Wow. That was not a game, in any traditional sense. That was an ass-beating.
How good was Clemson this past weekend? So good they got an opposing coach fired. Yes, after suffering the worst loss in the history of the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday (58-0), most people assumed that it was only a matter of time until the U announced that they’d fired Coach Al Golden. Turns out it was way less time than anyone expected: Golden got the axe on Sunday.
And though his checkered five-year career certainly made a case for his dismissal, you can’t really blame Golden entirely for The Massacre At Not The Orange Bowl on Saturday. Clemson’s first away game since Louisville was a display of prowess on both sides of the ball that no other team in the ACC (yes, I’m looking at you, Florida State) could have competed with.
The breakdown on this game makes it sound like it was played on Madden ’15. Over one glorious and/or embarrassing hour of football (depending on your perspective), Clemson managed the following:
* They outgained Miami 567 yards to 146. It’s also important to note that Miami got 55 of those yards on their opening possession. That means that for the remaining 58 minutes or so, the Canes managed a mortifying 91 yards.
* Shaq Lawson quite literally knocked Miami’s starting QB Brad Kaaya out of the game early, delivering a noggin-rattling hit that left Kaaya dazed on the sideline and failing every concussion protocol in sight. And he managed to get to Kaaya despite the fact that Clemson only sent two pass-rushers to the line against Miami’s front five. Lawson was tossing people aside like rag dolls.
* They pulled off one of the craziest trick plays I’ve ever seen in the first quarter, having their offensive line stand stock-still at the line of scrimmage as Miami’s confused D-line rushed tentatively past them, then move forward as one, creating an unstoppable blocking machine for Jordan Leggett’s touchdown run. When trick plays work for the Clemson Tigers, be very afraid.
* Their third-string seemed to be on the field for the entire second half, letting DeShaun Watson cool his heels while QB Kelly Bryant ran in two touchdowns and Van Smith snatched a wobbly, uncertain pass from a wobbly, uncertain Canes’ QB Malik Rosier.
This game was over after the opening kickoff. At halftime, Clemson had racked up 363 total yards, 22 first downs, 0 turnovers, and two takeaways. Miami’s fans seemed to sense how badly this game was going to go and decided to spare themselves the misery. The announced attendance at Sun Life Stadium was 45,211, a number to which anyone who watched that game will respond to with a hearty, “My ass.”
When Dabo Swinney has enough time to yell at his team at halftime about on-the-field etiquette, when he doesn’t even have to take them into the locker room to make any adjustments, when the team can sit on the field and get screamed at about responding in kind to Miami’s ridiculous on-field taunting while eating orange slices because there’s nothing else to worry about, that is a beatdown.
Coming off a weekend where Utah lost and where Florida St.’s season-long sloppy play came back to haunt them with a loss to Georgia Tech, Clemson remained standing. How long ago does that shaky win at Louisville seem now? How galvanizing did that victory over Notre Dame turn out to be? How far can this team go towards a national championship, not two years from now or next year, but right now?
There’s no question anymore that the Tigers are quite simply one of the best teams in the country.