
Football season has finally arrived. Time to represent your Tigers and show your stripes!