CLEMSON – Try to wrap your head around this figure.
In 34 career games, Player A has five games with two or more sacks – four against ACC, SEC or Big Ten opponents. In 24 career games, Player B has five games with two or more sacks, all against ACC or SEC opponents.
Player A is Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina. Player B is Vic Beasley of Clemson.
Now, don’t start debating which player is more talented or more accomplished. Tackles for loss, the statistical cousin to sacks, is a more refined measuring stick: Clowney has 15 games with more than one of those, while Beasley’s got eight. Clowney’s regarded as a generational talent at the next level; Beasley’s NFL draft stock is yet to be scrutinized.
This much is reasonable to assess, though: just as Clowney has long been given the opponent’s respect of chip blocks and double teams, Beasley’s starting to receive the same treatment. He has just two sacks in his last six games (albeit two against triple-option, run-heavy offenses) after gobbling up eight in the first five games of 2013.
Neither player was made available for comment this week by their respective programs.
“(Beasley’s) had a great year. He’s been incredibly productive. He’s up there still in sacks, still in tackles for loss,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Wednesday. “But there’s no question the last two weeks’ style of play has statistically hurt that category. But he ain’t worried about that. We’re 10-1.
“We need him to play well. He’s got to play like Vic’s capable of playing, with great energy and relentless pursuit to the football Saturday night.”
While Beasley’s been quiet the last month or so, Clemson wide receivers have made plenty of noise.
In three November games, junior Martavis Bryant has 332 yards (on 14 catches, and two touchdowns), barely edging junior Sammy Watkins’ 331 yards (20 catches, five touchdowns.) Both yardage figures rank in the top 20 nationally for this month.
“They’ve just grown. We’ve got good chemistry going,” Swinney said. “We’re gonna need to do that Saturday night.”
On the subject of statistical anomalies, this might be the best way to reflect how dominant Clemson has been through its ACC slate. Watkins has top-15 production in every major receiving category: 78 catches, 1,144 yards, 10 touchdowns.
In the 11 fourth quarters Clemson has played this year, Watkins has three grabs for 21 yards. Hard to make plays from the sideline, when the Tigers are running out second-stringers with an insurmountable lead.
“Most definitely, I think I’ll be playing the whole game. It’s going to be a four-quarter game,” Watkins said Tuesday. “I think we’ll be able to handle a four-quarter game. It’s going to be a challenge because we haven’t had too many of them this year, but we’ll be prepared.”
Quarterback Tajh Boyd shrugged off the latest reminders of Clowney’s summer comments about Boyd (and other passers) being “scared” of his presence. Swinney has praised South Carolina’s defensive front while downplaying the idea of added motivation to perform well against the Tigers’ biggest rival.
But when the Gamecocks do get mouthy – and they’ve had bragging rights, with four straight wins in the rivalry and 11 sacks in the past two games – that does irritate at least one Clemson offensive lineman.
“Yeah you definitely take offense, because it’s kind of a shot at you that you couldn’t protect (Boyd) and that’s the reason he’s getting sacked. So you definitely take it personally,” senior right guard Tyler Shatley said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to brush it off because stuff like that gets said all the time.”
Swinney said he hasn’t noticed any change in the offensive line’s attitude or preparation this week, just the way he prefers it.
“You can be all mad if you want on Tuesday or Wednesday, but we got to get our plan down and go play,” Swinney said. “Our guys know that we’ve gotten outplayed. It really has nothing to do with this year. It’s about what we’ve done. This year is a different team; we’ve had an excellent year. I think we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
Whether it’s the offensive line blocking for Boyd, or Beasley and the Tigers’ defensive front disrupting South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, those are major factors in determining Saturday’s outcome.
“This game will come down to the trenches,” Swinney said. “We’ve got to run the ball, protect our quarterback, stop the run and get pressure on their quarterback. It’s pretty simple when it comes down to it. Getting it done is a whole different deal.”