Clemson was beaten in just about every phase of the game Saturday, including coaching. What reeks even more is that it was a similar refrain to the past 3 games against ranked opponents in Death Valley. It was also eerily similar to the debacle in Orlando that we all had just soon forget about.
But it happened, and we must pick ourselves up.
Here is how I graded to Tigers on my 5 keys to the game.
Run Tigers, Run!
It became apparent early that the offensive line was not going to control the line of scrimmage against the Bulldogs. That, in itself, was a little concerning after the first couple of series. Compounding that concern was the play of Duane Coleman. Now, he is not to blame for the blocking, but it is also apparent that he is not good enough to overcome average blocking either. His 33 yards on 12 carries is not what Clemson needed in the game versus Georgia, and it is not what Clemson needs to become a good football team in 2003. The holes were not there much of the day, and when they were Coleman could not hit them quick enough to make big plays.
I guess I'm still bitter at the fact that Yusef Kelly reported to camp overweight because I really had high hopes for him this year. I guess I'm still bitter at the fact that it still does not appear (even with a tight end and a fullback) that we can push good teams off the ball. Overall, I guess I'm just bitter that we apparently will have to sit through another year of football where our offensive line simply does not get the job done.
You can go ahead and copy and paste this key to the game because every time we play a football game (whether against Furman or Florida State), we are going to have a HUGE question as to whether we can control the line of scrimmage.
A "Special" Reversal
The special teams mistakes were nowhere to be found Saturday. Granted, we only kicked off one time. But we did punt the ball well (41.3 yard average by Cole Chason) and we kicked off well (Jad Dean belted one out of the end zone on his only kickoff attempt of the afternoon). Both of those are positive signs, and hopefully Chason will get less work and Dean will get more as the season goes on. And our kickoff returns were solid, averaging over 26 yards a return while giving the offense field position around midfield on two separate occasions.
Some concerns in the special teams areas revolved around the punt returns and field goal kicking assignment. Georgia only punted twice, but neither time were we able to get a return off. Credit that to solid punting, but that was an area where we needed to make a big play. So we have to find a way to get some return attempts in the punting game.
One of the biggest questions (coaching-wise) that I had Saturday was in placing Aaron Hunt on the field for a 52-yard field goal. First of all, in that situation, punting was probably the best move. Georgia did us a favor in not attacking for another score before half time after Hunt missed the kick. However, if you are going to kick in that situation, why Hunt? He has never kicked anything near a 52-yard field goal in a game. Furthermore, all the coaches did during August drills is rave on the strength of Jad Dean's leg. I thought the reason he did not kick it was because his leg was tired (a rumor that had been floating around). However, after watching him boom his only kickoff into the back of the end zone, it was apparent to me that his leg was just fine. Not giving him a crack at that 52 yarder was just plain stupid, if you don't mind me saying.
Burn Baby Burn…A Heat Inferno
It was hot down on the field. It was hot in the stands. It affected us. It did not affect Georgia.
In one of the most perplexing parts of the game, Georgia seemed to handle the heat (even with all the depth concerns because of the suspensions and injuries) much better than Clemson did. Whitehurst fumbles the ball on a snap after center Tommy Sharpe throws up on the ball. Our defensive players seemed completely wiped out about midway through the 3rd quarter, and it started to show in the 14 4th quarter points the ‘Dogs put on the board. And our offensive line seemed to be sucking wind early in the 3rd quarter.
What looked to be a strength going into the game turned out to be part of our demise. Georgia, even without the luxury of 2 deep at every position, was in better shape than the Tigers. I'm going to go on the assumption that the defense was just put on the field way to much, therefore causing their exhaustion. I can't explain Sharpe and the other offensive linemen dragging.
Avoid Getting Shock-ley'd
Georgia has two special quarterbacks in David Greene and D.J. Shockley. I thought Green played flawlessly, and had his receivers not dropped a few passes his stats would have been gaudy. Shockley, too, was impressive when he was in the game and it was obvious that he was a step quicker than the worn out Clemson defense in the 2nd half.
The Bulldogs have a unique situation that seems to continue to work against the obvious odds that are stacked against it. I got the feeling that Georgia could have won the game 30-0 with either quarterback getting every snap.
I still think that Shockley will be the smarter choice to start for the Bulldogs down the road. But Shockley's brilliance was not needed to win this game Saturday, it was just used to put icing on the cake.
Loud And Proud
It would be hard pressed for me to criticize the Clemson crowd. Tiger fans came ready, and they were just waiting for the chance to be a factor in this game. But the Tiger offense never game them the chance to do their duty, and the crowd turned out to be a compete non-factor.
The Clemson faithful are getting way too used to this happening, and most could sense by the start of the 3rd quarter that this was not going to be a great day for Clemson football.
Too bad. These dedicated fans deserve better than they got Saturday…especially piled on top of what they got last year in games versus N.C. State, Maryland, and Texas Tech.
We all are bleeding today and no band-aid is going to make it better in the next couple of weeks. We all wait so long for the season to start that is it just plain silly to give up after one game.
Our concerns about coaching and the direction of the program will be sorted out in the next few months. While it does, the best advice I can give is to enjoy Clemson football for what it is right now. No, it is not what we want or even envisioned, but it is ours. There is plenty that can still be accomplished this year and there is no reason to not expect improvement. In fact, we should demand it.
The only positive I can find from Saturday would have to be all of you that stopped by the Tiger Pregame Show brought to you by CUTigers.com. Thanks for the hundreds of folks who dropped by the tent, and we hope to see you this week from 12-2.
Scott Rhymer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Scott and CUTigers.com publisher Roy Philpott are the co-hosts of the CUTigers.com
Pregame Show on WCCP 104.9 FM, which airs 2 hours prior to the Tiger Tailgate Show on Clemson Gamedays.
Grading Saturday's Fiasco
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