Simply put, nothing worked. Turnovers continue to be a major problem as Tajh Boyd accounted for three all by himself and Mike Bellamy put it on the ground for the third time this season as well. The Tigers were also woeful in trying to establish the running game, recording 34 yards on 28 attempts. Injuries on the offensive line were certainly a factor, but there was no excuse for the sheer lack of determination at the point of attack. The bad news is all the momentum established during the first eight games of the season has seemingly evaporated - and that doesn't bode well headed for next weekend.
While the offense didn't do this unit any favors with four turnovers, Kevin Steele's group has its own issues to worry about after another lackluster performance. There were more missed tackles. There were linebackers out of position. And Mike Glennon picked the Clemson secondary apart, completing 19 of 29 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns. This late in the season, it's hard to expect significant improvement these next two weeks, but some how, some way, Steele needs to rally the troops. South Carolina will run a heavy-dose of the inside-zone next weekend and QB Connor Shaw will present significant problems with his mobility. Right now, that's not a favorable matchup for this crew.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Chandler Catanzaro made both of his field goal attempts and Dawson Zimmerman averaged 45.7 yards per punt, but otherwise Clemson's special teams did nothing noteworthy.
This team was flat. There's no other way to spin it. While the players said all the right things leading up to Saturday, it's obvious something just wasn't right internally. Perhaps they were looking ahead to next week, having already clinched the Atlantic Division championship. Maybe N.C. State simply wanted it more. Maybe it was a little bit of both. Whatever reason you want to point to, it was clear this team wasn't ready to play ... and that's concerning given how successful a season it's been up to this point. How will this team respond after such a deflating defeat?
This was easily the worst performance of the Dabo Swinney era. For all the positive momentum generated by Clemson's third-year head coach during his tenure, Saturday's outing was as disappointing as any Clemson fan has witnessed in recent memory. Losing to N.C. State is one thing ... but by 24 points? And what happens next week against the Gamecocks? The Tigers needed to generate momentum with a strong showing Saturday but it didn't happen. Now Clemson has to go on the road to face an injury-riddled South Carolina squad that is aiming for three consecutive wins in the annual grudge-match for the first time in this writer's lifetime. Will the turnovers stop? Can this team find a reasonable answer on the offensive line if Phillip Price can't play? Will the defense be able to contain Connor Shaw? At this point, there are many more answers than questions headed towards the most critical stretch of the season.
GRADES: What Now?
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