Grading Clemson's Win Over Ball State

After a sluggish start, Clemson shook off the cobwebs long enough to dispose of Ball State Saturday to move to 3-1 on the young season. My prediction of the Tigers winning by a score of 41-13 was off by 15 total points…my worst margin of the year.

I have now predicted the correct winner for the 4th straight week. Here is how the Tigers graded out on my 5 Keys To The Game.

Where Is The Killer Instinct?
Clemson continues to lack the ability to pound a team when they are down. Ball State came in with a nice game plan and a ton of enthusiasm, but the game should not have been as close as the final score indicated.

I don't think it's because the Tigers were experiencing a lack of effort or focus. Remember, Bowden decided to go for a 4th down conversion in the 4th quarter on the 2-yard line. It was a great play call that should have resulted in a first down, but Willie Simmons for some reason tried to throw it to Bobby Williamson, who happened to be double-teamed in the endzone.

Ball State did not have the horses to play 4 quarters with the Tigers, so not putting the Cardinals away did not come back to haunt Clemson this time. But teams like Virginia, North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Maryland are good enough to beat Clemson if the Tigers can't create more separation on the scoreboard.

Rhymer's Grade…D

Stuff Marcus Merriweather
Merriweather proved what I suspected about him leading up to the game: he is a solid running back.

He trudged out 96 yards on 24 carries Saturday, and he was effective on the opening drive that led to a Ball State touchdown and the lead.

While Merriweather ran hard, give the Clemson defense credit for not allowing him to break any long runs or take over the game. That being said, my guess is if Merriweather ran behind a line like Clemson's, he could do some serious damage in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Rhymer's Grade…C+

Raise The Dead (Airese Currie)
Finally, Airese Currie got to touch the ball. Currie's 11-yard run on a reverse in the first quarter received a smattering of applause throughout Death Valley. Currie also made one catch for 6 yards. A very modest start, to say the least. But it was a start.

Still, one of the most amazing statistics of this year is true freshman Justin Miller, playing cornerback, has just as many interceptions (2) as Currie has receptions. If you see that dead horse on the side of the road that I'm beating about this, let me know.

Rhymer's Grade…C+

Injuries Be Gone!
Watching Nick Eason being carted off the field Saturday gave me a sick feeling in my stomach. Eason might not be the most talented player on the defensive front for the Tigers. Heck, he may not even be in the Top 5, but he is one of the leaders of that defense, and for that matter, the entire team.

Whatever his prognosis is, it appears at the very least that Eason will be out for the Florida State game. Injuries have bitten the Tigers hard this season, and Saturday was no exception.

Rhymer's Grade…F

Take A Step Forward
No matter what light you shine on the game Saturday, it was not a step forward for the Clemson Tigers. In fact, it was most likely a slight step back.

1000 factors could be attributed to that, including the weather and the opponent. Even the Florida State game that looms just 11 days from now had to divert the player's attention somewhat.

However, to be a really good team, you have to throw all the excuses out the window and play football. This team did not do that on Saturday. Fortunately, the Tigers didn't have to bring their "A" game to eek out a win, and now, with a week off, the team can focus their complete attention towards Florida State.

Rhymer's Grade…D

Random Notes:
  • Charlie Whitehurst saw his first action of his Clemson career Saturday and led the Tigers on a touchdown scoring drive. He also is one tall guy.
  • Justin Miller's interception Saturday would have made all of the ESPN highlight reels had the game been on TV. It has to rank as one of the most incredible interceptions in a long, long, time in Clemson.
  • Bad Call Of The Day: Willie Simmons not running for the first down, or maybe even a touchdown, on 4th and 1 from the 2-yard line.
  • Butterfinger Award: Tye Hill, who otherwise had a nice day rushing the ball (10 carries for 43 yards) dropped a screen pass in the flats from Simmons. The play, similar to Hamilton's drop last week on the same play, would have gone for big yardage.
  • Penalty Patrol: The number of flags thrown Saturday against Clemson was somewhat alarming. The penalties were not mental breakdowns like a false start or offsides on the defense. You would think those kind of mistakes can be corrected in the next week and a half. We'll see.
  • Questionable Judgment Award: To whoever assigned Rosario Amato to be an official at the game Saturday. Amato is the brother of NC State head coach Chuck Amato, thus raising an eyebrow or two. There are some serious conflicts of interest in having the brother of an ACC coach officiating the game, in my opinion. Scott Rhymer can be reached at

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