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Take five: Clemson vs LSU

Five things that went right

Nuk Hopkins secures "the biggest catch" on 4th and 16

1- The biggest catch.

It’s 4th and 16 with Clemson pinned deep in their own territory and time running out and Tajh Boyd found a way to get Deandre Hopkins the ball on a 26 yard strike to keep the drive alive.

This was biggest play Clemson football has made in I couldn’t tell you how long. Sure beating South Carolina is nice but taking down an opponent of this caliber in front of a national audience when no one gave Clemson a chance is huge.

2- Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney shook the monkey off his back of not being able to beat a tough, physical opponent and one from the SEC to boot.

There are two tough and physical bullies in college football: Alabama and LSU. Clemson took down LSU in impressive fashion.

3- Clemson can win games that are street fights. This is new. The Tigers had lost the only two street fights they had this year against Florida State and South Carolina.

This Clemson staff got their team ready this time and punished LSU for four quarters.

4- SEC speed and defense got Nuk’d.

Tajh Boyd with 346 yards against LSU and MVP honors.

I guarantee you the next time a fan or buddy brings up the SEC vs ACC comparison to LSU cornerback Tharold Simon he’ll tell them about Clemson wide receiver Deandre Hopkins.

Hopkins worked Simon like a sack of flour for four quarters and for that matter LSU safety Eric Reid and no one else couldn’t do anything to stop it either. I watched them all night up close and I promise you Simon wants any more of Hopkins.

5- Chandler Catanzaro has had two great years in a row but last night he’ll be remembered forever by Clemson faithful. Last night Catanzaro put himself in the history book for Clemson fans.

Five things that went wrong

1- Special teams errors all over the field. The field goal unit had an extra point blocked after a touchdown. The kickoff coverage by Clemson all night was very poor. This has to be a point of focus going in to spring and fall camp for Clemson.

2- Clemson running backs Andre Ellington and Roderick McDowell combined to carry the ball 18 times. Quarterback Tajh Boyd ran the ball 29 times. You’d like to see these stats reversed.

This is scary but I don’t think we’ve seen the best of this Chad Morris offense yet. You have to think a running back that could carry the ball 20 times a game in this offense instead of your quarterback would make it more efficient.

3- Ball security in big games. Clemson did a rare thing last night and lost the turnover battle and won the game. Head coach Dabo Swinney mentioned taking the next step as a program in several avenues, this is another. If you don’t have the extra fumbles maybe you don’t need that field goal late to beat LSU maybe you beat them with more ease.

One of the six sacks Clemson on Zach Mettenberger.

4- Tackling technique. There were instances against LSU where if the first guy there makes the tackle LSU would have had even less yardage in offense.

I’ve been so impressed talking with Brent Venables and what he’s done with this Clemson defense you know this will only get better. Venables is a teacher and the future is bright for this Clemson defense.

5- Penalties. Clemson had 6 penalties and mainly for formations. It’s little things but isn’t always the little things?

Five key stats

1- Clemson dominated the battle of the fourth quarter. Clemson had 169 yards of total offense vs LSU’s 1 yard. LSU had 2 rushes for -6 yards and 2 for 4 passing for 7 yards they also added 3 penalties for 31 yards as well.

Clemson had the ball for 11:26 of the fourth quarter. LSU ran six plays in the fourth quarter. The entire fourth quarter I was on the LSU sideline. About the 7:00 minute mark in the fourth quarter I started noticing a lot of fatigue from defensive backs Tharold Simon and Eric Reid.

This is when I first started to think despite being behind to this monster LSU team that Clemson could win. The Clemson offense ran 100 plays. LSU wants no more of that I promise you.

2- Tajh Boyd was 36 for 50, 346 yards, 2 passing touchdowns and 1 rushing. Boyd stared down Sam Montgomery and his terrible dance moves, Barkevious Mingo, Eric Reid, Tharold Simon and Craig Loston and didn’t flinch.

Dabo Swinney continues to prove his doubters wrong with 11 wins at Clemson for the first time since 1981.

Boyd is a winner. He said to us earlier this week “if you aren’t winning championships you aren’t doing your job” Boyd gets it.

3- 6 sacks for 41 yards. The only offensive lines that can play you like LSU are probably Alabama and Stanford. The entire Clemson defensive line dominated the LSU offensive line for four quarters. The Tigers in orange harassed LSU Zach Mettenberger all night.

The unsung heroes of the night were Clemson defensive tackles Grady Jarrett, D.J. Reader, Carlos Watkins and Josh Watson. This salty bunch got inside the heads of the LSU line at the first snap and stayed there all night.

4- Clemson had 32 first downs vs LSU’s 9. That’s a simply incredible stat against the monster SEC defense of LSU.

5- Clemson held the LSU offense to 219 yards total offense and 3 for 13 on third downs. LSU’s power and iso game was stifled by Clemson.

Five of my observations

1- A lot of folks wondered and chuckled when Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said beating one of these teams like an LSU was the next step for his young program.

Whether you like him or not; who’s laughing now? Swinney got the win, it was the eleventh win in a season for Clemson for the first time since 1981. Swinney speaks of Clemson winning a national championship as a goal and 10 win seasons being the normal around Clemson; the whispers start. Do you want to bet your paycheck against this guy?

Hot Rod McDowell is one of many returning for Clemson in 2013.

2- Remember what happened to Clemson’s recruiting after the Orange Bowl last year? You can expect the opposite this year.

You can bet big time recruits like Montravius Adams, Mackensie Adams, Karl Lawson, Ebenezer Ogundeko, Demarcus Robinson to name a few were watching that game last time and seeing themselves being part of this Clemson Tiger team.

This win will vault recruiting in to a strong finish and set the table for Clemson in the future.

3- Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is underrated as a coach and as a teacher. This guy is a no nonsense, steady handed, old school teacher of the game of football.

Watch him carefully and you’ll find he’s very calculating, methodica and the intensity of a rattle snake. Look at what Venables did in year one. With the way this defensive line and linebacker corp played down the stretch you have to be excited about Clemson’s defense for 2013.

4- I believe day in and day out Deandre Hopkins is the best wide receiver in the college football. Hopkins took on an LSU secondary that is not only stingy but tall and rangy. Hopkins battled Tharold Simon for four quarters and left Simon cramped and exhausted with his 13 catches for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns.

5- This program has a bright future. Against LSU, Clemson was the aggressor and took the fight to a tough minded team for four quarters. If the staff finds a way to bottle the mindset and play displayed against LSU, Clemson’s football program could be ready to take another step.

It’s tough to say when programs lose to tough teams if the coach just can’t cut it or if the coach is going through the maturation process. For Clemson it’s stared down the barrel of elite success several times over the last two seasons. Beating LSU in the fashion Clemson did in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl lets you know what they are capable of.

Clemson is young and gets nearly everyone back next year on both lines of scrimmage and skill positions. The Tigers are in the mix for some of the best defensive talent in the country in this years recruiting class. The type of defensive players being recruited can change a program in a hurry.

There’s been no announcement whether Tajh Boyd and Deandre Hopkins will return to Clemson rather than go to the NFL but if either one or both return this team could be on the verge of a special season in 2013.

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