On the opening kickoff we got a taste of what we all hope will come often this year, CJ took the ball at the 4 along the MTSU sideline and charged straight ahead, cutting through a huge hole and down the right sideline to the house. The 360 announcers said the roof would come off if he did took it back, and that was their highlight of the night. Those two were clueless. It was his 4th career return TD.
I'll try to go drive-by-drive and hit the Clemson highlights.
MTSU gets the kickoff back and D. McDaniel plants the returner on his ass, setting the tone for the defense which played lights out for most of the night. Clemson came out in Nickel/Dime, playing mostly Cover 3 with a 4 man front. They didnt tackle well to start missing 4 tackles on the first play from scrimmage. On 3rd down Steele elected to go with a 3-man front, and blitzed both Maye and Sapp (who was standing behind the LOS as a LB) up the B-gap into Dasher's face. MTSU had a WR screen called on the play so Sapp basically came completely free and forced an early throw that McDaniel picked off at the CU 41.
First Clemson drive starts out in the I-formation (THANK GOD) with the apparent intent to run it, but then get a false start and a play to Spiller goes nowhere. Parker missed a wide-open Ashe on 2nd down, and a 3rd&15 pass to a wide-open Dye gets dropped. Would've been a 1st. MTSU only rushed 3 and dropped 7 with a Spy/Robber. A great punt puts MTSU on their 11.
MTSU starts in the 'Gun and takes their first QB Draw of the night for 5, then another 3-man front with 2-men blitzing up the opposite B-gap forcing an early throw on a fade pattern that went incomplete. Clemson is playing Dime defense, with 2 down DEs and one DT. The next play was an OLB Blitz and if Sadat Chambers had gotten two hands on it, it would have been pick 6. Clemson gets the punt back on the MTSU 45.
Clemson drive starts out running from the shotgun with Jacoby in motion, a hole opens up but, being in the 'Gun, Spiller gets no momentum going before a guy wraps his legs up. On the next play Spiller takes a handoff off-tackle on a Power for about 5 yards, shouldve been tackled for a loss because the TE and FB didnt get push on the play. A toss sweep to CJ falls just short of the 1st. On 4th and 1 Jamie Harper takes another inside Power play from the I for the 1st down. The next play showed something Napier has put into this offense, an almost-pistol 2-back shotgun formation. The RBs were at their normal 5yd depth, but Parker was about 3 yards depth, the idea of the Pistol being to give the RB some momentum. Not surprising that we run it then. What looked like an Isolation to Harper gets nothing, and Jacoby drops a wide-open play over the middle to force the kick. Jackson missed it to the left, 46yds, barely.
First play for MTSU was high throw that bounced off the WR's hands and Maye intercepts at the MTSU 35.
Clemson drive starts with a PA and Parker takes a sack. MTSU began bringing pressure on this drive. Should've thrown that one away though and had time. A WR Screen to Jacoby gets a few yards and Parker takes the next one himself for the 1st. Lambert was totally beat on his block. Ellington comes in...where is CJ Spiller? Harper again, where is CJ Spiller? A roughing penalty gives CU a 1st. Taylor catches a PA pass and is tackled at the 5. Sideline calls a TO because Diehl is not where he should be it seems. A PA play is well-covered and Parker smartly throws it away, then stupidly throws one into double coverage on 3rd and Goal. Jackson makes it 10-0. No running plays.
On 2nd down, Maye blitzes from the outside, stunting with #94 to force Dasher inside, where Kevin Alexander grabs him from behind. Branch was playing a LB position and blitzing as well up the other side. Defenses forces 3 & out. Clemson gets it back around the CU 27.
Spiller gets 3 on a strongside power/trap play, Parker takes a designed draw up the middle, and Jacoby fails to catch another that hit his hands. The CB was right with him but he had it, and it was a perfect throw.
MTSU gets it back and makes one good play, then a botched shotgun snap costs them any shot at sustaining a drive. Maye makes that tackle and breaks up the next screen pass, and Sapp tackles the QB on an option for a loss, forcing the punt.
End of 1st QTR.
Following Spiller's return from the CU 17 to around the MTSU 33, he gets up gingerly and was apparently injured on the play. Dabo says its his toe and he wouldnt chance it further, so he pulled him. Korn comes in, and on 2nd down DROPS THE DAMN BALL on a FS blitz in his face. The FS never touched him, he just dropped it as he was beginning his throw, then got rocked. Returned 68yds for a TD, 10-7.
Clemson gets good field position again, on a squib kick, and Jamie Harper is taking advantage of some good cutback lanes being opened up, as is Ellington. Jacoby drops a wide-open pass at the MTSU 20. Jacoby turned his head before he caught it. Throw was perfect. Parker takes it himself the next play 20yds to the 10. An end-around from Jacoby with an inside fake gets us to the 1. This was really a well-setup call after the inside power runs. Then Clemson's OL takes a dump. The safety comes unblocked around the left side and tackles Taylor from behind. Next play is the same lead Iso, too much MT penetration and bad technique by the right side of the line. Then Dabo pusses out and kicks the FG.
2nd and Goal at the 1.5, and cant get it in. Personnel was fine, which is better than Bowden's days. He'd have put in Ellington to run it there. 13-7, 11 play 57yd drive, which was otherwise good.
Campbell starts the next drive with a sack on another WR Screen. D. McDaniel makes a KILLER hit on Dasher to force the punt....then Jacoby strikes for 61yds. 20-7. 2nd time ever for CU to return a KO and Punt for TD.
