Pitt-Clemson grades: Big mistakes sink Watson in Clemson’s upset loss

The biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from Pittsburgh’s 43-42 win over Clemson.

| 8 months ago
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Pitt-Clemson grades: Big mistakes sink Watson in Clemson’s upset loss

Pittsburgh Panthers 43, Clemson Tigers 42

Here are the biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from Pittsburgh’s 43-42 win over Clemson.

Pittsburgh Panthers

Quarterback grade: Nathan Peterman, 69.0

Peterman protects the rock

One of the biggest reasons that the Panthers snuck away with a win on Saturday was their ability to avoid the big mistake. Peterman’s ability to stay poised under pressure and still keep the ball out of harm’s way resulted in their offensive explosion. The Pitt quarterback was pressured on 16 of his 44 dropbacks, but actually passed for more yards under pressure (159) than when kept clean (149).

Top offensive grades:

RB James Conner, 78.3
TE Scott Orndoff, 76.8
RT Brian O’Neill, 75.8
FB Geroge Aston, 72.0
WR Jester Weah 70.0

Triple option throws Clemson for a loop

The story of the Pittsburgh offense wasn’t any particular player, but rather the schematic brilliance from Matt Canada that Clemson couldn’t figure out. The Panthers were essentially running the triple option for much of the game with a shovel pass to a pulling tight end as the third option. Off of it they ran halfback wheel routes and jet sweeps that left the Tigers defense reeling. Three of their six scores came off a variation of the play.      

Top defensive grades:

LB Matt Galambos, 84.2
S Reggie Mitchell, 82.2
LB Saleem Brightwell, 82.1
DT Shakir Soto, 80.4
DE Ejuan Price, 79.5

D-line bails out secondary

It was a night to forget for many in the Pitt secondary. Three different players allowed at least 90 yards into their coverage lead by Avonte Maddox yielding 103 yards on 10-10 targets. When the chips were down though the Panthers run defense came through in a big way. They allowed only 42 yards on 21 designed carries including the two huge stops on third and fourth down with one yard to go late in the fourth quarter.

Clemson Tigers

Quarterback grade: Deshaun Watson 71.4

Big mistakes sink Watson

Much of Watson’s day was spent taking advantage of gaping holes in Pittsburgh’s coverage or exploiting numbers advantages on run-pass options. The Clemson offense walked up and down the field with ease for most of the day, but two huge turnovers in the end zone took critical points off the board for the Tigers. While the interception on the overthrown post was a bit unlucky to end up in the hands of the defense, both the red zone picks were the result of complete misreads and should never have even been attempted.

Top offensive grades:

WR Mike Williams 86.2
WR Artavis Scott 76.9
TE Jordan Leggett 74.0
RG Maverick Morris 73.6
RG Tyrone Crowder 71.6

Mike Williams puts on a show

If you believe in the concept of draft stock, there’s a big arrow pointing upwards next to Williams name after a performance like that. The redshirt junior wide out caught 15-16 targets for 202 yards including multiple contested catches. He also broke three tackles after the catch and scored a touchdown on one of the most impressive receiving performances all season.

Top defensive grades:

CB Ryan Carter, 81.2
DT Carlos Watkins, 80.5
S Jalen Williams 78.4
DE Clelin Ferrell 76.3
CB Cordrea Tankersley, 74.4

Linebackers in a blender

As I mentioned earlier, the triple option sank the Tigers and it was the linebackers who were the main culprits. Ben Boulware and Kendall Joseph combined to give up 12-14 targets for 179 yards and four touchdowns. It’s hard to blame them solely though as the unblocked edge players looked completely lost for much of the game as well creating even more stress for the linebacker duo.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Pittsburgh Defensive Tackle Jeremiah Taleni


| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

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