Welcome Back Sammy Watkins
“Now maybe everybody will quit asking me about Sammy Watkins” said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney in praise of his star wide receiver after a convincing 42-13 victory at Wake Forest Thursday night. Watkins trumped DeAndre Hopkins’ 197-yard performance against Boston College earlier in the year with 202 yards, 193 of which came in the first half. Tajh Boyd broke Charlie Whirehurst’s record for passing yards, totaling 428 yards without throwing an interception. Boyd spread the love around on offense with five touchdown passes to five different receivers (Watkins, Hopkins, Brandon Ford, Sam Cooper, and Charone Peake).
Coming off a short week of practice and season lows in many offensive categories in the team’s previous game against Virginia Tech, Clemson silenced its critics by winning convincingly in Winston-Salem. The Tigers had more yards in the first half against the Demon Deacons (343) than in the entire game against the Hokies (295). Clemson essentially put this game away in the first half as Sammy Watkins had three receptions of 50+ yards, one of which was a 61-yard touchdown catch.
“We expect to execute in a manner that we score every time we get the ball,” Boyd said. “So when you don’t do it, sometimes it’s kind of frustrating. Sometimes it’s kind of disappointing. But all you can do is just keep working, keep pushing.” This mentality is something Clemson has lacked in previous years and, in turn, is much of the reason for recent success.
“I don’t know that we didn’t respect Clemson’s speed. I think we didn’t realize how fast those guys were,” said Wake Forest Coach Jim Grobe. Since 2000, Wake has only allowed 400+ receiving yards and 100+ rushing yards once until this week’s loss against Clemson. The last time Clemson passed for 400+ yards was in a 34-31 victory against Duke on November 2, 2002.
Adding to Clemson’s Defensive End Legacy: Robert Nkemdiche
Clemson landed the top recruit in the nation this past summer according to ESPN150, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche. While playing for Grayson High School in Logansville, Georgia, Robert recorded 19 sacks as a sophomore, then matched that total as a junior. During his junior year, he also had 500 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns on the ground, leading his team to a state title.
Nkemdiche missed all of spring practice heading into his senior season due to a hip injury he incurred at a Nike football camp, but the highly sought-after teenager should be at full strength as a freshman at Clemson next season.
Robert’s mother is campaigning for governor in one of their Nigerian home states. Robert’s father, Sunday, is currently serving as a doctor at the Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.
Current NFL defensive ends from Clemson include Da’Quan Bowers, Andre Branch, and Jarvis Jenkins. Clemson legend Gaines Adams, the fourth overall pick in the 2007 draft by Tampa Bay, died of cardiac arrest related to an enlarged heart in 2010. Nkemdiche’s ESPN scouting report reads, “Nkemdiche is one of the more promising defensive prospects we have seen over the last few years. He has a physical build suited for someone beyond his age and possesses outstanding overall size and strength while still displaying room for some added bulk and growth.” If recent history repeats itself, Nkemdiche will fall into a line of outstanding defensive ends for the Tigers.
On the Road Again
Clemson plays its second consecutive night game on the road this Saturday against the Duke Blue Devils in Durham, NC. Wallace Wade Stadium, with a capacity of 33,941, will be flooded with orange much like last Thursday’s game in Wake Forest. Surprisingly, Duke enters the contest with a 5-0 record at home this season, including a last minute victory over North Carolina, a team the Blue Devils hadn’t defeated at home since 1988.
The conference rivals enter the game with 2-1 division records. Clemson is averaging 498 yards per game on offense, 318 passing and 180 rushing. Duke’s defense has looked suspect at times this season, giving up 48 points to Florida State and 41 to Virginia Tech in two of the last three weeks. The Blue Devils have yet to see a passing attack as potent at Clemson’s this year. Boyd enters the game completing 67.6% of his passes for 2,336 yards and 20 touchdowns against just six interceptions. If Duke can force a few turnovers as they did early against Virginia Tech, however, it could make things interesting.
Duke’s offensive production has surprised some critics this season. Quarterback Sean Renfree has completed 69% of his passes, throwing for 1,885 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions thus far. The Blue Devils have struggled running the ball up to this point, and they will have to be successful on the ground to compete Saturday. Don’t be surprised if Duke’s offensive coordinator, Kurt Roper, pulls some trick plays out early to try and disrupt Clemson’s rhythm. By the numbers, Clemson should be able to take care of the Blue Devils. With Duke playing at home, the spread is 14 points. I have Clemson covering it, winning 52- 17.