Grading the Tigers Against Virginia

The feelings of frustration and embarrassment and just plain disappointment that you have, I have too. Grading the Tigers out for this game is a difficult task for me today, mainly because I have stayed away from newspapers and web sites since about 3:00 Saturday afternoon.

While not professing to know the pulse of the Clemson community on the loss to Virginia, I push forward with my job and grading the Tigers on the game. I predicted a 27-13 Clemson win, which gave me my first pick em loss of the season.

Pressure Schaub
Matt Schuab is a good quarterback that, for the most part, avoids making the big mistake. However, he was made to look a lot better Saturday afternoon simply because the Tigers failed to establish a consistent pass rush.

To Virginia's credit, they did not ask the offensive line to pass block for too long. Most of Schaub's passes were quick three-step drops on timing routes to the sidelines and to the middle of the field. Nevertheless, when Schaub needed to take a 5-step drop and survey the field, he did so without being harassed.

Rhymer's Grade…D

Shadow McMullen
Billy McMullen's 4 catches for 43 yards was exactly what Clemson had in mind in preparing for the Cavs last week. McMullen was not a major factor in the outcome of the game, although he did stumble his way for a 1-yard touchdown on 4th down early in the 4th quarter.

What Virginia did well, however, was spread the ball around to other targets while the Tigers keyed in on McMullen. Once again, give Virginia's coaches credit for not pressing the ball to thier star wideout. Instead, the Cavs allowed the less talented receivers and Wali Lundy out of the backfield to carry most of the load. Two categories graded so far, 2 excellent coaching moves by the Cavs in trumping the Tigers' game plan.

Rhymer's Grade…B+

Control The Clock Via The Run
At first glance, most Clemson fans would say the Tigers controlled the clock Saturday, however if you believe that then you are only half correct in your assumption. The Tigers did control time of possession in the first half, but lost out in a big way after halftime. At the end of the game, Virginia had the ball for almost 5 more minutes than the Tigers.

The most frustrating fact remains that the Tigers were able to control the clock in the first half but only took the lead into halftime because of a late Brian Mance interception. The Tigers inability to close the deal on drives, especially in the first half, in essence doomed their chances of winning. I don't think anybody felt good at the end of the first quarter when Clemson had basically dominated the game, yet only led 3-0. That was the first big sign that that the Tigers were in trouble.

Rhymer's Grade…C

Don't Shoot Yourself In The Foot
The good news is that special teams did not lose this game. The bad news is that costly mistakes are still killing this team. After a good first half in holding on to the ball, the Tigers once again got sloppy with the game on the line in the 4th quarter, thus sealing their fate.

The two consecutive turnovers by Willie Simmons…one his fault and one a good play by the defensive lineman, all but killed the Tigers chances of making a comeback. It is obvious that Clemson is not good enough to win games when they shoot themselves in the foot, a fact that most of us knew before the season started. The next question is…how do you prevent it from continuing to happen?

Bowden has said Willie Simmons must protect the ball better or he is going to get yanked. Sounds similar to his conversations with Woody last year. It worked for Woody, let's hope it works for Willie.

Rhymer's Grade…F

Reenergize
We feared it, and it came to fruition. Clemson did not look ready to play and they did not have a killer instinct in them Saturday afternoon. For the first time this season, the coaching staff failed to have the team prepared and ready to go, and it killed us.

Coaches say it is impossible to get a team up for every single game during the year and I agree. However, when the Tigers were upset by the very same team last year, you figure that wouldn't be a problem this season. I thought the Tigers would have revenge on their minds Saturday. I guess I was wrong.

Rhymer's Grade…F

Before you jump off a cliff, keep in mind the below facts as Clemson heads to the 2nd part of the season.

Other Notes to Consider
  • If you don't lose the team mentally, an 8 or 9 win regular season is still possible.
  • The ACC championship is out, but the Gator Bowl bid is still within reach.
  • Willie Simmons is the quarterback of this team. Bottom line.
  • Charlie Whitehurst has earned playing time in games that are not already decided. I would like to see something similar to what South Carolina is doing with Jenkins and Pinkins.
  • Virginia is going to win a lot of games this year, mainly because they are well coached.
  • The game plan at Virginia stunk. Clemson is not a power running football team. And, while you have to run the ball to win, Clemson has got to get the ball into their best players hands more than they did at Virginia. Yusef Kelly and Tye Hill are not the best players on offense, and they should not get the majority of touches in any game.
  • Other than the Virginia game, the game plans by Brad Scott have been excellent. You can't throw him under the bus for one bad game. Maybe he learned from his mistake that I listed above.
  • Wake Forest is good enough to beat Clemson, and Wake Forest should NEVER beat Clemson…especially in Death Valley.
  • Seasons turn quickly. As good as we felt after Georgia Tech and before the FSU game, we feel just as bad now. But, two weeks from now we may be back on top of the mountain again. Long season, it is not time to throw it in yet.
  • Being a Clemson fan is sometimes not easy.
  • Being a Clemson fan is the greatest thing in the world…don't forget it during this tough week.

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