Second look: Grading Clemson versus NC State


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Clelin Ferrell led a hungy Clemson defensive group in a dominating performance Saturday.
Clelin Ferrell led a hungy Clemson defensive group in a dominating performance Saturday.

Clemson took control from the start to take a key divisional game over NC State in dominating fashion Saturday.

This season the ‘Second Look’ features the TigerNet staff grading Clemson as a group and offering some different perspectives on the action each week. Here’s our look at game seven as Clemson started the second half of the regular season with a bang

Offense

NC State dared Clemson to throw it - and Trevor Lawrence did just that to move the chains effectively.

After running through the previous four opponents, one of the better run defenses on Clemson’s schedule repeatedly stacked the box and Lawrence adjusted - particularly effective in throws to sideline and finding big-body targets Tee Higgins (eight catches for 119 yards, TD) and Justyn Ross (five catches for 75 yards) over the middle for big plays.

Lawrence completed his most career chunk-pass plays (6), while the run game was held to its lowest total there this season (2).

The passing efficiency didn’t stop with Lawrence out, however, thanks to a strong effort from redshirt freshman backup Chase Brice, who connected on 6-of-9 throws for 72 yards (three of 15-plus yards). In all, 12 different receivers hauled in a catch in a game where Dabo Swinney and company got to clear the bench again against a quality opponent.


Not that it was a surprise, Clemson passed the test with a talented freshman QB when a solid defense took away the ground game. Swinney sees a “special group” on offense this season and it’s hard to disagree after the seven-game sample size. -- Brandon Rink

TigerNet grade: A-

Defense

In Clemson’s win over the NC State Wolfpack in Raleigh in 2017, two State wide receivers had over 100 yards receiving - Junior Kelvin Harmon torched Clemson’s secondary (eight catches, 155 yards) and junior receiver Jakobi Meyers (nine catches, 105 yards) also had an outstanding game. Quarterback Ryan Finley threw for 336 yards and many thought the Pack might put up similar numbers in 2018.

They were all wrong.

The Pack gained just 31 yards in the first quarter and had only 100 total yards at halftime. The dynamic duo of Meyers and Harmon combined for 10 catches for 74 yards, and the Pack gained just 297 total yards, many of those with Clemson playing anybody and everybody with a jersey.

The Tigers only sacked Finley once, but Brent Venables shifted his front and moved his linebackers from side to side and Finley looked rattled from the start.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was close. -- David Hood

TigerNet grade: A

Special teams

Clemson’s special teams performance was a little bit of a mixed bag Saturday afternoon. They had their really good moments and then they had the not so good moment.

Leading with the not so good…The fake field goal, if it works is great, but it didn’t come close to working Saturday. Dabo Swinney didn’t hesitate to call out his son Will in the postgame comments for getting out of his crouch early and not securing the football. Also, backup kicker Alex Spence missed his only field goal attempt late in the game.

On to the good…

Freshman Derion Kendrick gave fans a glimpse of what he can do in the return game. He opened the game with a 40-yard return to the Clemson 43 yard line, setting up a textbook drive for the game’s first points.

The punt coverage team sniffed out a fake punt in Clemson territory and Denzel Johnson made the play to set the Tigers up on the State 22 yard line. Later in the game after N.C. State’s only touchdown of the game, head coach Dave Doeren elected to attempt an onside kick, that was fielded cleanly by safety Nolan Turner, who had one of his best games in a Clemson uniform.

Freshman BT Potter continues to be a weapon on kickoff, with seven of his eight kickoffs Saturday resulting in a touchback. Greg Huegel hit both of his field goal attempts and the coverage teams were good. Punt Will Spiers was better, averaging 40 yards per punt on his four attempts. -- Nikki Hood

TigerNet grade: B


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