The Clemson Football overtime victory against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons was truly exciting. The team showed resilience coming back to force the game into overtime. They demonstrated that they can overcome adversity and keep fighting, but not everything was positive, and some people saw it coming.
If we take a step back, there is plenty to compliment about Clemson’s performance Saturday, but there are plenty of things to criticize as well. The outcome was great, but the game itself wasn’t a black or white situation – it was somewhere in a gray area.
Lee Corso made headlines on social media during the College Gameday show when he bluntly said Clemson was overrated and the Deacons would win.
"“Clemson better be alert for Wake. Wake has lost 13 straight to the Tigers, but this could be the year they win. Why? Because Wake has got an offense that can outscore the Tigers. They’re at home, they’ve won 11 straight games. So, it makes sense to me. Wake Forest upsets No. 5 Clemson today. Clemson’s overrated.”"
I still like Corso. He has health problems and at his age, he can’t engage with the Gameday crew like he has in the past. Many people completely dismiss him out of spite or cruelty, but that doesn’t mean he is incompetent. There are two components to his belief that Wake could outscore Clemson: 1) The Tiger offense couldn’t score enough points on the Deacons and 2) the Clemson defense couldn’t stop the Wake offense.
He was wrong on the outcome of the game, Clemson’s offensive performance was very good. DJ Uiagalelei had one of the best games of his career. He didn’t lose his composure when things didn’t gel for the offense. He was the steadying influence, which is perhaps the greatest compliment we can bestow on the young man, considering how shaken he appeared at times in 2021. The pass blocking by the line was fantastic most of the game. There were times when DJ had all day to find a receiver.
That said, there is still a negative on the offensive side: run blocking, which continues to struggle. The line almost always has one or two plays a game when they put a hat on a hat and open big holes for the running back, but most of the time they weren’t getting push, and there was very little room for the runner to find.
Corso was right about the Tiger defense, which was supposed to blow up the mesh, couldn’t stop the Deacon offense.
While the offense was overall very good, the defense overall was not good. The defensive backfield was exposed by a talented Deacon passing game. Missing three key players, the corners and safeties were beaten multiple times Saturday. The weakness exposed in the backfield is a major concern moving forward, and could end up being Clemson’s Achille’s heal, but the real problem was the defensive line.
While there were linemen who did make some big plays, much of the afternoon the group wasn’t being disruptive. It wasn’t unusual at all to see every Clemson defensive lineman stood up at the line by a good Wake Forest offensive line.
The gray area on defense doesn’t come from good vs bad – there wasn’t much good. The gray area comes from what should be good vs what we knew could struggle. We hoped the backfield would be better, but it was the line that everyone expected to be great, and so far, it hasn’t been.
Nobody thought Clemson would be successful this season because DJ would carry the offense, or because the defensive backfield would shutdown passing attacks. Clemson was supposed to be good because the run game and the defensive line would be dominant, taking the pressure off DJ and the inexperienced DBs. Now everything has been turned on its head.
Have you ever heard the song “Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealer’s Wheel?
"“Clowns to the left of meJokers to the rightHere I am stuck in the middle with you”"
Most fans are objective, but the lunatic fringe in Clemson Nation is still strong and determined to be one-sided in their thinking. DJ’s performance was fantastic Saturday, but there are still ‘jokers’ that want to pretend like he was the problem, posting ignorant tweets and posts at the drop of the tiniest hat. The reality is that he was the only thing that kept Clemson out of the loss column.
Clemson’s defensive line was drastically overrated in the preseason by most people. Just because they are deep doesn’t mean they are special. You can be angry about Corso’s ‘overrated’ comment, but he was right in this regard, which is a major problem considering the injuries and lack of experience in the defensive backfield. Yet there are ‘clowns’ who consider themselves loyalists who will ridicule you and sling all manners of venom if you dare point out that NC State is just the kind of team that can take advantage of Clemson’s deficiencies.
There is plenty to compliment about the Clemson football performance Saturday, but there are plenty of things to criticize as well
Fortunately, most Clemson fans don’t exist in the lunatic fringe, and understand that both things are true. DJ has come a long way since the end of last season, and this victory could be the catalyst that the offense needed.
Clemson could also be in big trouble against the Wolfpack if the defense doesn’t step it up. Devin Leary is a proven quarterback with good receivers. The Tigers can’t rely on DJ and the offense to win shootouts all year long. The State defense isn’t the Deacon defense. Playing in Death Valley will only get Clemson so far.
We can be thrilled with Saturday’s victory and DJ’s success while also being concerned for the immediate future.