Roy Martin: Clemson vs Miami Post-Game Analysis


by - Correspondent -
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Airese Currie had another fine game with seven receptions for 128 yards. (Sideline Carolina)

Many Clemson detractors have said the victory over Miami is not that big. A loss to North Carolina the previous week and a few uncharacteristically poor performances by their defense took some of the luster off what had been a great season.

That is nonsense.

It was a huge victory. One can argue it was the greatest regular season victory in school history. Without a doubt it is the greatest regular season road victory.

Sure, Miami may not be the juggernaut we have all grown accustomed to seeing. Still, they came into the game as the winningest program of the decade, they are nearly unbeatable in the Orange Bowl, and they are one of the most talented teams in the country.

There have been plenty of momentous victories during the history of the program. Few, if any, have been as beneficial as this one can be. It gives the program a ton of momentum and a marquee win after suffering through a tough first five games.

The most important aspect is the possible boost the staff could receive in their recruiting efforts. The state of Florida – specifically the south Florida – has become the proverbial center of the recruiting universe. Making headway down there is much more important today than it was ten or twenty years ago.

Saturday nights win can only help that cause.

OFFENSE


This was the offense’s best performance of the season. Managing only 17 points during regulation does not seem like that great of an output, but it was pretty good considering the athleticism of the Miami defense and the three missed field goals.

The Tigers averaged 5.1 yards per play. There is not a coach in the country that would not take that number every week. They did that by finally establishing a balanced attack.

Reggie Merriweather had a coming out party. The sophomore continued to improve, as he became the first Clemson back to surpass the 100-yard mark this season.

The run I thought showcased his abilities came on 3-and-1 from his own 18-yard line in the second quarter. He had the speed to get to the outside and enough power to run through some arm tackles for a 25-yard gain.


Charlie Whitehurst had his best game since the Georgia Tech contest. He managed the offense extremely well while connecting with six different receivers and made good decisions for the majority of the night.


Maybe it is because he has been harassed all season, but there were a number of times that he did not look comfortable in the pocket. There were too many times when he failed to set his feet when there was not that much of a rush.


As a result, he was throwing off his back foot a good bit. It caused some balls to float and others to not have the zip they should have had. Even so, he had a good game, which is attributable to his athleticism and ability.


Like Merriweather, the offensive line had their best performance of the season. They managed to limit the much faster Miami defense to only two sacks while providing some of the best protection Whitehurst has had all year.


One player that caught my eye was Thomas Hunter. The reserve tight end saw his first real playing time of the season on offense and made the most of it with some key blocks. I am not sure why he was used, but he looked good when he was in there.

Airese Currie had another fine game with seven receptions for 128 yards. He continues to lead the league in most receiving categories and is looking to become the first Tiger since Perry Tuttle to accomplish that feat.

Kelvin Grant continued to be temperamental as a weatherman. He made two extremely tough catches on quick hitters over the middle, but missed what may be the easiest ball of his career. There is no question the skill and talent is there. He just has to become a more reliable player.

Overall, the key for the offense all night was staying out of a lot of 2nd-and-long situations. They did that for the most part because they were able to mix up the run and pass so well.

DEFENSE

It looked like it was going to be a long night after Miami’s initial drive. It took merely five plays and 2:04 for the Hurricanes to find the end zone. The Tigers not only looked overmatched, they looked lost.

The same was true on Miami’s second drive. The thirteen-play drive was Miami’s longest of the season as they settled for a field goal.


Then, with the lone exception being Miami’s touchdown drive just before the half, Clemson owned them the rest of the night.

The Hurricanes never made it beyond Clemson’s 36-yard line in the second half. They had four consecutive three-and-outs and only managed 108 total yards after halftime, which included a negative rushing total.


Much like the offense, the line was the group that made it all possible. They dominated the Miami offensive front throughout the last half of the game allowing the linebackers to come free and make a ton of plays.

