#2 Clemson vs Georgia Southern: Breakdown and Grades
Clemson starts the season at 3-0 for the 7th time in Dabo Swinney’s ten seasons as the Tigers head coach. To put that into perspective the Clemson football program had only accomplished that feat just 6 times in the previous 49 years before Swinney was named head coach. Georgia Southern became victim number three of the very short season, now twenty-five percent over as the calendar and schedule play out. The Eagles from Statesboro were no match for Swinney’s and his roster of highly recruited players. It showed itself on the playing surface inside memorial stadium as the Tigers had a 600 yard offensive performance and a stifling defensive day lead then to a 38-7 win.
Clemson amassed 595 total yards of offense on the day, with a great distribution of both run and pass with the game-plan allowed for 43 rushes and 40 pass attempts. The Clemson staff came into this game wanting to see more “efficiency” from their offense in regard to sustaining drives and “finishing” in situations they need to convert. On Saturday the Tigers after a slow start gave the staff a look at what they expected to see from them with an effort that showed off the talent level all over the field.
With 14 different players targeted in the pass game, the Tigers were able to average 9.2 yards per pass completion. Leading the way in receptions was freshman phenom Justyn Ross, who tallied no less than 103 yards on 3 receptions, one of those for 57 yards and a touchdown after an impressive run after catch. Clemson was also able to affect the middle of the field as the Eagles continued to play two deep safeties . . .. and the Tiger QB’s then targeted the zone between linebackers and safeties for several plays. Specifically targeting the tight ends for the 1st time this season, as they became a factor with 5 receptions on the day.
Rushing the ball the Tigers ran it forty six times making a concerted effort to get the ground game on track . Travis Etienne led all rushers with a career high 164 yards on 16 carries for a 10 yards per carry average on the afternoon. All three backups were involved, with Adam Choice scoring a late TD after a 53 yard day, Lynn J Dixon and Tavien Feaster each factored into the game plan and saw serviceable snaps. Both players contributed in both run game and pass protection. Note Dixon’s picking up a blitzing line backer on the Justyn Ross touchdown pass for an example of the freshman stepping in there and recognizing where he needed to be.
Overall the offense gets an A-, the reason for the minus is easy enough to explain, two turnovers and the struggles by the first team offensive line on the goal line in short yardage are two areas that can be looked at as issues on the day.
Stifling is the only word to describe this defensive performance as the Clemson defenders just would not allow Georgia Southern to breathe. Over and over the Tigers were harassing Shai Werts as he tried to find any space or time to operate his offense.
The five Sacks led by Austin Bryant who had two if the sacks along with freshman Xavier Thomas who showed flashes of why he was so highly acclaimed and thought of in the recruiting process. Only giving up 140 total yards on the day the defense was also “balanced” by allowing only 60 net passing yards and 80 rushing yards one 43 attempts for a 1.8 per rush average. Also the Tigers forced a fumble and held the Eagles to 4 out 14 on third down. We would have graded this unit an A+.
But the drive that allowed the Eagles to score and lose the shutout was enough to look at and consider a detriment as the 2nd team defense on that drive seemed to lose focus. Other than that drive, a better performance against a division one football team like Georgia Southern you could not have asked for.
Special Teams: C
BT Potter did his part and boomed almost all of his kicks through the end zone, but it was the 2 missed field goals and a couple penalties on punt returns that negated big plays we can point to as reasons for a “C” grade. Yes, it was windy . . . but a player with Heugel’s experience and leg strength should Make those two kicks, and the penalties can be addressed and are mental mistakes.
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