Roy Martin: Duke Game Postgame Analysis

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Chansi Stuckey finally had his breakout game as a wide receiver.
Chansi Stuckey finally had his breakout game as a wide receiver.

Things finally seemed to have gone the way they were supposed to. Clemson built a big lead early in the game and never looked back on the way to their highest point total since the 2003 South Carolina game.

It was a much better showing than just a few weeks ago when the team looked flat against Temple. Everyone looked a little sharper and more focused, which explains why there were fewer errors.

Games such as Saturday are great for the players and fans, but awful for idiots like me who have to write about them.


First and foremost, let me say there is not, nor should there be, a quarterback controversy.

Will Proctor looked good as he threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns while adding 31 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He was comfortable running the offense and never appeared to panic when he was forced to scramble.

It was also Duke on the other side of the field. It could not have been a better scenario for him to make his first start. He faced one of the worst defenses in the country and had a very solid ground game to lean on for support.

Charlie Whitehurst, if healthy, is still the man that deserves to be starting. At least now the coaches can truly feel comfortable with Proctor if Whitehurst is hurting or not performing up to par.

Reggie Merriweather has quietly gone about his business this year while lingering in the shadows cast by James Davis. Saturday was no different as he rushed for 100-plus yards for the third consecutive game and scored three touchdowns. For whatever reason, he seemed to have a little more pep on Saturday.

Davis showed a few more flashes of brilliance to which fans have grown accustomed. His broken arm forced him to carry the ball in the same arm all day and it appeared he was not comfortable using it to stiff-arm would-be tacklers. The good is he played just enough to keep the rust from setting in, but not so much as to cause further damage.

Chansi Stuckey finally had his breakout game as a wide receiver. He made a great catch on a deep ball early in the game, scored twice, and finally made some plays by getting up the field instead of dancing. His value as a possession receiver cannot be overstated, as he leads the ACC in receptions. Maybe he has finally come to the realization that the best way for him to make plays is to quit trying so hard to make them.

The line looked good despite the absence of Nathan Bennett. Duke’s lone sack was a result of a good defensive play in the right scheme against the play that was called. It was a bootleg in which the defender came off the corner and did not bite on the fake. Those things are going to happen when you run that type of play. Otherwise, they gave Proctor ample time nearly all day and opened up enough holes to allow the backs to average 5.7 yards per carry.

Third downs once again posed a problem. The Tigers converted on just 30% (3-of-10) of their chances. They were 2-of-2 on fourth down attempts even though the stats show they were 2-of-3. The lone miss came on a failed pass attempt after Jad Dean had a field goal blocked.

The offense looked much the same that it has most of the year, but there were a few subtle differences. There were less two-back, shotgun sets and Proctor seemed to have lined up under center more often. That was due to an attempt to give him the option of making something happen with his feet in the play action game.


The 20 points that were given up were more than most would have liked, but all of the touchdowns came after the game was out of reach.

Duke quarterback Zack Asack did pass for 328 yards, of which nearly 200 came on just seven plays. It is tough for a defense that has played as well as they have to come out firing on all cylinders for four quarters in a game that was over before the half, especially considering the number of close games they have had. At some point they are going to relax a little.

Still, there was some cause for concern because of the play of Sergio Gillam and Haydrian Lewis. Gillam drew the ire of Vic Koenning because he routinely lined up out of position and/or blew his coverage responsibilities.

Meanwhile, Lewis’ youth reared its ugly head on a number of occasions when he was turned around or simply did not turn and run soon enough. There was at least one instance in which it appeared the safety did not provide enough help over the top, but I cannot say for certain because I did not know the coverage and only had a chance to see the play live.

C.J. Gaddis took another step towards earning more playing time after his demotion. He appears to have learned how to tackle the last couple of weeks and he is beginning to look more comfortable in coverage. His continued progression is much needed because his athletic ability is needed on the field.

The young linemen received a lot of playing time, as there were a number of times in which three of the four down linemen were freshmen. Dorrell Scott has slowly worked his way into the rotation and, despite some rookie mistakes, has made the most of his playing time.

The emergence of Scott and Rashaad Jackson has been a big boost for a line that was sorely lacking depth at the beginning of the year. Both have tremendous lower bodies and they are doing a good job of using that strength to elevate their level of play.

The line is still searching for a pass rush that is there more often than it is not. It is understandable to use youth as an excuse, but in the ninth game of the season, against a team like Duke, registering only three sacks in 43 pass attempts will not get it done.


Clemson blocked its first field goal since their trip to Columbia in 2003, but they also had one blocked for the first time since 2000. Again, I have seen the play just once and that was live, but it appeared more like Duke’s John Talley made an outstanding play. I do not think there was a breakdown in protection.

Cole Chason had his best game of the season by averaging 39.5 yards per punt. Each of his attempts had enough hang time to give his coverage guys a chance to get downfield and make a play. It was one of the few times I have seen a punter’s net (40.0) go in the books at a higher clip than his average.

The kickoff coverage unit had their second solid game in a row. They made a number of plays inside or at the 20-yard line. It would be nice to see Jad Dean force more touchbacks, but there has been very little to complain about the last two weeks.

It was tough to gauge the return unit because Duke elected to kick it high and short. Aaron Kelly was able to make something out of nothing a few times and is on his way to proving he is a more than adequate return man.


It was a ho-hum victory that provided a much needed confidence boost, at least for the offense. Duke is Duke, but any time you can put 49 points on the board with your second-string quarterback leading the way you have to be happy.

The biggest plus for the offense is they did not look sloppy or commit a lot of mental mistakes. That can often be the case against a much lesser opponent, especially when you head to halftime with such a large lead.

This game could have easily been a trap for the Tigers. They were coming off a tough loss to Georgia Tech and Florida State was on the horizon. Add to that all of the attention given to the quarterback situation during the week and you had the recipe for another close game that should have never been in question.

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