Tigers' secondary trying to recover from big-play binge

NC State's Rashard Smith catches a touchdown pass in front of Xavier Brewer in the first quarter

Photo by Mark Crammer

NC State's Rashard Smith catches a touchdown pass in front of Xavier Brewer in the first quarter

Clemson D focused on improving for USC

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— Entering last week’s game against N.C. State, Clemson’s defense had showed significant progress against giving up big plays.

The Tigers had allowed 52 plays of 20-plus yards, including 12 of 40 or more, through nine games.

However, that trend had slowed over the last four games, with Clemson yielding just 10 big plays, including just two of 40-plus yards.

Hello, Mike Glennon. State’s senior quarterback torched the Clemson secondary for 10 plays of at least 20 yards, including touchdown strikes of 29, 49 and 77 yards to Tobias Palmer.

Eight of those plays came before halftime; Glennon finished with 493 yards passing and five touchdowns against one interception, completing 29 of 53 attempts.

“We had some breakdowns,” said senior cornerback Xavier Brewer. “(Defensive coordinator Brent Venables) put us in great positions to make plays earlier in the game. Guys just got caught up and didn’t make them.”

Brewer said Venables told the Tigers he was proud of their effort, regardless.

“There never should be a question of effort and there never has been this whole season,” Brewer said.

The issues arose from eyes and technique. Brewer covered Palmer on his 77-yard score – which tied for the longest play Clemson has allowed this season – but appeared to be hung out to dry by a lack of safety help.

“No matter where we are on the field, you can’t give up big plays like that,” he said. “We had four plays that were one-play drives for touchdowns, and that can’t happen if you want to win against good teams.”

State’s big-play propensity slowed after halftime, with none in the third quarter and passes of 28 and 29 yards in the fourth quarter.

“We pretty much just focused in,” Brewer said. “I tried to stay in those guys’ ears. I said, ‘You’re good players and it has nothing to do with your ability, it’s just the eyes and technique.’”

Brewer expects South Carolina to test the Tigers’ secondary deep Saturday. Their job won’t be easy with starter Bashaud Breeland doubtful with a groin strain suffered against the Wolfpack. Brewer, sophomore Garry Peters and freshman Cortez Davis are the only healthy scholarship cornerbacks.

Tigers clean up in ACC awards: Clemson’s 62-48 win over the Wolfpack was well-represented in the ACC’s weekly awards. Junior quarterback Tajh Boyd was named the ACC’s offensive back of the week, senior center Dalton Freeman the ACC’s offensive lineman of the week and sophomore defensive end Vic Beasley shared defensive lineman of the week honors with North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams.

Boyd completed 30 of 44 passes for 426 yards and five touchdowns, adding 103 rushing yards and three scores. His 529 yards of total offense was a Clemson single-game record and fourth-best in ACC history. His eight touchdowns also set the ACC single-game touchdown responsibility record.

Freeman played a career-high 102 snaps, grading out at 90 percent with no sacks allowed and five knockdown blocks. Beasley had a career-high three sacks, most by a Clemson player this season.

Ranked showdown: Saturday’s showdown between No.12 Clemson and No.13 marks the fifth in the series with both teams ranked, and the first with both teams in the top 15 since 1987.

Clemson is 1-3 in those matchups. In 1979, No.19 South Carolina beat the No.13 Tigers 13-9 in Columbia. Eight years later, No.12 USC upset No.8 Clemson 20-7 in Columbia. In 2000, the No.16 Tigers beat the No.25 Gamecocks 16-14 (on Rod Gardner’s famous 50-yard catch with 10 seconds left to set up the game-winning field goal). Last year, the No.14 Gamecocks beat No.18 Clemson 34-13 in Williams-Brice Stadium.

The teams’ combined record of 19-3 (a .864 winning percentage) is better than any of the four previous top-20 showdowns.

National awards cut Tigers: Nine college football awards released their finalists Monday, and the results weren’t kind to Clemson. Boyd was not named as one of three finalists for the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s top quarterback. Junior wideout DeAndre Hopkins was not named as one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top wide receiver. And junior kicker Chandler Catanzaro was not named as a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation’s top kicker.

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