Clemson Football: Grading the Offense Week 4 vs NC State

By Colby Lanham

Despite a sloppy first half, the Clemson Tigers got out of Raleigh, North Carolina with a 26-14 win over the NC State Wolfpack. The Tigers moved to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in their first ACC matchup. Quarterback Tajh Boyd finished with 244 yards and three touchdowns after a slow start to the game.

Clemson’s offense certainly wasn’t clicking on all cylinders against NC State, especially in the first half. But the Tigers saw their fortunes shift on a potentially game changing call, and thanks to the defense and a strong second half performance that allowed Clemson to walk out unscathed. That, coupled with the Wolfpack continually shooting themselves in the foot on offense. But how did the Tigers’ grade out in Week 4 on their offensive performance?

1. Quarterback: B-

Tajh Boyd was certainly off his game against the Wolfpack. In the first half, the offense was unable to get in a consistent rhythm in the passing game, partly because of the pressure put on by NC State. Boyd missed out on huge opportunities early, missing a streaking Martavis Bryant and Sammy Watkins on separate occasions. Boyd finished with 244 passing yards and three touchdowns, but he did not look sharp early and looked to be a little down early after missing his open receivers. However, Boyd certainly looked much better in the second half after running for some first downs and completing some long passes downfield. But getting out of Raleigh with the win, however ugly it may have looked, was the most important thing.

2. Running Back: B

While the Tigers’ running backs did not score a rushing touchdown, Rod McDowell continues to be the lead the pack, rushing for 68 yards on 14 carries averaging 4.9 yards per carry. McDowell continues to run well between the tackles, and while he doesn’t have  breakaway speed, he has great acceleration through the hole and good hands out of the backfield. DJ Howard and Zac Brooks contributed with 45 and 17 rushing yards, respectively, while Boyd added 39 yards of his own. The Tigers finished their Thursday night victory with 171 rushing yards.

3. Wide Receiver: B

While Martavis Bryant did have early drops, but he put doubters to rest with his six reception, 73 yards, two touchdown performance against this NC State secondary. With the Tigers having lost receiver Charone Peake for the season, Clemson needs Bryant to step it up as the No. 2 guy, and he has gained more confidence with this performance. Sammy Watkins continues to be Sammy Watkins, leading all receivers with 96 receiving yards. Redshirt freshman Germone Hopper added some nice catches, finishing with four receptions for 25 yards, and true freshman Mike Williams added a key 25-yard catch in his first ACC game. Tight end Sam Cooper continues to defy the odds of his ACL injury by catching his first touchdown of the season.

4. Offensive Line: C

The offensive line played the poorest it has all season, especially at right tackle, where Gifford Timothy struggled on the opening drive to contain NC State’s defensive end pressure on the right side. Timothy was replaced after the opening drive by Shaq Anthony who performed better against the pass rush and may possibly warrant a second look. NC State brought pressure early and for most of the night against an off-rhythm Boyd. They had their opportunities for most of the game to pull the upset. But the offense eventually settled down and the offensive line opened holes well in the running game, clearing the way for 171 rushing yards and keeping Boyd’s jersey clean for much of the second half. The only question that will remain is at right tackle and whether Timothy keeps his spot may be something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Next week, the Tigers return for homecoming to face a less than spectacular Wake Forest at 3:3o p.m. kickoff time. But the biggest takeaway from this game? All of Clemson’s goals are still within reach, and coordinators Chad Morris and Brent Venables won’t be too pleased with their units in practice this week.

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