MTSU begins adjusting with more quick passes to beat the Clemson rush. Jamie Cumbie lines up at DE with Sapp inside and comes around behind Dasher for a sack. Rashard Hall comes from deep safety to make a great tackle and forces the punt.
Spiller actually took it, and just ran out of bounds. He did play in the next series. He was hobbling. The next play was a PA fake in the 'Gun to the strong side, with Parker rolling to his right and the line rolling left, he hit Jacoby on corner route and he cuts back inside (route is meant to go outside) and past everyone for 43yds. 27-7.
Defense forces a punt, and the offense, showing some no-huddle, moves the ball just enough (5 plays 23 yds) to get a FG making it 30-7. Only real highlight was a 21yd post into the seam on 3-deep by Jacoby.
Defense held them to 62 total yds in the 1st, 2 TOs and 1/7 on 3rd down.
Offense had 91 rush, 75 pass, 2/9 on 3rd down.
MTSU comes out no-huddle, using quick passes to negate the rush. Blissard takes a 43 yd reception after two missed tackles into CU territory. A few more quick plays and Dasher hits McClover on an 18 yard fade route on #29 man/man for the TD. 30-14. Clemson didnt blitz on the drive. 7 plays for 85 yards.
Jacoby picks up a short squib and takes it to the MTSU 38. Korn comes in, tosses to Harper a little high and wobbly, and Harper cant catch it and MTSU intercepts. I dont believe that the pass was late getting there, and I put the blame on Harper. Sure Parker has more zip than this but Harper shouldve made the catch.
MTSU starts moving the ball again, but Chancellor picks off a pass on a quick hitch and after that, they barely do anything the rest of the game, but honestly Clemson is giving up too many yards on inside read options and draws. Most of this I attribute to playing a 3-3 and 3-2 front at times. We won't see that next week.
Clemson gets the ball back on the 32, calls an option and a read option that get nothing, then Parker hits M. Jones on a post route for the final score of the game. Clemson lined up in 'Gun, 1 back and the play was a designed fake WR screen to the left. Parker stepped forward, pump faked left to bring the safety in, and Jones was wide open.
MTSU continues no-huddle and moves the ball on us, but Dasher misses his open man and the coverage was glue. Draws and inside read options beat Clemson, but we are playing 4-man front. Turned over on downs.
Clemson comes out in the I-formation and starts pounding the ball with Rendrick Taylor, but get NO push against this scrawny line of MTSU. Walker was in at RT and did fairly well on his man actually. Taylors fumble was caused by his arm hitting McClain, and McClain recovered it. On 4th down a lead power play gets nothing. I thought Austin was supposed to be good? He was too slow getting on his man.
MTSU fumbles on the next option play to the left, forced by Maye, and I dont see how we didnt come up with that ball. Dasher's passes are broken up by glue-like coverage and they punt.
Then comes a bad snap, Parker falls down, and another play he just misses the open receiver. Why no rushing plays? Why did we commit to running the previous drive and not once here with a big lead?
End of 3rd QTR
MTSU was again able to move the ball on quick passes and draws/options, even though Clemson is sticking to 4-man fronts now. Dasher begins cramping up and noticably limps the rest of the game. MTSU has some success with their Wildcat formation and gets inside the 10, but Chancellor forces the WR out-of-bounds and the ball turns over on downs.
Why is Korn not playing here? Theres no need to have Parker in right now. 8min in the 4th, I'd have Korn running the offense to TRY to get his confidence back up after the turnovers. Harper begins running the ball more, from singleback sets, and runs it pretty well. Some of the backups are playing along the O-line here as well. Dwayne Allen sticks with a few blocks. Parker fails to see an open man downfield on 3rd down and Jackson misses the 48yd FG to the right.
MTSU again is able to move the ball on us, and no we were not just playing backups. A few possible TD catches are juggled and dropped in man/man coverage and again turned over on downs.
Clemson runs out the last 2 minutes with Ellington showing some brilliant flashes. MTSU was clearly tired and tackling was bad. Korn comes in only to take a knee, WTF?
End of Game
Parker's decision making aside from a few plays has been really good. It surprises me actually. I figured he'd throw into coverage more and lock onto the primary more often than he did. He had little opportunity to make touch throws however.
Clemson's OL actually did a good job of picking up blitzes and with 202 on the ground, the stats show they did alright after the 1st quarter, but several times we could get NO push when we needed it. 4/14 on 3rd down against MTSU aint gonna cut it. Maybe I'm complaining too much, and MTSU had 8 or 9 in the box many times, with Ford and Spiller out.
Jacoby has glass hands. Catch the damn ball Jacoby. He cramped up a little after his last big play, and never returned.
I predict more up-tempo offense and no-huddle next week, we were fairly simple and vanilla today. TE's will get more looks and more RB screens will come in.
The Defense stayed home and showed discipline on perimeter options, and didnt miss many tackles. (Chambers and Rashard Hall come to mind as the biggies) The only complaint I see is that we just outran ourselves getting to Dasher. A slower QB wouldve been sacked at least 6-8 times. DaQuan Bowers was in the backfield a few times, but had little to show for it. Coverage was very good. Most of the blitzes were a variation of the fire zone or Gut-X blitzes posted here before, from 4-2 and 3-2/3-3 fronts. Many times, the 2nd blitzing LB was actually the Defensive end: Sapp, Alexander, and Branch. Maye and McDaniel played outstanding, but particularly Maye. In the 2nd half, they did lose some intensity though, and much of MTSU's yardage was on 3rd down (133 of 299).
But, if Bowden had been here, we'd have seen 15 bubble screens, Korn would be starting, and we'd have only won by 7.
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