Clemson vs. NC State: 10 Things We Learned in Tigers' Win
It wasn't as easy as some predicted, but Clemson did come away victorious in a 26-14 win over North Carolina State. The offense produced 414 yards, and the defense forced two turnovers to help the Tigers improve to a 3-0 record and keeps those national championship hopes alive.
For the most part, this was a well-played game that taught us a few things about both programs.
Is Clemson a legit national championship contender? What are the weaknesses of this top-five squad? Is North Carolina State worth mentioning the rest of the season?
All of those questions and more were answered in this decent Thursday night game.
Instant Replay Doesn't Solve Everything
You'd think referees would get majority of the calls correct since instant replay was implemented.
But here's the thing...
Some plays aren't always reviewable.
Here you see a clear touchdown run by North Carolina State's Bryan Underwood. He was ruled out, which is fine, but we'll just take a look at the film and reverse the call to a touchdown. Right?
Wrong! The play was called incorrectly, and the refs take a second look because the play was ruled dead.
This was the turning point in the game as the Wolfpack later went on to fumble the ball, and Clemson then scored an offensive touchdown. Another Thursday night game and another blown call from the zebras.
Pete Thomas Isn't Quite a Difference-Maker
There is a lot of promise in quarterback Pete Thomas.
He has the wonderful size at 6'6", throws an accurate football and seems to have above-average arm strength. The problem is that he hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in three straight games and has four interceptions.
He had plenty of chances to finish a drive with a touchdown, but the drives stalled once the offense entered field-goal range. He did rush for a touchdown, but it came late in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided.
Thomas is still growing since transferring from Colorado State, and Wolfpack fans should be excited. However, he needs to become more efficient for this offense to reach its full potential.
Martavis Bryant Has Arrived
No DeAndre Hopkins?
Martavis Bryant had a big-boy game, hauling in six passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns. It was his 15-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter that was jaw-dropping as he used his 6'5" frame and great leaping ability to snag a pass over a defender who had perfect coverage.
Bryant has the sure hands to be an excellent No. 2 receiver alongside Sammy Watkins. This is his second straight game of more than 70 receiving yards, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him get more and more looks throughout the season.
Isaiah Battle Is in Big Trouble
Backup left tackle Isaiah Battle was ejected late in the fourth quarter for throwing a vicious uppercut to a North Carolina State defender.
You can see the cheap shot by clicking here.
Don't be surprised if there is further suspension for this unnecessary act. Whether it comes from the Clemson coaching staff or the NCAA, Battle is sure to face some serious consequences for his actions, which is unfortunate considering the game was already decided.
Questions Remain with Tajh Boyd
Yes, Tajh Boyd had a solid game, completing 64.9 percent of his passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns. However, he struggled mightily in the first half and displayed poor body language on the sidelines. It's understandable to be frustrated, but as the quarterback and leader of the team, Boyd can't be moping on the bench when his team is searching for a spark.
Boyd must become a better leader and do a better job of keeping his offense fired up, even if things aren't exactly going the way he wanted.
He's still a Heisman candidate and continues to play at a high level, but his shaky leadership in the first half was alarming.
Shadrach Thornton Is a Stud
One of the most disappointing parts of the game was how the coaching staff used running back Shadrach Thornton. He caught a pass for 32 yards and ran for a 21-yard touchdown in the first half. He then didn't touch the ball for the rest of the game.
Thornton was suspended for the season opener after an offseason arrest and then played special teams in the Wolfpack's second game. But this was a matchup where he clearly had an advantage with his speed and elusiveness.
The sophomore needs more touches, especially playing on an offense that doesn't exactly move the ball consistently.
Clemson's Offensive Line Needs Work
Some of Boyd's frustrations were understandable considering he had very little protection all night. The offensive line couldn't handle the blitz, couldn't block the man in front of them and had a hard time opening up running lanes.
The Tigers made North Carolina State's defensive front look like it was loaded with All-Americans.
The Wolfpack were constantly in the backfield and forcing Boyd to scramble for his life. It got to the point where the Tigers changed their game plan and started running nothing but short passes and bubble screens in hopes of countering the pressure.
This is an area that must improve quickly.
NC State's Defense Gets After It
On the other side, give credit to North Carolina State's defense.
The defensive line was getting a consistent pass rush in the first half and continued even without one of its better players in defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop, who left the game in the second quarter due to injury. The secondary also did a nice job in coverage and tackling in the open field.
Some of Clemson's bigger plays were just incredible catches by receivers, which there is really nothing you can do as a Wolfpack defender.
North Carolina State's defense played well enough to win this game, and it's going to be interesting to see if it can continue this level of play the rest of the year.
Clemson Isn't the Same Clemson...
You are finally moving up in the world. The Tigers have proven to be an elite team after beating LSU in last year's Chick-fil-A Bowl and Georgia in the season opener. But folks were still hesitant given the history of losing to mediocre teams in the middle of the schedule.
This was a trap game that Clemson would usually lose for whatever reason. It looked early on that Clemson was going to fall victim once again, but the team rallied around its talented offense and got the job done.
This may be a sign of good things to come.
But There's Still Plenty to Work on
The offensive line, the secondary that gave up plenty of chunk yardage plays and the overall performance proved that Clemson may not be there just yet.
If Clemson played this shaky against Georgia in the season opener, it would have resulted in a loss. If the Tigers play like this against Florida State or South Carolina, forget about playing in the national championship.
The Tigers must learn that it's going to take the entire team to play for a crystal football. The offense can't do everything, and that means the secondary must actually cover receivers downfield, and players must fly to the football.
Clemson took a big step by winning a key game on the road, but there is still work to be done before this program competes for a national title.
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