From the right side of the scoreboard, Tigers learn much about themselves

The Clemson Sports Blog

Clemson's Roderick McDowell runs past Georgia's Jordan Jenkins during the third quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Roderick McDowell runs past Georgia's Jordan Jenkins during the third quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

It's a good thing for a team to learn from its mistakes; it's even better to learn from the good side of the scoreboard.

Clemson's performance against No. 5 Georgia on was revealing in a number of positive ways.

Defensive line play: At some point in the second quarter on Saturday, the Tigers' defensive front stood up and took control of the game. It made all the difference.

"I thought our d-line was incredibly physical and disruptive all night - just outstanding," said Swinney during his Sunday evening teleconference. They were incredibly consistent and dialed in all night long."

The Tigers changed the game with a series of sacks in the second and third quarters - four in a series of five possessions.

"I don't think we had four sacks until about the fourth game last year," said Swinney. "To get four sacks in a game like this against a veteran offensive line, it's what I've been talking about. It's a group of competitors up front. We really like our depth there. Vic Beasley, Corey Crawford played great. Shaq Lawson was solid for a true freshman. It was good to see Tavaris Barnes play well. All those guys inside did well. We just feel like we have a good group we can roll. It was encouraging seeing them play like they did against a team like that."

Tight end tandem: The Tigers got the play they needed from their tight ends, including a surprise contribution by offensive lineman Patrick Destefano, who came out wearing jersey number 43 and got 13 snaps at the position.

Both Stanton Seckinger and Darrell Smith made big plays.

Jordan Leggett should be able to rejoin the crew for the South Carolina State game.

“It was good to see (Seckinger) him come through and transition from practice," Swinney said. "Seckinger is a long, athletic guy. That last touchdown was a tremendous effort on his part. He's going to be a good player. I really like him. And Darrell Smith is just a tremendous football player for us."

Swinney said Destefano will continue to help out at tight end "until we get everybody back in the fold."

Touchback after touchback: Bradley Pinion was a difference-maker against the Bulldogs. His kickoffs were untouchable - seven straight touchbacks, most of them with no chance of return. His kickoffs robbed Georgia of a dangerous weapon, and shored up one of last season's Clemson weaknesses, especially in a high-scoring game with multiple potential opportunities.

"He'll definitely be our special teams player of the game," Swinney said. "He was awesome. His kickoffs were incredibly consistent. I thought he was ready for the moment. He's just a true sophomore."

The ball is in good hands: Neither Martavis Bryant nor Charone Peake can claim to have had perfect games, but both showed toughness and savvy by bouncing back after drops and making plays that helped win the game. And Sammy Watkins again showed himself to be a threat on every touch.

Swinney said some of the problems that arose during the game were "technique things."

"We certainly weren't as sharp as we needed to be at wide-out, but I'm not very concerned about that," he said. 'It was disappointing to see Martavis not transition some things from the practice field because he's been so outstanding during camp. But it's the first time he's been put in there as the guy. It's a learning opportunity for him. Don't forget about him. He'll be back."

The ball is in good hands, part 2: Rod McDowell was a beast in his first opportunity as the Tigers' go-to running back.

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