In three years with Chad Morris as offensive coordinator, the Clemson Tigers have become one of the most explosive offenses in college football. That continued to be the case as the Tigers outlasted the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday with a 38-35 victory, which became the Tigers’ second straight victory over a Top-10 ranked SEC opponent. After first drive jitters, quarterback Tajh Boyd continued to show why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, by utilizing the talent on offense and putting his teammates in the best positions.
Throughout the season, we will be grading the Clemson Tigers on weekly offense and defense, with special teams being integrated into our defensive reviews. We will also highlight how the units performed in the previous game, and what they might need to accomplish heading into next week. First, we will start with the Clemson offense, which, despite its performance, did have its rough spots at times.
Quarterbacks – A
Boyd has been the focal point for Clemson since deciding to forgo the NFL Draft and return for his senior season. After a quick three and out to begin the game, Boyd lead his first scoring drive by capping it off with a four-yard touchdown run. Boyd would throw his first touchdown of the season to Sammy Watkins on a quick bullet across the middle, which Watkins preceded to turn into a 77 yard catch and run. Boyd accounted for five touchdowns, including two rushing touchdowns, and finished 18 of 30 for 270 passing yards and three touchdowns. Boyd also finished the night with zero interceptions, and his ability to buy second chances in the pocket, thanks to his great mobility, continues to be an invaluable asset for the Tigers in Morris’ fast paced spread offense. Boyd made the most of the Tigers’ limited 65 snaps, and his ability to run the zone red allowed the running game to succeed against what was a green Bulldog defense.
Running Backs - B+
The biggest unknown for this offense was its running backs, which was a largely untested group heading into 2013. But their opening day performance in a big game environment, like the one against Georgia, should have many at ease. Senior Rod McDowell has waited patiently for his turn in the backfield, and he showed great ability in and outside the tackles, by carrying the ball 22 times for 132 yards, while averaging six yards per carry. Zac Brooks did well while he was in the game, and while he only received three carries for 20 yards, he did have a 31 yard touchdown catch to put the Tigers ahead in the third quarter. The Bulldogs stayed in a two deep safety shell for much of the night to prevent the big play deep pass, and the running backs did well to keep the offense moving.
Wide Receivers – B
Despite losing former Tiger Deandre Hopkins to the NFL, the Tigers still had plenty of options at the receiver position. Watkins scored his first touchdown on Clemson’s third possession of the game, which he turned from an 11 yard pass across the middle into a 77 yard touchdown pass, after outrunning the entire Georgia secondary. Watkins finished the night with six receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown. Charone Peake, Adam Humphries and Martavis Bryant each entered with a mixed bag of results. Peake had a couple of drops, but managed five catches for 58 yards. Humphries had only one catch for eight yards. Meanwhile, Bryant had no catches and several dropped passes, one of which was for a huge gain and one dropped touchdown pass. Bryant’s 6-foot-4 frame and 4.4 speed make him a very viable deep threat, and can be that complement to Watkins on the outside. Next to Watkins, he is arguably the biggest playmaking threat at receiver.
Offensive Line – B
The offensive line did have its struggles early in the game as the Georgia defense brought pressure and blitzed early and often, but they settled down and played a physical game by paving the way for McDowell’s 132 yards on the ground. This was essential in moving the ball against Georgia’s two deep safety shell, which took away several downfield passing attempts for the Clemson offense. Ryan Norton played well in his debut at center, and the line held up when it needed to, as the Bulldogs brought the blitz often to create pressure.
An opening season win like this one bodes well for the Tigers, who have opened numerous doors for what has the potential to be a special season.