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Hot Read: Clemson Still Kings of the ACC

By Dave Holcomb
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Clemson proved once again they might not have a real peer in the ACC, as the Tigers routed the No. 7-ranked Miami Hurricanes, 42-17.

Top 10 showdowns in the ACC have been rare in recent years. On Saturday, Clemson proved once again they might not have a real peer in the ACC, as the Tigers routed the No. 7-ranked Miami Hurricanes, 42-17.

Clemson has played very well this season but this was certainly the Tigers’ most complete performance through the first five weeks. Clemson has won 25 straight ACC games and its domination of the second-best ACC team through the first month of the 2020 season was even more impressive as it came on a day many other Top 10 teams struggled.

Here are five thoughts from Clemson’s blowout win Saturday night:

1. Clemson Defense Takes the Spotlight

Without a doubt, Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne shined again for the Tigers, but Clemson’s defense was arguably even better, as it held Miami’s explosive offense to almost zero big plays.

In the first three games of the season, the Hurricanes averaged almost 6.7 yards per play, but Saturday, they posted 3.9 yards per play. Junior running back Cam’Ron Harris was rushing for more than 8.0 yards per carry before Saturday, but Clemson held him to only three yards on eight rushing attempts.

The Hurricanes had nine plays that went for at least 30 yards in their first three games. On Saturday, Miami reached 30 yards on just two of its 13 drives.

Quarterback D’Eriq King was basically Miami’s only offense. While scrambling, he accumulated 84 of the team’s 210 yards. The Tigers also had three takeaways and five sacks.

2. Miami Not Quite Ready for Primetime

As good as Clemson’s defense was, Miami continuously beat themselves. The Hurricanes committed 15 penalties for 135 yards. Through the third quarter, Miami only had 17 more offensive yards than penalty yardage.

In the first half, the Hurricanes only had two first downs. Despite those struggles, Miami was within 11 points to begin the second half, and the Hurricanes defense recovered a fumble early in the third quarter, which set up King and Miami at the Clemson 40-yard line.

But after picking up one first down, King threw an interception in the end zone. That pretty much ended Miami’s chances of coming back.

3. Trevor Lawrence is Not Just Talented; He’s Tough

The score indicates Clemson had an easy night, but that really wasn’t the case for Lawrence. The Miami defense battered him most of the game, pressuring him on passing downs and imposing big hits on him when the Clemson quarterback decided to run.

It boiled over for Lawrence when he scored a rushing touchdown just after leaving the game with an injury in the third quarter. After tallying a three-yard touchdown run, Lawrence spiked the ball into a Miami’s defender’s face.

Lawrence rightfully earned a taunting penalty, but the Tigers have to love the fight their quarterback showed in a game that was pretty much already decided. Don’t mess with Lawrence and the Tigers.

4. Field Goal Unit Again Clemson’s Achilles Heel

If there’s only one thing to criticize with the Tigers at the moment, it’s definitely their kicking game.

Clemson kicker B.T. Potter saw all three of his field-goal attempts blocked Saturday. Miami’s Bubba Bolden got his hand on two of them. The Hurricanes ran a blocked field goal just before halftime back for a touchdown.

Dabo Swinney can receive most of the criticism for that play. Attempting a 61-yard field goal just before halftime was not a good idea at all. As expected, Potter’s kick was low on the very long kick and easily blocked.

But the other two blocks were due to poor execution on the Tigers special teams unit. That must be cleaned up in case Clemson ever plays a close game.

5. Miami Missed Chances to Compete in Second Half

After the scoop and score to end the second quarter, the Hurricanes only trailed by 11 and started the second half with the football. But they went three-and-out to begin the third quarter.

Then, Miami’s defense gifted King and the offense a fumble recovery in Clemson territory, but just four plays later, the Hurricanes gave possession right back.

On the first drive of the game, Clemson faced a fourth-and-4 at the Miami 37-yard line. The Lawrence pass fell incomplete, but the Hurricanes lined up offsides, giving the Tigers a first down. Clemson scored on the drive and then never trailed.

Miami must do a better job of taking advantage of its opponent’s mistakes if it’s going to be a serious national contender.