First things first: the Opposing Team Player Name Of The Week is Sims McElfresh. Seriously, just say it out loud. You just feel more minty, somehow.
With that out of the way, let’s talk briefly about the catalogue of great, good, and just plain godawful moments that made up Clemson’s match-up with App. State. The first quarter was something I can’t describe without the word “cluster” being featured prominently. Special teams, already a weak area in the season-opener, was even spottier this week, allowing lengthy kickoff returns repeatedly. Tiger QB DeShaun Watson threw an interception on the first possession, and it was only because of the increasingly impressive defense, specifically safety Jayron Kearse stopping the Mountaineers best drive with an interception, that App State didn’t rack up some points early.
After that shaky opener, the Tigers started looking a lot more like themselves. The defense opened up a can of whoop-ass in the second quarter, snatching two interceptions, scoring a defensive touchdown (courtesy of the 296 lb., 6’3″ defensive tackle Carlos Watkins), and holding the Mountaineers to 29 yards rushing for the entire first half. Defensive tackles Scott Pagano and Christian Wilkins and defensive end Shaq Lawson are going to be absolute beasts as long as they stay healthy. These three are men playing among boys, and they can menace the opposing quarterback and deliver bone-shattering hits seemingly at will. Despite defensive coordinator Brent “Stone Face” Venables concerns, the Clemson D is doing fine.
Once the sputtering stopped in the second quarter, the offense looked good, too, though not as good as last week. Watson’s speed seems to be improving, and he took some punishing hits and kept on dishing out punishment to App State’s defense. That 59-yard pass to Charone Peake was a thing of beauty, as was the internal-organ re-arranging hit that Wayne “The Train” Gallman put on App State DB Alex Gray while bulldozing his way into the end zone.
So after an unfocused start, Clemson did what they were expected to. And I’ll bet that lack of focus existed because Clemson is on a short week and scheduled to play their first away game of the season against an angry, feisty 0-2 Louisville team. This is the first division game of the season, and Louisville has to be about as motivated a team as you’re going to find in the ACC right now.
We still don’t know who’s going to be at QB for Louisville on Thursday, and that’s a problem preparation-wise, especially during a short week. And the Cardinals will take advantage of any special teams mistakes the Tigers make. Dabo’s team has the weapons to beat this team, but every part of the program will have to be far sharper than they were in the first 15 minutes of last Saturday’s game.