2 Weeks Left to Solve Some Big Problems

No matter how you spin it, Saturday's loss to the Georgia Bulldogs is tough to swallow. There's no sugar coating it in any way, shape, or form. The Georgia Bulldogs walked out of Death Valley yesterday afternoon clearly knowning they were the better team.

Raise your hand if you just had that 'gut feeling' that Clemson was going to hand the Dawgs a tough opening season loss Saturday afternoon.

Yup, me too.

After following this team closer than I ever have this spring and fall, I too thought that Clemson would be able to pull off an upset to open the 2003 regular season.

But we were wrong, all wrong.

Even by changing the offensive philosophy of this team by getting rid of the no-huddle, and even with Tommy Bowden calling the plays, the Tigers could do nothing but go backwards Saturday afternoon against the nation's ninth ranked team.

"We just kept them on the field too long offensively by not getting anything going. We couldn't give them any excitement about playing. If we could have given them something to be enthused about, maybe it's a different ballgame."

The Tigers would manage 35 rushing yards on 24 attempts and just 199 total yards in a 30-0 loss in front of an ABC regional audience.

The holes that were there during fall practice, weren't there Saturday.

"I just thought there were going to be bigger holes, but today things were real tight," said Duane Coleman, who led the Tigers with 29 yards on 12 attempts.

"We just weren't able to get anything going, but I never thought it would be as bad as it was. I don't know what to say," Coleman added.

Simply put, Georgia was better in phase of the game Saturday, but the most obvious difference was the Dawgs' play in the trenches.

The Tigers' offensive line could do nothing with Georgia's front four. There were no holes to run through, the pass protection was average at best, and guys were getting blown off the ball with regularity.

All-American defensive end David Pollack put an exclamation point on an outstanding defensive effort by intercepting Charlie Whitehurst on a critical fourth down play early.

With Georgia leading 16-0 in the early stages of the fourth quarter, Pollack jumped up and intercepted a pass at the Bulldogs' 16-yard line and returned it 24 yards to effectively seal the deal.

"We were in the right place all day long," said a confident Pollack. "It wasn't just by accident. Our coaches had us in the right place and the right time and we were ready to play."

Pollacks' interception came 3 plays after the Tigers had 1st-and-goal at the 3-yard line, but a false start penalty on Bobby Williamson, an incompletion, and a sack forced the Tigers into a desperation fourth down play.

Georgia even exploited one of the Tigers' strengths in right cornerback Justin Miller, who is considered to be one of the top cover corners in the country in 2003. Miller was burned deep by Fred Gibson for a 56-yard touchdown pass on Georgia's first possession of the game.

"I was excited and I wanted to get in there and make the play, but those things happen to the best of us," Miller said afterwards. "I got a little caught up in it and he ran a great pattern and I bit on it."

And to make things worse, the Tigers' so-called "vaunted" receiving corps, could seemingly do nothing. While Airese Currie established a career high in receptions with 7, the Tigers sent him deep downfield only once.

Derrick Hamilton, who had a costly fumble late in the 2nd quarter deep in Clemson territory, had 5 catches for 46 yards but could never break free into the open field.

No matter how you slice it, the Georgia Bulldogs walked out of Death Valley Saturday afternoon knowing they were the better team.

Unfortunately, now comes the hard part.

The Tigers basically have two weeks to get things in order. Two weeks to figure out how to run the football. Two weeks to establish an identity on offense, and two weeks to get their act together.

Based on Saturday's results, it looks like they have a long ways to go.

"We can play better," Bowden added. "We're a good team, this just gives us a challenge. There's a lot of football left and a lot of room for improvement."

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