Stats & Storylines: Clemson's running lanes open as season hits full speed
|Monday, September 19, 2022, 7:00 AM- -|
Clemson outscored Louisiana Tech 21-0 in the third quarter. The rest of the game didn’t go quite so smoothly as the Tigers only outscored the Bulldogs 27-20 across the other three periods. Much like in their first two games, it was an up-and-down performance that showed Clemson’s upside as well as their maddening inconsistency. Let’s break it down.
Will Shipley: 12 carries, 139 yards (11.6 YPC), 2 TDs
We’ll start with Will Shipley, my offensive MVP. After accruing just 110 rushing yards in his first two games combined, he ran for 139 against Louisiana Tech. When holes were open, he burst through them and then made the defender at the next level miss. A lot of credit here also belongs to the offensive line who – for the first time all season – opened up holes for him to run through. It’s the type of synergy you hope for and we finally got to see it.
The tight ends and offensive staff who opted to use them in two-TE sets also deserve a major kudos. On several occasions, the Tigers came out with two tight ends and only two wide receivers and ran the ball very effectively out of the formation. The tight ends did a nice job opening running lanes while also contributing 4 catches for 32 yards.
DJ Uiagalelei: 17/29 (58.6%), 221 yards (7.6 Y/A), 2 TDs, 62 rushing yards;
Cade Klubnik: 2/5 (40.0%), 19 yards (3.8 Y/A), 7 rushing yards
Did you hear that this is DJ’s team? If the announcers reminding you of this five times wasn’t enough, perhaps his solid stat line will tell the story. He had a few missed throws, but was generally accurate and made good decisions. What impressed me the most was his ability to manage the pocket and take-off and run when needed. His 62 rushing yards and just one sack are a testament to that.
His receivers were a bit better this week with only one obvious drop. They’re not the elite group that past Clemson QBs could count on to win jump balls with frightening consistency, but they played well.
Beaux Collins hauled in another touchdown giving him three on the season. He is now on pace for 632 yards and 12 TDs over a 12-game regular season. He is the Tigers' leader in receptions, receiving yardage, and receiving TDs. Tied with him at 9 receptions is Antonio Williams who also had his first TD of his career in this contest. Importantly, he went up and won a jump ball and turned it into a big play. I expect his role in the offense to continue growing as the year goes on. Joe Ngata made his presence felt collecting a team-high 3 receptions for 54 yards in the contest. Lastly, Adam Randall played and made his first collegiate reception for 11 yards. Hopefully, he can get comfortable and provide the Tigers with a dynamic threat as the season progresses.
Clemson defense: 311 passing yards allowed, 12 rushing yards allowed, 20 points allowed
“We had a lot of guys out! It’s a blessing to be able to get the number of guys we played experience, especially defensively. We ended up having like 6 starters out when Sheri (Sheridan Jones) went out… A lot of bad we can talk about. A lot we got to clean up, but we did a lot of good things.” – Coach Dabo Swinney
It's early in the season and Clemson’s defense is already banged up. Safety Andrew Mukuba, cornerbacks Nate Wiggins and Sheridan Jones, and defensive linemen Xavier Thomas and Tyler Davis were all out with injuries. Additionally, reserve defensive tackle Tré Williams was out with a sore knee and Bryan Bresee was with his family following the passing of his younger sister, Ella.
Even with so many pieces missing, Louisiana Tech still couldn’t run the ball. That is a testament to Clemson’s depth on the D-line and speed at linebacker. They gave up several chunk plays in the passing game though. After losing a number of players from the secondary off last year’s team, they don’t have the same level of depth in the back-end as they do in the front-seven. It will be critical that they stay reasonably healthy as the schedule toughens up.
The Tigers have now finished their three-game on-ramp to the season before the schedule presents major challenges. Swinney’s assessment of the team sounds spot on: “We’re not a great team yet. Great teams don’t do some of the things we did tonight, but man these guys will compete and I love it.”
This doesn’t yet look like a team that can win a playoff game, but their next goal is to win the division and they look ready to beat Wake Forest, which is all they need to do right now.
Clemson Schedule Looks Easier After Week 3
There were two really fun games that happened before Clemson took the field. Hopefully, you found the Purdue at Syracuse game rather than savoring all the Gamecocks’ misery while they were getting bludgeoned by Georgia. Syracuse was outgained by 179 yards, but Purdue’s missed field goal, 138 penalty yards, and an interception returned for a TD, helped Syracuse steal a win. The back-and-forth affair had 42 fourth-quarter points including the go-ahead TD pass with 0:07 remaining after a first half that included just 12 points.
Outside the ACC, App State had a wild win. With all the pomp and pageantry of college gameday, they were on the verge of a letdown loss to Troy until Chase Brice lobbed a Hail Mary that bounced around and ended up becoming the game-winning touchdown with no time remaining. You’ve got to love it for former-Clemson QB Chase Brice.
While Syracuse is 3-0 and looks to be tougher than expected, several other teams on Clemson’s schedule are looking a lot less daunting than they were coming into the season. The aforementioned Gamecocks were never likely to scare Clemson fans, but they were projected to be improved from last season. Instead, they’re currently outside the top 50 in the SP+ advanced stats rankings. I expect them to be playing for a bowl berth when they come to Clemson at the end of the season.
The Tigers’ other November opponents also had a tough Saturday. Notre Dame beat Cal, but proved the loss to Marshall was no fluke in the process. They trailed in the fourth quarter and looked mediocre throughout. Louisville dropped to 1-2 after a Friday night home loss to Florida State. Miami couldn’t move the ball against Texas A&M in a 17-9 loss. Their offense was a strength last season, but for all of his pluses, Coach Cristobal has strangled the fun out of the Hurricane offense. QB Tyler Van Dyke wasn’t great and their receivers leave a lot to be desired. Clemson-transfer Frank Ladson has failed to make the impact they needed. That November gauntlet is looking much less scary. Instead, the upcoming stretch of five-straight divisional games starting with a trip to Winston-Salem could be the most challenging – and fun – part of the season. I hope you’re ready.