Clemson won its 26th consecutive game on Saturday with a 52-3 victory over Wake Forest, securing their third perfect ACC record in five years.
The Tigers once again dominated on both sides of the ball, winning its fourth straight game by 45 points or more, becoming just the third team since 1936 to win four consecutive games by 45 points or more (following Army in 1944 and Nebraska in 1972). Clemson dominated Wake defensively, holding the Demon Deacons to only 105 yards and three points, easily qualifying as the Tigers’ best defensive performance this season.
I believe this is the first edition of Paws Up, Paws Down this season that there will actually be no Paws Down. I tried to find little snippets that were “disappointing” or things Clemson could improve on, but this was about as perfect of a game as a team can play. However, do not show this to the coaching staff because as we all know, there are always things a team can improve on in their coaches’ eyes.
Paws Up: Clemson’s offense displays its power once again
The stats will say that LSU, Ohio State or Alabama (maybe not now with Quarterback Tua’s injury though) have the best offensive lines in the country, but there should still be a spot for Clemson in that conversation. The Tigers have scored 45+ points in six consecutive games, including 50+ in each of the last four. Their offense has averaged 590.7 yards per game over its last six games, recording 500+ yards in each of those contests. Clemson’s average scoring margin over the last six games is +43, which is an absurd number given the Tigers have played three top-50 teams in total offense in its past five games. A large part of this offensive outburst is the revival of Trevor Lawrence as the superstar we know him to be. Lawrence has thrown for 1,444 yards, 19 touchdowns and three interceptions in his last six starts, adding 217 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. His reemergence has vaulted Clemson back into the spotlight after slipping in the polls during the first few weeks. Travis Etienne has also been on a tear as of late. In November alone, Etienne has rushed for 445 yards and five touchdowns, adding 91 receiving yards and a touchdown through the air. The offense has finally come together like most knowledgeable people believed it would. Opposing defenses should be terrified (looking at you, U of SC).
Paws Up: Clemson’s defense posts best performance of the year
Brent Venables is the best coordinator in college football right now. I do not know who needed to hear that, but there it is. Venables’ job with a relatively fresh defense this season has been nothing short of phenomenal. After losing massive amounts of talent on the defensive front seven from last season, Venables has shifted his approach to Clemson’s defensive attack this year. The previous three or four years under Venables, the defense focused primarily on stopping the run, and with the defensive linemen Clemson’s had recently, that was easy. This season however, the defensive plan has come in shutting down opposing offenses’ passing attacks, and boy have they ever. Clemson’s pass defense this season has been one of the best in the nation, holding opposing passing completions to just 47 percent, posting a 41percent completion mark on passes beyond the line of scrimmage. Clemson sits atop the leaderboard in first down defense and team passing efficiency defense (how efficiently Clemson disrupts opposing pass attempts). The Tigers are also second in passing yards allowed and total defense, third in scoring defense and rank inside the top 15 in tackles for loss (7th), interceptions (8th) and red zone defense (13th). Led by linebacker Isaiah Simmons (74 tackles, 12 tackles-for-loss, six sacks), the Clemson defense has been statistically better than the vaunted 2018 squad. This year’s team may not have the big names like last year, but they have certainly been more dominant. Clemson has yet to give up more than 20 points or 300 yards in a game this season (the Tigers are the only team this century to hold its opening 11 opponents to under 300 yards each). Take a bow, Brent Venables.
The one not-so-good spot I remembered while writing this was the special teams unit. Will Spiers had yet another dismal day punting, racking up just 72 yards on two punts, which was about 23 yards less than his backup, Steven Sawicki, had. Granted, Clemson is scoring 40 or 50 points every game so punting matters little to the team. It would still be nice to have a guy that could boom footballs 50+ yards or so consistently but that kind of weapon for Clemson might be unfair right now.
The Tigers are 11-0 as they take the upcoming weekend off to prepare for their showdown with in-state rival South Carolina next Saturday in Columbia. Viewers should expect more bottles and trash thrown onto the field from South Carolina fans than Gamecock points in the game, but nevertheless, we look forward to paying our little brother a visit once again. Are we at five? Six? Seven straight wins? I’ve lost count after this long.