Clemson-UNC grades: Lawson, Watson keep the Tigers undefeated

The top takeaways and highest-graded players from Saturday's ACC Championship Game.

| 11 months ago
(AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

(AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

Clemson-UNC grades: Lawson, Watson keep the Tigers undefeated

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from Clemson’s 47-35 victory over UNC in the ACC Championship Game:

Clemson Tigers

– The star for the Tigers on defense was the same player who stood out so much this season already. Defensive end Shaq Lawson (+7.0) produced his highest-graded game of the season in a performance that was highlighted by high fourth-quarter strip sack. He gave North Carolina left tackle Bentley Spain (-5.3) problems all game, registering a sack, two hits and three hurries last night.

– We’ve talked before about how impressive Deshaun Watson (+3.8) has been in the second half of this season, and last night was no different. The Tar Heels tried to frustrate him by covering the Tigers’ receivers well downfield, limiting him to two big completions of 35 and 42 yards. Watson adapted though, taking what they gave him with some nice throws that kept the chains moving, helping the Tigers complete touchdowns drives of 96 and 97 yards.

– Watson was impressive, but the story of the fourth quarter was running back Wayne Gallman (+2.3) who started the game slowly but grew from strength to strength as it wore on. Finishing the game with 187 yards, Gallman continued to churn out first down after first down as the Tigers increased their control of the game on offense. The defense may have allowed them back into the game late, but Gallman and the running game did their best to grind the game out and use up as much clock as possible.

Top performers:

DE Shaq Lawson (+7.0)

QB Deshaun Watson (+3.8)

DT D.J. Reader (+3.0)

HB Wayne Gallman (+2.3)

DE Kevin Dodd (+2.1)

North Carolina Tar Heels

– It wasn’t the night that quarterback Marquise Williams (-3.3) had hoped for. He’d graded negatively as a passer in each of the past two games, but this was his lowest-graded game of the season in that regard. He did improve as the game went on, and had success going downfield, completing 5-of-7 for 146 yards, but too often his passes sailed overthrown on him. He clearly struggled when the Clemson pass rush got there, completing just three of the 12 passes he attempted under pressure.

– Given the flow of the game, it was difficult to stick with the run, but running back Elijah Wood (+2.0) produced a few nice ones. He forced four missed tackles and saw 44 of his 65 rushing yards come after contact. It’s been an impressive second half to the season for Wood and, while the game didn’t go the Tar Heels way, the future looks bright with him in the backfield — especially if he continues to make people miss like he did this year, on his way to our 12th highest elusive rating among running backs at 81.1.

– As he has done before Nazaire Jones (+2.9) was the bright spot on the North Carolina defensive line. As a pass rusher he registered two hits and a hurry on Deshaun Watson, but the highlight of his game came when he batted a pass from the ACC Player of the Year into the air, and came down with it himself for the interception. On top of that, he made his presence felt against the run too, capping off an impressive season.

Top performers:

DT Nazair Jones (+2.9)

HB Elijah Hood (+2.0)

OG Landon Turner (+1.7)

WR Quinshad Davis (+1.4)

DE Jessie Rogers (+0.8)


| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • Matt Chapman

    Elijah Wood? Do they not employ editors at PFF?

    • Tim Edell

      The worst part was they used “Wood” twice.

      • Bobby

        Hey guys c’mon now. Maybe he just really likes the Lord of the Rings movies?