Clemson Football: Winners and Losers from Week 9 Game vs. Wake Forest
Clemson football has been known to have problems with performance when it comes to Thursday night games, and Tiger fans didn't know what to expect, even from a 6-1 team that has had its struggles on defense, and going in with a thin secondary suddenly hit by injury.
Well, these problems were almost non-existent as the Tigers took care of business in Winston-Salem with a 42-13 victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons to push the Tigers to 7-1. But despite the win, while there were indeed winners, there were also losers to take away from this Week 9 victory as the Tigers try to keep their goals on the table.
So who were the winners and losers from this Week 9 matchup?
Winner: Tajh Boyd
Quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for a school-record 428 yards while also completing 27 of his 38 passes. He was very efficient throughout the entire night, and threw five touchdown passes in the first half.
Boyd was lights out the entire night, and stayed in the zero column when it came to interceptions.
If Boyd continues to play this well, the Tigers will certainly win out the reminder of their schedule.
Loser: Wake Forest Football
The football team's environment was pretty stale for a Thursday night prime-time game on ESPN, to say the least.
Clemson fans travel well, but most of the fans in the stands were wearing Orange attire, while the rest of the stadium was pretty empty, with black and gold pompoms untouched and unused.
Wake Forest has not performed as well as they did last year, when they played Clemson in a game down to the wire, with the Tigers winning thanks to a clutch field goal as time expired.
With the Deacons at 4-4, and 2-4 in the AC, it's hard to get the fan base excited, but it's also hard to play in an empty stadium in a prime-time covered event without a prime-time environment.
The defense is a work in progress, and while Clemson isn't at at point where they can just rush their front four and get pressure, the line is starting to get a little more push in the pocket. The defensive line stopped Wake Forest running the ball and from really getting into any kind of offensive rhythm.
The Tigers also collected a season-high five sacks, and held Wake Forest to just 290 total yards, including 51 yards on the ground. The secondary did not badly, especially with three of the main starters dealing with injury, which forced Cortez Davis and Dante Stewart into action, along with working receiver Adam Humphries at corner, who played the position in high school.
The defense has put together two solid weeks, and hope to continue this upward trend.
Loser: Clemson Rushing Attack
Many thought Clemson would be able to take advantage of a smaller, undersized defensive line and run the ball. But the offensive line failed to open holes to effectively run the ball against this underachieving defense, as Andre Ellington ran for only 61 yards on 15 carries with no touchdowns.
The Tigers had only 101 rushing yards on the night with 45 attempts, and averaged 2.2 yards per attempt.
Clemson has to stay committed to the run and not become one-dimensional. This was a big part of Clemson's losing streak at the end of last season. The Tigers still have a good shot at an at-large BCS bowl bid should they win out, and they can't afford to lose their running game in this final stretch.
Sammy Watkins has been relatively quiet all season, missing three games due to suspension and sickness, and his numbers in the receiving column being lower due to the breakout of teammate Deandre Hopkins.
Against Wake Forest, Watkins exploded, nabbing eight receptions for 202 yards and his first receiving touchdown of the year.
His 202 receiving yards was a school record.
Watkins looked better in the passing game than he has all season, as missing practice because of sickness and suspension had certainly made him rusty, not to mention that Hopkins has become one of Boyd's favorite targets.
Should Watkins get back to form and continue to play like he did Thursday night, he could make it even more dangerous for opposing secondaries to decide whether to focus on him or Hopkins at receiver.