The seemingly ubiquitous force known as Eric Coleman had the best night of his career. The two sacks and six tackles were the least of his contributions. His quickness and athleticism were constant disruptions for Miami. Again, he is a prime example of why you try to grow athletes into defensive tackles.

The linebackers were solid against the run, but a little susceptible to the pass. Play action routes to tight ends and receivers over the middle and down the seams hurt the Tigers all night.


It is not that the linebackers were completely out of position and had no clue. It is more of a case of them not forcing the tight ends off their routes and getting deep enough in their drops.


The secondary stood tall, as they were able to keep the speedy Miami receiving corps from busting a big play. The Hurricanes picked on Tye Hill throughout the game and he was more than ready for the challenge.

Hill’s emergence this season has been the final piece of the puzzle for a secondary that has to be the best in the league. There may be better individual players scattered about, but there is not a quartet in the league as good as Miller, Hill, Pugh and Fudge.


The tackling was still a little iffy at times and the play actions passes were a killer early on. Other than that, the defense had one heck of a game. The biggest stat was 5-of-19, which was Miami’s succession rate on third downs. That is an awesome number against a team with so many weapons.


SPECIAL TEAMS

The highly awaited showdown between two of the nation’s best return men never materialized. Clemson opted to squid their kickoffs and the punt team did an outstanding job in coverage. As a result, Devin Hester had three returns for eleven yards on the night.

Meanwhile, Justin Miller was having another stellar performance. He averaged 12.6 yards on his three punt returns and 28.33 yards on three kickoff returns on his way to 148 total return yards.

Jad Dean missed three of his four attempts. That would normally being a huge cause for concern, but his misses were from 44, 47 and 52 yards. Those are not exactly chip shots. He showed an extremely strong leg on all of his kicks. The 52-yarder looked to be good from 60.

That is a strong kick considering the surface was wet and the humidity tends to take away some distance. Nearly all young kickers have games like that. If anything, seeing the distance on those kicks may help his confidence in the long run.

Dean also got involved in the running game as he picked up six yards on a fake field goal. He seemed fearless and showed some good athleticism, but I do not think you will see him lining up beside Charlie anytime soon.


CONCLUSION

The Tigers continue to improve and prove many of us wrong. There is no question that Miami was the most talented team on the field, but Clemson wanted it more and played a better all around game.


Down 17-3 at halftime, things looked bleak. The defense had just given up a late touchdown and Dean missed a field goal on the last play of the half.


Those last minute blunders would have gotten a lot of teams to pack it in. Instead, Clemson did what it has done all year – fight.


The one play that really seemed to get things going was a 37-yard completion to Airese Currie on 3rd-and-13. Reggie Merriweather was able to scamper in from 27 yards out the very next play and Clemson was back in the ballgame. Without that big conversion, Clemson is probably 4-5 right now.

Enough cannot be said about the character of this team. Every victory except the Utah State game has been decided on the either the last play or last drive of the game. Twice they have won in overtime.


Even in their losses, they have been there until the end. And it is not as if they have lost to a bunch of scrubs. Texas A&M probably would have defeated Oklahoma last weekend if they don’t lose their quarterback in the third quarter. Florida State and Virginia have played well most of the season. Georgia Tech is the only game that really hurts because it is one Clemson simply gave away.

This season could be one of the best things for the program in the long run. Some stiff competition and a ton of close games have helped this team develop that never-say-die attitude. That is sometimes the hardest thing to attain for a program on the verge of greatness.


I am not saying this victory or this season is a prelude to national prominence. That may or may not be true. I do think it will help tremendously in recruiting, which is never a bad thing.

Most importantly, the younger players in the program are learning how to win. Combine that with talent and you have a pretty good recipe for success. For now, the Miami victory is the second biggest in school history. Not so much for what it did for the program that night or this week, but for what it will do for Clemson football three weeks, three months, and three years down the road.

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