Watching this game back on Tivo felt like a different game from the one I saw in-person on Saturday night. For those of you who wonder about the offensive line issues and Ryan burning all those timeouts in the first half, there is no way to capture the noise levels on TV. During the first half you couldn’t hear anything when BC had the ball. Fortunately the Clemson crowd either got tired or tense and weren’t as loud in the second half. It’s crazy to think we won in a monsoon in Lane and in Death Valley with everything on the line, yet couldn’t click at Maryland. That’s college football for ya’.
It was a good, but not great game for Ryan. He made the plays when it mattered, but there were a few missteps and issues along the way. Many of the sacks he could have avoided if he tossed the ball away. The INT was a terrible throw. There were stretches when he was really locking in on his receivers. The things he did well: running when appropriate, fighting for an extra yard on the short yardage plays, and making those Ryan throws that only he can make. Another little adjustment that paid off – not checking out of the run plays. None of those draws and delays broke for anything big, but Ryan’s patience with them kept Clemson honest and helped BC control the ball. He also deserves credit for another comeback on another big play. (This week I might do a look back at all of Ryan’s comebacks.) I don’t know if he did enough to get back in the Heisman mix, but he got us to Jacksonville. That is all that matters.
By design BC wanted to attack Clemson’s D with passes to the RBs coming out of the backfield. Whitworth and AC delivered. Not only did they make some big catches, they also made a move or two that helped add on extra yardage. AC also did a good job on the delays and draws. No game-breaking runs but plenty of three and four yarders that kept the clock moving. Finally AC did a great job on pass protection in the second half. McCluskey wasn’t on the field all that much but I appreciate the job he does in short yardage.
Did you ever think that Gunnell and Megwa would be so clutch in this environment? Both made tough catch after tough catch. Megwa especially did a good job finding spots in the middle zones. Gunnell made a great adjustment to break off his route for the TD. Robinson had some nice grabs. Ryan wanted to go to him more often, but Clemson did a good job of shutting him down when he was split wide. Challenger didn’t do much before suffering his injury. Purvis made a few plays, but overall had a bit of an off night...dropping balls he normally catches. Loyte was on the field quite a bit but never really got involved in the passing game.
The offensive line was a mixed bag. Two guys had good games. Three had rough games and one had an uneven performance. First, the good. Clif Ramsey probably had his best game of the season. He moved very well in the run game, on the screens and in pass protection. Matt Tennant had another strong performance and was the source of much of our running success. Cherilus had some issues in the first half, but buckled down and played much better in the second half. The three guys who struggled were Hall, Anevski and Castonzo. Hall and Anevski were just inconsistent – one play they’d look good and then the next they’d get beat. Castonzo was different. He did a great job on run plays. In pass protection he just got overrun by stronger guys. Teams know how to attack him now. Hopefully his game will progress in the next few years.
Logan called a great game. He mixed in the run well and kept our defense off the field. We didn’t stretch the field as much as we have this season, but it was a perfect example of taking what Clemson gave us – the short spots in the zone. My only complaint is that in 4-down territory we don’t seem to run on third down. But that is a very minor complaint. Overall, he did a very nice job.
First let me signal out Alex Albright. He really has been busting his ass the past month. Sorry to see him go down. Hopefully he can play in a cast in the bowl game. The defensive line still had trouble generating a pass rush, but they did a good job of slowing down Clemson’s run. Good game from Brace and Brady Smith. Both of the big guys also hustled all over the field. Ramella had an okay game, but did get called for two false starts. Larkin had a good game and did a good job in contain. The second teamers got on the field more than they did last week. None of them stood out – good or bad.
The linebackers were fantastic. Kevin Akins had the game of his career. In addition to the INT, he was all over the field and made numerous big tackles and helped contain Spiller on the edge. McLaughlin played well. Herzy had a good game and was crucial in applying pressure late to Harper. Francois was quite. Dunbar didn’t play much but he might have saved the game. On the series when Clemson was first and goal from the 2 and only came away with a FG, he made a stop on first and second and knocked down the pass on third down.
Hats off to Gause. Spiller faked him out once and he and Anderson had some confusion on the late go route that would have won the game for the Tigers, but overall he played well given his experience and what he was asked to do. Another youngster – Rollins – also played well. His sack iced the game. Morris played much better than he did last week. Anderson wasn’t tested much but made a few good breaks on balls. Silva was all over the place and was another factor in keeping Spiller from breaking bigger plays.
I’ve ripped Spaz in the past, so I must give him his due. I never thought we would hold Clemson to 17. I think he did a decent job of mixing things up on Harper. We showed him blitz early then went away from it for long stretches, only to use it again on the final drive. We shutdown their run game and kept them from connecting on big pass plays. Bend but don’t break didn’t work against Maryland. It did Saturday night.
Special Teams: B-
Lots of discussion of kickoffs in my section. I am as frustrated as anyone about the squibs, but don’t blame Aponavicius. He is being told to squib. The past few weeks we’ve had decent success with the strategy. Against Clemson it nearly killed us. Stevie A. is also a liability in the field goals, since we don’t trust him to make anything remotely long. All that said, he did what was asked. Let’s hope Bennett gets healthy, because we need his leg.
Silva did what was expected on the punt returns.
McLaughlin had one bad long snap, but everything else looked good enough. Ayers had some good punts and our punt coverage team remained very strong.
Rich Gunnell looked very good in his new role as a kick returner.
This is the first time where I've given a higher overall grade than I did for each unit. It was a big, big win and Jags deserves the game ball. As head man, you have to push the right buttons with your players and your staff. He did it. This team was ready and not intimidated by the surrounding or what was at stake. Great job.