UCF Commentary: Tigers Get the Win

With the first game of the season officially behind us, what can we say about the rest of the season? Well, if you listen to some fans you might not like what you hear. Its time to relax and examine what it will take for the Tigers to reach the next level. Offensively, the focus must return to the passing game. Defensively, there has to be more pressure on the quarterback...and how about those special teams?

For just a minute, let the first game of the season slip past your mind.

Maybe that's a difficult task for most Tiger fans, but the simple fact is that Clemson played a very solid team on Saturday, a team that could potentially finish ahead of Virginia and N.C. State if they were playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The obstacles that were faced in this game are going to be the same ones that the Tigers will face all season long.

With less than 160 yards passing, the first area that most of the press has focused on is the passing game. Why didn't Woody throw the ball down field more? Who is going to step up at wide receiver this season? When will Clemson "open up" the offense?

The answers to those questions are not easy.

Roscoe Crosby appears to be poised to make an immediate contribution to this team, as he gathered in 3 catches for over 60 yards.

Crosby looked as smooth as could be expected for a true freshman playing in his first collegiate football game. I would expect that he will see many more passes thrown his way against Wofford and that he will continue to be eased into division 1-A college football.

Airese Currie had a couple of deep balls thrown his way but did not get into the stat column. He too will also get more opportunities this week. The more that both of these players get involved in the offense, the better, because they are going to be the guys that we begin to depend on in the later half of the season.

Jackie Robinson and Matt Bailey were a complete disappointment against UCF, as they both failed to consistently get open. Bailey is a big physical receiver, and he must start to produce or his playing time will be cut into significantly.

The last 5 games that Clemson has played has seen a dramatic drop off in scoring production. 18.4 points a game is not what I would call a "high-flying" offense. In fact, the last game that saw any significant scoring was the UNC game when we went back to the downfield passing game and Willie Simmons.

Its time to do what is necessary to spark this team into serious contention. The talent is there for this to be a legitimate 9 win team, and now is the time to return this offense back to it's roots- the passing game.

That's what its going to take for the Tigers to have a chance to improve this season. Until there is a strong commitment to the passing game at Clemson, this team will continue to struggle to put 30 points on the board.

Until this team decides to throw the football down field and lose its predictability, we will not become a team that can compete for the ACC Championship.

Saturday afternoon featured more of the same from last season, the passing patterns and play calling were not a thing of beauty.

It also concerns me that I hear people talking about the fact that we are holding back the offense for more important games later in the season.

I've got news for you. Its not true.

Tommy Bowden didn't sit down 10 days before the season opener and say what can we get away and still win this game. There was no reason at all to hold the offense back against a team that, on paper, is as talented as the Tigers are through the starting 22 players. The only thing he might of held back is any of the new wrinkles in the Pod formation.

This first game was part growing pains, part lack of execution. Too many penalties and a suspect job of blocking by an experienced offensive line substantially contributed to the lackluster start for the offense. Even with that, Woody Dantzler continued to misfire and continued to run the football too much and too early.

If the offense continues to struggle like it did versus Central Florida, I promise you that Willie Simmons will get his chance to take control of this offense. Willie is the better passing quarterback, and more importantly, he knows where to release the football when he's blitzed. Woody continues to struggle in making his progressions, and it has really cost this football team over the last 5 games.

Defensively, it appears that Reggie Herring has decided that under no circumstance will he allow his defense to give up the big play, and that's just fine. By doing this, he is allowing his secondary to gain confidence. Brian Mance, Kevin Johnson, Ryan Hemby, Eric Meekins, Marcus Houskin and company will all be helped in the long run because they are going to get plenty of opportunities to make plays.

Because the secondary is playing so far off the ball, 5-yard outs, 7-yard curls will be what you see from teams like Wofford, Duke and Virginia over the next three weeks.

Every time one of our young guys in the secondary faces one of those plays, they learn. They learn how to improve their tackling and their cover skills, and that will pay huge dividends for this defense in the long run against the quicker opponents.

That being said, the defensive line will have to continue to improve as two sacks against a team that threw the football almost 50 times just won't cut it. Poor tackling and missed assignments can be corrected through a tough week of practice, and I expect we will see far less of that over the next 3 weeks.

The special teams looked as strong as they have in the last 7 or 8 years. Wynn Kopp was very impressive in 6 punts averaging close to 45 yards, Tony Lazzara sent his kickoffs into the end zone, and Aaron Hunt was perfect on all of his PATs. Brian Mance was also stellar in his punt and kickoff returns.

Fortunately for the Tigers, they'll have 3 more weeks to tune up for the "meat of the schedule." But rest assured, the passing game and defensive line are the two areas that must see significant improvement if this team is going to challenge Georgia Tech, Florida State, and even N.C. State for the ACC crown.

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