The stark reality is that Clemson lost, and deservedly so. It was not a fluke or a bad call, etc. Clemson was outplayed and deserved the very verdict that was handed down. I'll quickly make a few points about my keys and then, more importantly, move forward to next week.
1. Where's Your Head?
It's hard and maybe unfair to say that Clemson was not ready to play Saturday. I think defensively the Tigers were more than ready to play, putting together another strong performance.
Offensively however, Clemson never got in synch and there were some key turnovers and special teams mistakes that seaedl the Tigers' fate.
The onus can also shift to the coaches for peculiar play calling on the offensive side of the ball, mismanagement of the game clock at the end of the game, and the inability to account for the tight end for the Blue Devils.
I'll touch on the offensive play calling in a moment.
Why was a timeout not called with 30 seconds left with Duke facing a 3rd and 4 as the Devils are lining up for a potential game winning field goal? You have to assume the kid is going to make it, even if his longest kick of the year was 45 yards to that point. Give your offense at least a fighting chance if he makes it. And give the offense an even better chance if he misses it and you get the ball on the 35 yard line. I don't get that at all. Use your timeouts to stop the clock and give you a chance to respond to whatever they do with the kid.
And how Duke could throw the ball over the middle to the tight end over and over again is beyond me. It was their only offensive success…and the Tigers could not stop it. One blemish on an otherwise good defensive day.
2. Run Some More
Clemson ran the ball 35 times for 158 yards Saturday afternoon. But it was when the Tigers did not run, that it made for a frustrating day. After moving up and down the field in the first quarter on the legs of Reggie Merriweather, Clemson proceeded to go into the four wide sets and throw the ball.
After rushing 20 times last week, Merriweather got less touches this week against a running defense that was worse than Miami's. To compound the problem, Clemson was tied or leading most of the game, so there was no excuse not to run the ball more because of having to overcome a deficit. Especially when the passing game was so obviously off mark.
3. Schneider Heat
No arguments here. Clemson sacked Schneider five times and harassed him more often than not. He also took some good licks that caused him to leave the game on two occasions.
Nothing to complain about there…another good day by the defensive front.
Again, nothing to complain about. Dean hit on his two field goals and he made his extra point. Bowden obviously trusted his kicker enough that he gambled with a minute left in the 4th quarter to try and get him within range.
And the Tigers will need Dean to make his kicks next week as well.
5. Injury Free
It's too early to tell what the injury situation is. Leroy Hill had some shoulder problems but returned to the game. CJ Gaddis also left with an injury.
We'll have to see today and Monday what the trainers say about any other nicks and bumps…but nothing appears serious to the point that major players will miss time against South Carolina.
There is no getting around the embarrassment and hurt the Tiger players and coaching staff are feeling today. Multiply that by two and you have what the fans feel today, especially those that traveled in mass to Durham.
But the focus and attention must now turn towards South Carolina.
Beating the Gamecocks in any given year is a must, but when bowl eligibility is on the line, it becomes paramount. Especially since the Gamecocks have already become bowl eligible.
The Clemson coaching staff gave us one of the greatest victories in Clemson football history eight days ago and they deserve the credit for that. They also deserve the blame for a pitiful performance and loss in Durham.
I expect a better game plan and better play next Saturday. A win will wash away the bitter taste of this loss to Duke. And a win is exactly what Clemson desperately needs Saturday afternoon against the Gamecocks.
Save your energy…your voices will be needed. The Gamecocks were completely flustered in The Swamp Saturday night, and Clemson fans can create an equal environment in Death Valley next week. Let's get this win, send Lou packing at 1-5 versus the Tigers, and move forward in the off season to get better.
The past is the past and we can't undo it. Get over the loss to Duke and let's put all energy as a fan base towards beating the University of South Carolina.
Grading the Keys to Victory
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