Grading The Tigers Versus Virginia

Clemson earned its most important win of the year Saturday afternoon in Death Valley to improve to 4-2 on the year (2-1 in the ACC). I picked a 19-17 Clemson win, which improves my prognostication record to 4-2 on the year.

I was off a combined 21 points, not a great day but certainly not my worst either! Here is how I graded the Tigers on my 5 keys to the game.

Speed Up
After begging for a quicker pace out of the offense last week, the results of my pleas received a mixed signal. The pace of the offense stayed about the same overall, but the Tigers did snap the ball at times without having Charlie get under center than back away.

Having not watched the film yet, it appeared that Clemson snapped the ball on a quick count about 15% of the time…a marked improvement from the 0% it employed at Maryland.

It still is frustrating to me to watch the lineman hold their 3-point stance for an eternity on 85% of the plays, but at least there was a little variation in the snap count that kept Virginia honest. Hopefully that number can increase a little as the weeks go on….

Rhymer's Grade…C+

Heisman or Hype?
Matt Schaub played like the defending ACC Player of the Year on Saturday. Schaub was 33-48 for 271 yards and two touchdowns Saturday against Clemson, numbers that proved what a quality quarterback he is.

As I stated in my keys to the game, Schaub could not beat Clemson without some help from his running game. And Schaub received no such help. For the second straight week, Clemson shut down the leagues #1 rushing offense by only allowing 53 yards rushing. Wali Lundy (12 rushes for 26 yards) and Alvin Pearman (8 rushes for 35 yards) were both rendered useless by the Cavalier coaches after the first half and the running game was completely abandoned in the 2nd half.

Schaub responded well to the all-out passing attack in the 3rd quarter, leading the Cavaliers to 17 unanswered points and the lead. But, despite Schaub's best efforts, Virginia's inability to run the football was the reason for defeat and the Clemson defense deserves a lot of credit on this Saturday.

Rhymer's Grade…B

Opportunistic Playmaking
Clemson finally made some big plays Saturday, and the difference was a win instead of a loss. Tony Elliot made a spectacular reception on a desperation throw by Charlie Whitehurst that led to Clemson's first touchdown of the game. Yusef Kelly lowered his shoulder and carried Virginia's defense into the endzone for a 4th quarter touchdown. Derrick Hamilton threw a pass to Kevin Youngblood to the one-yard line that set up a Clemson touchdown late in the game. Leroy Hill and the Clemson defense made several stops on crucial 3rd and one situations in the first half and in overtime to force Virginia into punting or field goal attempts instead of moving the chains. Tye Hill intercepted Matt Schaub with 5 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime. And, of course, Kevin Youngblood caught the touchdown pass of his life in overtime to give Clemson the win.

When you make plays, you win. When you don't, you lose. It is as simple as that, and Clemson made the plays Saturday. Had Clemson made a couple more plays (interception at the end of the half by Charlie and the sack/safety that a face masking penalty was called in the 3rd quarter) the Tigers may have won the game going away Saturday. As it was, Clemson made enough big plays to win against a Top 25 team, and I most certainly am not going to complain about that!

Rhymer's Grade…A

Hunt-ing For Dean And Furr Aaron Hunt missed another field goal Saturday, emphasizing a concern Tommy Bowden has had for a few weeks now. Hunt may have lost the job Saturday after the miss, but no other field goals were attempted to see if he had lost it. Hunt did kick all the extra points, possibly a sign that Bowden has not yet pulled the plug on Hunt. Taking my affection for Hunt out of the equation (you know, he did beat USC several years ago that endeared me to him forever) it may be time to give Dean or Furr a crack at field goals.

However, Dean has his own problems that really hurt Clemson's chances Saturday. Dean continues to kick off short of the end zone and Virginia broke two long returns on Clemson Saturday. In fact, Tye Hill had a touchdown saving tackle on the 4th quarter return.

You saw first hand the advantage of having a kicker kick the ball into the end zone Saturday as the Virginia kicker rarely gave Clemson a chance to return kicks as he boomed them deep into the end zone. That is what we need at Clemson…or I fear a special teams disaster is due to happen on the return game.

Rhymer's Grade…F

Rally In The Valley
First of all, I was disappointed in the number of fans that were at the game. The weather was miserable, but seeing the corners of the upper decks unoccupied on Homecoming is not a good sign. While weather may have prevented very many walk up ticket sales Saturday, it is hard to imagine Clemson not selling out a Homecoming game against a Top 25 team. That is a concern, in my opinion.

The crowd that was there, however, was very vocal and certainly fed the emotion that the Tigers had on Saturday. When the defense was on the field, the Tiger fans made plenty of noise and have to be given some credit for Virginia's troubles on 3rd and short throughout the afternoon. You could see the emotion in the players faces, and it had to feel good for them to see such a supportive Clemson crowd.

Rhymer's Grade…B

Random Notes:
· After the game, John Lovett was very emotional on the field giving interviews to several media personnel. He fought back tears, unsuccessfully, while talking about his defense. It was very obvious how much this win meant to these coaches, and it showed in the hard-nosed Lovett who had tears in his eyes. · Give Tommy Bowden and this staff a ton of credit for having the team ready to play. It was, by far, the most emotional this team has been in a couple of years for a football game…and that credit has to lie with the coaches.

· Also give Tommy Bowden credit for a great game calling plays. If you are going to criticize him for the bad days (which we all have), you must be man enough to admit when he has done well. The 3rd and 5 crossing pass to Duane Coleman in overtime may have been the most important call of Tommy Bowden's coaching career and it was the perfect play for that situation.

· The news on J.J. Howard is heartbreaking….

· On The Rise In The ACC: Georgia Tech continues to surprise and impress. The Yellow Jackets have recovered from the embarrassing loss to Clemson 3 weeks ago by beating N.C. State and Wake Forest back to back. Maryland avoided a potential let down game against Duke by winning 33-20 Saturday. The Terps were in a danger zone with this game versus the Blue Devils, but they overcame a sluggish start to win going away. And North Carolina won! The Tar Heels beat East Carolina to assure themselves of avoiding a winless season. I threw the Tar Heels in this category this week because they probably won't be in it again.

· On The Decline In The ACC: Wake Forest continues to fizzle the hype that surround them early in the season with its win over N.C. State. That win over the Wolfpack remains Wake's only ACC win. Florida State did not exactly look like world-beaters Saturday in their loss to Miami. Granted, the Hurricanes are more talented than any other ACC team left on FSU's schedule, but the manner of the loss at least gives other ACC teams hope.

Finally, stay tuned to CUTigers.com and WCCP 104.9 FM this week as we announce all the details around or Tiger Pregame show festivities in Raleigh Saturday afternoon. If you will be making the trip, plan to join us at Playmakers in Raleigh. If you are not making the trip, be sure to tune in to 104.9 or listen live via the net at www.wccpfm.com from 2-4:30 Thursday afternoon! Either way, stay tuned to CUTigers.com for all the details!

CUTigers.com Top Stories