Grading the Tigers vs. Wake Forest
QUARTERBACKS- Brandon Streeter should make folks feel bad for ever missing work with a common cold. 28 days after breaking his collarbone against North Carolina, Streeter ignited the Tiger offense late in the fourth quarter against Wake Forest, leading Clemson on two drives that resulted in ten points and a critical win. Woodrow Dantzler wasn't horrible in three and ½ quarters, completing 22-32 for 201-yards, but the sophomore struggled to put points on the board. Streeter’s return allowed Clemson to add a few more wrinkles to the passing game. In particular, Brian Wofford’s 31-yard gain on an inside screen pass required Streeter to hang in the pocket and deliver the ball in the face of a furious pass rush. Right now, Dantzler doesn’t appear the discipline to effectively execute those types of plays.
RUNNING BACKS- Travis Zachery was tough against the Deacons, gaining 76-rugged yards on 23 carries. When the holes were there, he delivered. Unfortunately for Zachery, Clemson’s offensive line wasn’t able to create daylight against the Wake Forest defense on a consistent basis, forcing the sophomore running back to become exclusively a power runner.
RECEIVERS- Eight players caught 26 passes for Clemson on Saturday, but Brian Wofford stole the show. Wofford tied a career high with nine receptions and his 31-yard sprint in the fourth quarter effectively sealed the game for the Tigers. Rod Gardner hauled in five passes and Mal Lawyer caught four as the Clemson wide outs came through with another solid performance.
OFFENSIVE LINE- Undoubtedly, the key to Wake Forest’s defensive success was that the Deacons consistently broke through the middle of the Clemson offensive line and reeked havoc in the Tiger backfield. Dantzler was flushed from the pocket throughout the game and Travis Zachery had few opportunities to find open field as the Tigers were forced to rely on quick passes to move the ball. With Streeter back in the fold, the Clemson line needs to step up for the offense to hit on all cylinders.
DEFENSIVE LINE- Before Saturday, the Clemson defensive line had been manhandled by power running offenses like Virginia Tech and Maryland, and it appeared that Wake Forest’s #3 ACC rushing offense would only add to the Tiger’s woes. When the game began, however, it was the Clemson defensive front doing the manhandling, limiting the Deacons to a mere 111-total yards on the ground in 37 attempts. The Tigers effectively controlled the line of scrimmage for the first time all season while holding Wake Forest running back Morgan Kane to only 88-yards. This game was critical test for the defensive line and the Tigers passed with flying colors.
LINEBACKERS- The only effective option for the Wake Forest offense was the decision scrap their option attack. The Clemson linebackers used their superior speed to swarm Deacon quarterback Ben Sankey and Kane on option attempts, effectively wiping out the foundation of the Wake Forest offense. The Tiger linebackers are undersized and inexperienced, but on Saturday they showed that speed can kill.
SECONDARY- On paper, Clemson had a huge advantage over the Wake Forest receivers. On the field, it was no different as the Tigers limited the Deacons to only128-yards passing and forced quarterback Ben Sankey into two critical interceptions. Dextra Polite put a dagger into the Deacon’s chances with his pick-off of Sankey late in the fourth quarter, and Alex Ardley poured salt on the wounds on Sankey’s next attempt. Robert Carswell again led the Tigers in tackles and DoMarco Fox had his second strong game in a row.
SPECIAL TEAMS- The Clemson special teams were solid behind another excellent punting performance by Ryan Romano. After averaging over 42-yards on eight punts against Florida State, Romano went for 46.2 on five attempts against the Deacons. Despite Tommy Bowden’s lack of confidence in his field goal kickers, Tony Lazzara gave Clemson the lead on his 19-yard kick in the fourth quarter and the Tiger’s punt and kick coverage was solid.
COACHING- After consecutive meltdowns against NC State and Maryland, Reggie Herring’s defense has begun to look like a Clemson defense again in the past two weeks. The Tigers finally were able to stuff a running team on the inside as well as on the perimeter while the pass defense continued to dominate. Offensively, the wide-open Clemson attack became decidedly predictable with Dantzler behind center. With the possible exception of the human rash that was Wake Forest’s head cheerleader, everyone in Groves Stadium knew when to expect the quarterback draw. Instead of faulting the Clemson coaches, perhaps it might be better to consider Dantzler’s limitations. Although blessed with extraordinary athletic ability, Dantzler lacks discipline at this point, often scrambling at the first signs of pressure. With Streeter back at the helm, look for Rich Rodriguez to open up the passing game in coming weeks. Against Wake Forest, the coaches were doing the best with what they had.
Grades: B+ ( B for offense, A for defense)