A week ago I wrote an article saying how this season would be different for the Clemson Tigers and not like the 2008 campaign because of the offensive line play. Well, the offensive line from the Tigers lived up to their hype as they controlled the game from start to finish in this past Saturday’s win over Georgia 38-35. It was a thrilling game that had everything that a hyped up game should have. Stars from both teams made big plays and put up big numbers as expected, but it was Clemson’s offensive line that won the game for Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers.
Clemson’s offense had 46 carries for 197 yards and two touchdowns as they imposed their will, especially in the 4th quarter when offensive coordinator Chad Morris wanted to execute a power running game that would tire the Georgia defenders and run time off the clock. Senior tailback Roderick McDowell rushed for a career-high 132 yards on 22 carries in his first game as the primary back in this offense. Quarterback Tajh Boyd also had a solid night on the ground tallying 42 yards on 13 carries and two rushing touchdowns. Though his rushing stats might not indicate how important every one of those yards were, he continually picked up the tough yards on 3rd and short to keep drives alive.
The offensive line also did its part in the passing game as they only gave up one sack for only a loss of one yard. Tajh Boyd was only flushed out of the pocket with heavy amounts of pressure a few times; part of this can be due to the quick screen passes that Boyd continued to check to though. However, the thing that was the most encouraging for Clemson fans was the fact that the offensive line, much like against LSU in the bowl game last year, got stronger as the game went on. When the 4th quarter rolled around Brandon Thomas, Tyler Shatley, Ryan Norton, Gifford Timothy, and David Beasley (starters on the line) got a second wind and started creating wholes that a dump truck could drive through. With Clemson up by three points in the 4th the offense had a 2nd-and-11 when running back Zac Brooks ran for 14 yards up the middle on a well executed draw play for a first down. Then later in the drive, McDowell busted it outside with a nasty spin move that picked up 36 yards and set Clemson up with a first-and-goal. A few plays later the Tigers scored on what would be the game-clinching touchdown.
Once again the strength and conditioning program showed its worth in the fourth quarter, and no one was more happy than offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell. Chad Morris wants to be a power spread team, and he accomplished his goal, at least in this opening game victory. New Center Ryan Norton probably had the most impressive game on the line as he had to deal with numerous zone blitzes and stunts by the Georgia defensive front. His name was not called much during the broadcast, and if you are a center, then that is probably a good thing. Everyone up front did their job and worked as a unit showing why they are the most under-appreciated part of this team. Yes Sammy Watkins, Boyd, and McDowell all had big games, but Clemson’s unit up front gave them the chance to have those big numbers.
Travis Patterson, Writer for the ACC on Rantsports.com. Follow on Twitter @tpat20, https://twitter.com/tpat20