Georgia Tech-Clemson grades: Watson, defense fuel Tigers' win
Here are the biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from the Clemson Tigers’ 26-7 win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets:
Quarterback grade: Deshaun Watson, 70.9
Deshaun Watson showed his arm talent in the win tonight, he also showed his inconsistencies. After a few beautiful throws throughout the game, notably a corner route to WR Ray-Ray McCloud and even the would-be touchdown throw to Mike Williams on which the receiver couldn’t get his foot down in bounds, he showed great arm strength and ball placement. He followed those up with over-throwing an open McCloud on a slant-and-go route when he had three steps on the defensive back in the end zone, as well being mildly off-target on a few shorter throws.
Aside from one quarterback hit and one sack, Watson stayed upright the majority of the night. Of his 49 dropbacks, he was under pressure on only eight of those. Watson will be looking to stay more consistent throughout the year, but showed the ability he possesses and why he’ll be a top quarterback prospect whenever he decides to enter the NFL draft.
Top offensive grades:
C Jay Guillermo, 85.2
G Tyrone Crowder, 78.8
WR Ray-Ray McCloud, 78.4
TE Jordan Leggett, 75.6
WR Mike Williams, 74.0
Clemson’s dynamic receivers too much for Georgia Tech
Mike Williams’ size and Ray-Ray McCloud’s versatility proved to be too much to handle for the Georgia Tech secondary. They were targeted 22 times and came down with 14 catches for 162 yards. Most of Georgia Tech’s struggles with these two came after the catch, where the duo combined to force seven missed tackles and totaled 87 yards after the catch, with McCloud accounting for 61 of those. Center Jay Guillermo was the Tigers’ highest-graded offensive player, as he was consistent in pass-blocking and excelled in the run game, earning an 83.6 run grade on the night. He’s been an important presence for this young offensive line, and that showed when he left briefly with an injury and backup Justin Falcinelli entered the game and immediately surrendered the only sack given up on the night.
Top defensive grades:
DI Dexter Lawrence, 80.4
DI Carlos Watkins, 76.2
LB Ben Boulware, 75.7
LB Dorian O’Daniel, 72.5
CB Ryan Carter, 72.3
Clemson’s defensive front has no issues handling the triple option
Clemson was clearly prepared to face Georgia Tech’s unique, triple-option offense. As a team, the Tigers accumulated 26 total stops for the game – a stop constitutes as a tackle that results in a loss, which varies depending on down and distance, for the offense – on 56 defensive plays, compared to 21 for Georgia Tech on 82 plays. LB Dorian O’Daniel led the defense with five stops, but this was a game dominated by the front seven as a whole, evident by 10 different defensive lineman or linebackers earning a stop.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Quarterback grade: Justin Thomas, 63.5
Thomas never able to get into a rhythm
Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas never had a chance in this one. His game as a passer can be summed up by this: Thomas dropped back 16 times on the night, and on seven of those dropbacks he either threw the ball away or was sacked. Thomas was only able to complete one pass on the night that traveled over 10 yards in the air, and it came late in the game on a busted coverage. That play saved him from having only three passing yards on the night.
Top offensive grades:
FB Clinton Lynch, 77.5
FB Isiah Willis, 68.4
WR Brad Stewart, 66.5
QB Justin Thomas, 63.5
RB Dedrick Mills 61.9
Offense had no answers for the Clemson defense
Georgia Tech had nothing working for them on offense last night. It’s telling for this offense when there isn’t a single offensive lineman who cracks the top-5 in terms of overall grade, seeing as they rely on their rushing game moreso than just about any other team in the country. Clemson’s in-the-box defenders were simply too big, quick and prepared for the Georgia Tech rushing attack, often times side-stepping blocks before they even had a chance to land. The Yellow Jackets averaged 3.6 yards per carry last night — for the season (including last night, even) they’re averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Clemson’s defense was simply too much.
Top defensive grades:
CB Lawrence Austin, 80.2
S Corey Griffin, 77.2
LB Chase Alford, 75.1
DL Patrick Gamble, 74.4
DL KeShun Freeman, 72.1
Perimeter matchups cause problems for Yellow Jackets
Every team will find it hard to match up with Clemson WR Mike Williams, and the Yellow Jackets were no different, as he used his size and strength over CB Lance Austin to haul in an early touchdown pass. The Tigers went after Austin 17 times on the night, completing 11 of those for 108 yards. He is not to be confused with CB Lawrence Austin, who was thrown at four times and allowed only 11 yards to opposing receivers. Lawrence Austin was also called upon to help against the run and the physical play style of Clemson RB Wayne Gallman, and he answered that call by recording a team-high eight tackles and three run stops on the night. The defensive front failed to generate much pressure, only hurrying Watson six times on 49 dropbacks and generating one sack.