Okay, so let’s get a couple of things out of the way first.
1. When you hold a team to zero first downs on their first six possessions, you’re going to see the punter a lot. I get why Wofford punter Brian Sanders’ weird–looking rugby-style kick caused some consternation the first couple of times the ball seemed to go about five yards in the air and then 40 or so on the ground, but I feel like the Tigers should’ve made some adjustments. And as my Dad will tell you, there’s no excuse for having a ball in both hands clutched to your chest and then dropping it.
2. There a few things more sickening in sports than that moment when a player doesn’t get up. Mike Williams’ incredibly athletic catch, followed by a moment of great situational awareness that allowed him to get his foot down in the end zone, were both highlight-reel moments, for sure, and he will be missed for however long he’s out with a neck fracture.
That being said: Wow, did I like what I saw from the 2015 Tigers last Saturday. Yes, this was not a game anyone expected Clemson to lose, but it’s how they won that was impressive. The O-line was blocking about as well as I’ve ever seen (with or without Chad Morris), and they seemed to be able to create creases at will. Quarterback DeShaun Watson was a benevolent, generous leader, distributing passes evenly among his receivers and even showing some speed on a couple of runs. The offense mixed it up fantastically, emphasizing the running game at first, then airing it out, then doing more or less whatever they wanted for the rest of the game. Backup QB Nick Schuessler showed a decent arm but bad hands (gotta hold on to that ball, son), but the show here for the time being is DeShaun Watson (18-of-22 for 194 yards, two TDs), wide receiver Artavis Scott (Six receptions for 75 yards, 1 TD, and two punt returns for 22 yards), running back Wayne Gallman (92 yards rushing, 2 TDs), and freshman wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, who racked up 80 yards and two TDs. Also, “Ray-Ray McCloud” would’ve been an awesome name for a 1970’s detective show. Just sayin’.
Anyhoo, on to the defense. They were so good that, at one point, I’m pretty sure Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables almost smiled. Given the state of chaos that Venables said the defense was in before this game, it had feel good to hold a team to zero first downs on their first six possessions, no matter who that team was. The Wofford Terriers averaged 297 yards on the ground last season, and Clemson’s D held them to 123. Not too shabby.
We should probably dispense with any talk about Wofford’s triple-option attack being any kind of preparation for Georgia Tech’s. The offenses might look the same on paper, but so do children’s drawings of cars. Let’s look at this game for what it was: A chance to see what we’re working with this year, which turned out to be a lot more than I thought. On to Appalachian State.