The loss in Tallahassee was disappointing, to say the least. The main reason I, like many others, are sick about it was that Clemson was better on both sides of the ball than FSU Thursday night. That's right, I said better. But unfortunately, FSU killed Clemson in the kicking game and the turnover battle…thus winning the game.
I predicted a 24-17 FSU win. And, while staying perfect on the season, I was off a whopping 38 points…by far my worst performance of the year.
Here were the 5 keys to the game and how they were graded out.
Jones Under 75
As I feared, Greg Jones turned out to be the major key to the game Thursday. His run at the end of the first half was probably the single biggest play of the game, and his ability to pick up key first downs in the second half when Clemson was trying to make stops and get back in the game proved to be fatal blows.
Jones' 165 yards on 22 carries was far above the 75 yards I thought Clemson needed to keep him under. To his credit, most of the yards were earned with his bruising style of running and falling forward. I came away from the game Thursday night with the same feeling I had before the game…Greg Jones is a super running back that will earn a nice living in the NFL. However, he still could have been slowed more with better tackling Thursday night by the Clemson defense.
If there was a really positive thing about Thursday night's game it was the downfield throwing ability of Willie Simmons and the Clemson receivers. The first half was like a recruiting video showing why quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers should come to Clemson.
It was, to say the least, a clinic.
To see Airese Currie involved made me feel like a million dollars. Currie's touchdown pass over the middle was a play that will keep defensive coordinators awake at night preparing for the Tigers.
Much of the credit for the offensive show against a good FSU defense has to go to Brad Scott and Mike O'Cain. The two put together one of the best game plans seen in Clemson in my lifetime. It would have been nice to see what they could have done in the 2nd half if they would have had an equal amount of plays to work with as the 1st half. But, alas, the turnovers prevented that from happening.
Punt And Kick 'Em Good
Yikes. Exactly what was going through Wynn Kopp's mind as he dropped the perfect snap is one of life's mysteries. Nerves, sweaty palms, whatever it was could be summarized as ugly…and costly. The good news is that it is a correctable mistake and let's hope it is corrected.
What is more frustrating is the lack of a deep kick ability by Stephen Furr. His kicks that went deep averaged coming down around the 15 yard line…and even a modest return of 20 yards gives the opposition field position at the 35 yard line. Okay, we get burned on the kick return, and we now resort to the pooch kick. While that eliminates the deadly return for the touchdown, it still gives the opposition field position around the 35 or 40 yard line. It is a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't.
The solution? Go to Coach Adair's soccer team and beg him to let his kids try out and see if they can do what seems impossible for Clemson kickers. Kick the ball into the end zone. This is not a problem with just Clemson…it is a problem for 50% of college football teams today. If you want your kid to make money if football, don't send him to the Bowden Quarterback Camp. Send them to a kicking camp. Consistently kicking the ball into the end zone is the quickest way to earn a college scholarship and a ticket to the NFL.
Be The Tricker...Not The Trickee
Lost in the disappointment of the result Thursday was brilliant play calling with the trick plays. Elliot's pass was thing of beauty. But, the onside pooch kick was a masterpiece. I have always wondered why teams don't try that instead of kicking the ball into the ground. Obviously, Bowden wondered that too and decided to give it a try. McKelvey not only caught the ball and gave Clemson great field position, he almost could have caught it and run for 20 more yards (if that is legal)!
Two positives will evoke from the trick plays even though it was not enough to bring home the win. First, it will plant the seed again in opposing coaches mind that Clemson is willing to take risks with innovative trick plays…so be on guard. Secondly, the sheer deviousness with the tricks makes you believe there may be more in the bag…saved for the perfect moment when you need a momentum swing.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Once again, Clemson went on the road in a hostile environment, fell behind, and showed great poise in coming back to take the lead. There is a trend developing that says the Clemson coaches are preparing this team well to win games. Minus the Ball State game, it appears this team has been up to the task mentally in every game played.
That's good news, because traveling to Virginia after a tough loss to Florida State will offer another challenge for the coaching staff. There is no reason to believe that Florida State will run the table it the ACC this year. Not only can NC State beat FSU in Raleigh, but Georgia Tech and North Carolina are talented enough to beat FSU if the Nole's don't play their best.
Why is that relevant? It is relevant because there is still the possibility this team can win an ACC Championship this year. Win the remaining ACC games, and one loss will get a share of the crown in my opinion. So, letdowns on the road versus a quality team like Virginia must be avoided. Mentally, Clemson needs to be ready to play. They have been so far this year, so there is no reason to believe they won't be next Saturday.
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