Some big picture items likely came into play for Clemson’s fourth-straight loss in the Palmetto State series last week, but statistically and from re-watching the game, some aspects offensively especially stood out.
With a season-low 59 plays, the Tigers called for passes one more time (30) than runs (29), and by the numbers, that made little sense.
On first down, they averaged 7.2 yards per carry against a top-20 USC rush defense – on second-and-long, 3 yards per carry, and overall, 4.1 yards per.
In those same categories, Morris called passes 57.9 percent of the time. On first down, they hit around their season mark at 9.5 yards per pass, but in second-and-long, averaged a paltry 1.3 yards per. USC sacked Boyd four times on first down passes, and twice on second-and-long.
Individually, Andre Ellington only getting 15 carries was a crime with his production level Saturday night – seven of those carries went for five yards or more (three of 10 or more), while backup Rod McDowell provided a spark with 15.7 yards per on three carries.
But overall, the theme was Tajh Boyd’s struggles and USC’s pressure making it worse.
If there’s one place in the game I’d point to, it was the Tigers’ fourth possession – right after Boyd had thrown a picture-perfect 43-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins, jumping out to a 14-7 lead.
Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney started to make his presence known.
It only shows up in the box score as a hurry, but on a rollout to the right, nobody blocked Clowney on the weakside and he caught up with Boyd so fast the Tigers’ signal-caller had no choice but to throw it out of bounds. Just a couple plays later, Clowney fought through a hold for his second sack of the game. And on third down, Clemson called a bizarre quarterback run on third-and-nine, out of a run formation with the fullback, that was stopped well short.
If he wasn’t already, it appeared Clowney was in the back of Boyd’s mind from then on – the junior QB just didn’t look comfortable in the pocket all night.
In the first three drives, where Clemson scored its only two touchdowns, Boyd completed 4-of-7 throws for 83 yards – in the final nine possessions, Boyd threw two picks and hit 7-of-17 attempts at 4.2 yards per pass (less than half his season average).
And it trickled down to the receivers, who weren’t getting the on-the-money throws they were used to, but had some critical drops as well, including Hopkins’ one past the sticks with some room to move on third-and-16 with under four minutes left, to essentially seal the loss.
Stats to win in college football, week 12
|Yards Per Pass||7.6||7.6|
|Yards Per Play||5.6||5.2|
|Yards Per Carry||4.1||3|
More on Boyd
Want more evidence that South Carolina sent Clemson’s offense out of rhythm? Stat guru Seldom Used Reserve updated his Boyd distance and area of the field numbers and had some interesting tweets out of it.
Going in, the Tigers had used the field pretty evenly, around 40 percent on the left and right, but against the Gamecocks, threw it to the left side of the field only four times (out of 24 chances).
And to the right, Boyd completed just 4-of-12 for 65 yards.
A major aspect of the Tigers’ scheme this season was quick behind-the-line-of-scrimmage passes, using blocking and speedy receivers to pick up yards. After making up almost 25 percent of the passing game through 11 games, Boyd did not throw one all game against USC.
Clemson v. Clemson
Now, the good?
The big difference between the ’12 and ’11 Tigers is obviously the ACC title, and secondly, one less regular season loss.
The offensive numbers year-to-year aren’t really in the same ballpark, averaging nine more points (42.3-33.3) and 25 more yards (518.3-493.3) on almost five more plays per game (80.2-75.5). Year two in Morris’ scheme also rendered almost two more 20-plus yards plays per game (6.8-4.9).
Boyd bettered his numbers by a wide margin in completion percentage (66.6-59.9), yards per pass (9.4-7.9) and pass efficiency (168.5-143.1).
Clemson finished No. 1 in the ACC and top-15 nationally in scoring offense, total offense, passing offense (319.58) and pass efficiency (165.45).
Defensively, the numbers are worse in terms of yards in total defense (384 to 411) and passing ‘D’ (197 to 250), but Brent Venables’ unit moved up 30 spots in rushing defense (92nd to 62nd) and rode a top-20 ranking in red zone defense to a spot in the top-50 in scoring defense (about a field goal better than last season).
They round out the regular season 26 spots higher nationally in sacks (66th to 38th) and 59 in tackles for loss (87th to 28th).
2012 Clemson offense v. 2011 Clemson offense (12 games)
|Category||'12 Clemson||'11 Clemson|
|Scoring Offense||42.3 PPG||33.3 PPG|
|Total Yards||518.3 YPG||493.3 YPG|
|Cmp. Pct. (Tajh Boyd)||66.6||59.9|
|Yards Per Pass (Tajh Boyd)||9.4||7.9|
|Passing Efficiency (Tajh Boyd)||168.5||143.1|
|Plays per game||80.2||75.5|
|Plays of 20+ per game||6.8||4.9|
|3rd Down Pct.||52.1||44.7|
|Yards Per Carry||4.4||3.9|
|Yards Per Play||6.5||5.8|