Monday, October 7, 2013

Syracuse - Sunday Evening Thoughts

Going back to when the schedule was first released, the trip to Syracuse seemed more like an excursion than a football trip, even more so than the first few Boston College games. Not sure if it is because those BC teams were better and we knew Clemson would be in for a challenge, or if because Syracuse and the Carrier Dome are such unique experiences.

Once again, I think we witnessed why you don't run your mouth before a game, especially if you are a 2 TD underdog. Underdogs should treat the favorite like a sleeping baby - and leave it asleep (says the guy with a 2 month old)

Overall, I was impressed with the Syracuse crowd. But more than that, I am impressed with Clemson road crowds. To me, those crowds can be as fun, if not more fun, to be amidst. I wish I was able to experience this game as it looked to be just as good as any other Clemson crowd.

Offensive Thoughts:
  • I think this was the game everyone was waiting to see from Boyd & Co. The offense looked smooth, focused, and in tune with each other
  • Nice seeing Adam Humphries get in the mix. Clemson has searched for the complimentary receiver to Watkins. Thought it might be Martavis - and it still may be, but it was nice to see other alternatives. Maybe Humphries can provide that threat. Regardless, at least defenses must respect him when he's on the field
  • The TD pass to Seckinger was the second prettiest ball Tajh has thrown all year, trailing only the wheel route to Brooks in the Georgia game
  • It's hard to complain about 600+ yards of offense, but there were a few times when the lack of a solid running game was palpable. Two most notable examples:
    • 2nd quarter when Clemson had a 2nd & 2. Hot Rod stuffed on 2nd and Boyd on 3rd. Everyone knew Boyd would get it - it's on the line to give him a push.
    • Drive at the end of the half - Clemson had a 1st & Goal at the 5. Boyd had a crack at the end zone followed by two Brooks runs. If Clemson punches that in on an earlier down, the Cuse coach doesn't go ballistic at Dabo.
  • Overall, my biggest complaint from Saturday was how Clemson treated a few possessions going into and coming out of halftime. The vibe started with Clemson already up 35-7 when Darius Robinson intercepted a Hunt pass at the Syracuse 30. The first play was a Boyd scramble that led to a legitimate shot at the endzone, which nearly connected. The second play was another shot to the endzone that was very well defended (but did produce one of the better quotes from the announcing crew). 3rd down was a Boyd sack followed by a delay of game penalty that negated a long field goal. Clemson ended up punting. The following possession ended in Tajh's first interception of the year, and the final possession of the half was the 4th down call that prompted the Syracuse coach's tirade.
  • Coming out of the half Clemson went 3 & Out, Interception, & 3 & Out. Against Syracuse, that doesn't have that much of a bearing, but having 6 straight empty possessions against FSU or USC could be the difference between Pasadena and the Chick-fil-A bowl.
Defensive Thoughts:
  • Once again, great pressure from the defensive line. They crashed well from both the interior and the edge.
  • Nice seeing a developed talent turn into the nation's sack leader.
  • Martin Jenkins may be my favorite Tiger. Kid has to be the toughest Tiger, but also has the most fun. It feels like he understands that he is fortunate to play football at this level and in front of these types of crowds.
  • Spencer Shuey and Stephone Anthony continue to run through people. It's nice to see.
  • It was good to see Steward get good reps, though he and Blanks were primarily responsible for Syracuse's first TD run. Steward attached the wrong hole allowing the back to break through.
  • As for Blanks, he doesn't seem to be playing at the same level he was a freshman. His technique has been poor, he's been out of position, and he hasn't tackled with authority. Not sure what the deal is, but after his LSU game, I was really excited to have him as a mainstay in the secondary.
  • I love turnovers - it's nice to see a few fall our way.
  • There are still scheme issues. Both TD runs were due to coverage breakdowns, and those need to get fixed soon.
  • I honestly had no idea Syracuse ran for the yardage they did. I knew they had a few long runs, but didn't realize it added up to over 300 yards. For some reason, it doesn't bother me as it should. Similar to when playing GT.
  • Another thought on the Syracuse yardage: Syracuse had 17 possessions (not counting end of half kneel), 12 of which resulted in 21 yards or less. 8 of those were 3 & Outs with another resulting in an interception after 2 plays.
  • Overall, what really impressed me was the defenses ability to get stops and keep Syracuse out of the endzone. That showed pride, toughness, and a no-quit attitude. All defensive units should be proud of that fact.
Coaching Thoughts:
  • Second straight week the team looked ready to play from the opening whistle. The offense looked crisp and the defense was prepared. That trend will need to continue.
  • While I know Dabo was in a weird situation at the end of the half, I thought his halftime interview was smug. Regardless of how you're being treated, you should still respond with class. He could have handled it better, and I think that attitude rubbed off on the team a bit as it was part of why Clemson has 6 straight empty possessions.
Final Thought:
    Perhaps my favorite play of the game occurred during Chad Kelly's scoring drive when one of the Syracuse defensive players tried to scuffle with Isaiah Battle. As soon as it elevated beyond the normal between play stuff, Battle throws his hands straight up in the air to signal he is not involved. The young man learned his lesson, which is what defines maturity. Dabo and his staff are committed to making the Clemson football team the best they can be, but they are also committed to making each Clemson player the best man they can be. Dabo won't always succeed in either endeavor, but his success rate is much higher than if these kids didn't come to Clemson.
 

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