Inside Look: Grading Clemson's performance vs. Virginia

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Lyn-J Dixon posted the lowest and Trevor Lawrence the highest grade on offense, but Dixon redeemed himself on special teams. (Pics per the ACC)
Lyn-J Dixon posted the lowest and Trevor Lawrence the highest grade on offense, but Dixon redeemed himself on special teams. (Pics per the ACC)

No. 1-ranked Clemson topped the Virginia Cavaliers 41-23 on Saturday in Death Valley. We take a deeper look into the game with the help of Pro Football Focus:

Three standouts (offense)

QB Trevor Lawrence

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Lawrence walked away from the Virginia game with the highest offensive grade (89.6). It’s interesting to note that he had his lowest average of yards per attempt all season (8.4 after averaging 12.1 against Wake and 18.3 against The Citadel). That means the Tigers never really tried to stretch the field against the Cavaliers (perhaps saving something for Miami?). Lawrence is also the highest-graded quarterback in the country.

WR Brannon Spector

Spector drew the second-highest grade from PFF with a total of 78.2 All of his catches this season have been on the 0-10 yard range. He also was used to run the football Saturday night and showed a nice burst off the edge. It actually was good to see the No. 13 out there making plays.

TE Davis Allen

It was interesting that the Tigers ran a two tight end set a lot against the Cavaliers, and Allen was on the field for 35 snaps, just six behind starter Braden Galloway. When the Tigers ran two tights, wide receiver Cornell Powell would come off the field and Davis would come in for the extra blocking. As a result, Davis would up with the third-highest grade from PFF with a 70.4. -- David Hood

Three standouts (defense)

CB Andrew Booth

Make a play like this and you’re probably going to grade pretty well:

Booth topped out on defense at an 87.3 grade in 38 snaps with a 90.1 mark in coverage and just one reception allowed in five targets. The former 5-star prospect is coming into his own.

CB Derion Kendrick

Kendrick didn’t allow a reception in three targets and tallied three tackles for the only other defensive grade above 80 (80.1).

LB Mike Jones Jr.

Jones Jr. posted his best effort yet in a new starting role with a 77.2 grade overall with a couple solo stops and two tackle assists, allowing one catch in two targets for three yards and grading 79.6 in tackling and 77.4 in coverage.

Three downs

TE Braden Galloway

After a strong start in the opener (five catches for 60 yards), things have slowed down for the athletic tight end target. Galloway graded the second-lowest of any Clemson offensive player with a 50.8 mark Saturday. He rated 51.7 in the passing game, where he hauled in two catches in six targets (one drop) for 17 yards. The Upstate product also graded a 54 in 18 run blocking opportunities.

C Cade Stewart

The graduate center had a tough night with his lowest grade of the season (53.5), struggling in the pass blocking game in particular (46), allowing two pressures and a QB hurry and drawing a penalty as well in 67 snaps as a pass or run blocker. He graded at 80.4 in the opener and 63.7 versus The Citadel overall.

DE KJ Henry

Henry played among the most snaps on the defensive line and graded at 51.9 and was credited in the statbook with a 0.5 sack and three total tackles. His worst grade came in rush defense (43.7). -- Brandon Rink

Offense grade notes

*In the passing game, quarterback Lawrence had a relatively clean pocket all night. He was sacked once, hit twice, and hurried just four times. Cade Stewart and Matt Bockhorst each allowed two pressures, which means the Cavaliers were able to affect the pocket up the middle.

*The offense had its lowest grade of the season (80.6), behind Wake Forest (89.3), and The Citadel (92.1). The run blocking grade (69.2) was also the lowest of the season.

*The Tigers had the highest run grade of the season (69.6, edging out the game over Wake when it was 69.1), but the worst run blocking grade of the season (61.3, down from the high of 83.3 against Wake). It was also the worst pass blocking grade of the season (69.2).

*It will be a matchup of top quarterbacks next week against Miami. As we mentioned, Lawrence has the highest grades of any quarterback in the country (94.8), and he is followed by Mac Jones of Alabama (93.9), Zach Wilson of BYU (93.5), and Miami’s D’Eriq King (90.2). King is tied for fourth with Spencer Rattler of Oklahoma with the 90.2 grade. -- David Hood

Defense/special teams grade notes

* Clemson’s defense tallied its second-lowest grade of the season (71.5) -- ahead of the opener at Wake Forest (70.1) and well behind the shutout against The Citadel (91.7).

* Noting a difference in level of play from the Bulldogs to the Cavaliers, the biggest drop game-to-game came in an area that increased in need greatly game-to-game with the pass rush -- grading at 62.2 (after a 91.9 grade vs. The Citadel).

* The Tigers also struggled in tackling (55.3) and rush defense (67.4), while the coverage was graded the best yet this campaign (77.4).

* Special teams rated the lowest yet in 2020 (65.8) despite BT Potter going 2-for-2 on field goals and Lyn-J Dixon bringing out a 52-yard kick return. Will Spiers graded out at 61.7 after a 38.3 net punt average and one landing inside the 20 in three attempts. -- Brandon Rink

(Grades and stats via Pro Football Focus)

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