The Clemson Tigers didn’t perform the way that they wanted to, or needed to, on offense in their last Thursday night game against the NC State Wolfpack. But on a night where tempo was hard to find on offense, Clemson’s forever-questioned defense kept them in the game, not letting NC State get in the end zone and keeping them out of most scoring opportunities. Clemson won the game thanks largely to their defense and the leg of kicker Chandler Cantanzaro, which picked up the slack of an offense that didn’t get in any kind of rhythm until the second half. But this game showed us a little something about Clemson that not many have realized, or even thought about.
But what exactly did this game show us?
This game against NC State showed that this Clemson team is beginning to show it can win in more ways than one.
On special teams, when Clemson stalled right outside the red zone, Cantanzaro went 2-for-2 on field goals, including a 49 yarder. Punter Bradley Pinion continues to be an underrated weapon in the punting game, not giving NC State good field position for much of the night and not allowing any opportunities for punt returns. On defense, while the secondary still have their tackling to sort out, they did not allow a single touchdown pass (the second time it’s happened this season), and the defensive line came alive in the second half, especially defensive end Vic Beasley, who finished with three sacks.
During the game, the term “Clemsoning” was made well aware of during the game when it was uncertain as to whether Clemson would avoid the upset. But just as ESPN‘s Rece Davis has stated that he has retired the term, Clemson is appearing to shed that label as it begins to show it can win with more than offense. And in a time where teams with spread offenses have often been associated with having bad defenses, a team like Clemson can be a dangerous one, especially as their defense continues to show it can make stops and give their offense more opportunities. Being ranked No.3 in the nation, every game from this point on from the Tigers is going to be a trap game, and each will be looking to upset the No. 3 ranked team in the country.
The biggest difference between a team like Clemson and any other ranked team? Clemson has the biggest chip on its shoulder, despite evidence that can prove otherwise. So all the Tigers must do is continue to play their game and win. They need to show that a new, different Clemson is on the college football block.