These are five things that went right for Clemson Saturday night.
1- 379 yards passing. Tajh Boyd was 16 for 23, 344 yards, 5 touchdowns and 72 rushing yards including a rushing touchdown. Backup Cole Stoudt was 5 for 6, 35 yards and 1 touchdown. Boyd helped Clemson jump all over Duke early and often with three straight touchdown passes to Nuk Hopkins.
2- The Clemson offensive line paving the way for 339 yards rushing. Six different Tigers ran the ball Saturday night. Clemson was coming off two straight poor outputs in the running game. You have to be happy with 339 yards rushing any way you look at it.
3- A lot of Tigers got playing time Saturday night. The fact that Clemson was able to get up early and get depth players snaps in a positive. This gets the young ones experience and Clemson's starters some rest.
4- The Clemson defense held an opposing offense under 400 yards total offense. It's progress and the late in the season Venables young defense is still getting better.
5- Winning on the road in a stale and drab environment. Sometimes the toughest games are the ones that should be the easiest to win. You have to be focused and single minded in these games. Clemson has a history of playing down to its opponents. If you're a Clemson fan you feel much better knowing the outcome isn't in question at any point in this game.
These are five things that went wrong for Clemson against Duke.
1- Clemson is still having trouble tackling. This defense is still having issues wrapping up their blocks and finishing the play. Going in to the last three games this have to improve and particularly against NC State and South Carolina.
2- Running back Andre Ellington goes out of the game after the first play. This is about the time of the season in the past we've seen Ellington get banged up. Clemson needs Ellington going in to the stretch run. He's vital to the Tigers running game. The running lanes will get tighter against NC State and South Carolina.
3- Quarterback Tajh Boyd had three interceptions and still forces some passes. Staring down receivers seems to be Boyd's weakness. The showdown with the South Carolina defense will be a big test for Boyd.
4- The Clemson secondary continues to get lost in coverage. Duke was able to make some easy plays last night in the passing game last night. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables has had answer to make this defense bend and not break thus far. Can the Clemson defense avoid giving up big chunk plays the rest of the season?
These are five key stats in my view from the Clemson - Duke matchup Saturday night.
1- 718 yards of Clemson offense. If someone told you in August Clemson would have 700 yards of offense in a game would you believe them? Hats off to offensive coordinator Chad Morris. You are seeing Clemson swimming in the same waters as Oregon here.
2- Nuk Hopkins had 4 receptions for 128 yards and 3 touchdowns. How about that for a nights work? Can you beat it? Simple deal here; you leave Hopkins one on one and he will beat your best man. Count on that.
3- 52 rushes for 339 yards, 2 touchdowns and a 6.5 yard average per carry. Nothing else needs to be said.
4- Nuk Hopkins set the Clemson record for the season and single game for touchdown catches with 22. He passed Perry Tuttle last night for second in Clemson history. 82 yards more and he breaks Aaron Kelly's record for all time yards. Hats off to you Mr Hopkins.
5- 3 wins in bad stadiums and worse environments. Clemson has won easily at Boston College, at Wake Forest and at Duke. Clemson loses at least one of these three in the Tommy Bowden era.
Hats off to you Dabo Swinney. Big time progression in the Clemson football program under Swinney not playing down to these teams.
These are five of my thoughts for the water cooler this week. Feel free to add your discussion.
1- At this point in the season in 2011 you could clearly see Clemson's wheels coming off the track. Tajh gained weight, the team got apathetic, the effort level dropped and Clemson got whooped in double digit losses at the hands of Georgia Tech, NC State, South Carolina and West Virginia.
2012 this Clemson team is much more mature. Dabo Swinney is cultivating a team that takes the fight to the other team and not so reactive. The Bowden gang is gone and so is his culture. Credit Swinney for fixing this. It's not easy when you are handed players who think it's normal to slip up during the season.
2- If Clemson doesn't win the ACC Atantic and win out their remaining three games they can still go to a BCS at large game. This is something Florida State wouldn't be able to say. Don't get me wrong you want to play for your conference title but having the opportunity to still get to a BCS game lets you know how far Clemson has come. Three home games stand between Clemson and a shot at 11-1.
From my view 11-1 is much better than the 9-3 and going to the ACC Championship game. The reason? You win 10 games in the regular season for the first time in twenty years. Don't get me wrong I understand last year was a special season but the prospect of going 11-1 helps you refocus new goals. Clemson won it's tenth game last year in the ACC Championship game.
If Clemson could go 11-1 in the regular season that would be a huge milestone for the program. Beat Maryland at 3:30 this Saturday and you have two left to win; in Death Valley
3- Wake up ESPN Nuk Hopkins is the best wide receiver in the nation and deserves Heisman mention. Through nine games Hopkins has 62 catches, 1037 yards and 13 touchdowns. Hopkins has torched every team he's played. I don't expect that to change.
It seems this is right in front of everyone. Hopkins is a legit candidate.
4- The ACC has to do some re-evaluating in the winter meetings this year. When Notre Dame starts playing football in the ACC that makes three teams that can play big time level college football and hopefully four as Virginia Tech is semi-rebuilding.
Feed the animals Clemson, Florida State and Notre Dame will need more tests. The ACC needs better strength of schedule for the new BCS in 2014. Clemson, Florida State and Notre Dame will all benefit from being tested more from week to week. It will raise the level of competition and strengthen the conference. Basketball games won't bring the revenue and credibility to the ACC that a strong football presence will.
It's critical ACC football programs to invest in their football programs, the recruiting that goes with it and facilities. No excuses. Upgrades need to be made across the board in several areas at several programs.
Lastly shame on the programs that have these home games hosting national TV playing a Clemson or Florida State and you can't fill your stadium. Change your culture; no excuses. No; it's not easy but it has to be done. Hey, if you can't fill it you can get more in there than you have right? If Vanderbilt can fill their stadium so can you.
5- Last night I would like to recognize defensive tackle for having the single biggest, loudest and hardest hit a Clemson defensive lineman has put on an opposing quarterback in a long time. At the 1:09 mark in the second quarter Jarrett put one of this hits you can hear as he hammered the Duke's Renfree. Hats off to you Mr Jarrett.