5 Keys To Downing The Deacons

Clemson looks to rebound from the disappointing loss to Virginia in Charlottesville Saturday versus Wake Forest. It's Homecoming, and the Tigers can ill afford to leave their faithful departing Clemson with a loss like last year against North Carolina. Here are my 5 keys to downing the Deacons.

Senior Leadership
There is nothing that can bring a season down the drain quicker than players getting frustrated and/or giving up. The loss last week to Virginia is the kind of loss that can ruin a season if some of the team leaders don't step in and keep the team intact.

Nick Eason, Altroy Brodrick, Bryant McNeal, and Eric Meekins may have just a big of a challenge in keeping the Tigers enthused than they do matching up against the Deacons. And Willie Simmons, arguably the team leader on offense, needs to dig down and brush last week's struggles aside and lead by example Saturday. If Simmons' heart sinks, so will the offense.

Once Again, Turnovers
While the Tigers had other problems offensively last week beyond turnovers, protecting the football remains a huge concern. Wake Forest, much like Virginia, is a team that simply does not make many mistakes. If Clemson continues the trend of coughing up the football Saturday, there could be some serious trouble in the Valley.

To say the Tigers turnover problems are epidemic at this point in the season would be stretch, but the trend needs to turn at some point if the Tigers are going to win more games in 2002 than they did in 2001.

Attack On Offense
For the first time this season, the Tigers looked conservative on offense last week. It was almost as if the coaching staff was trying to prove a point and run the ball against the Cavaliers. Let it be known right now that the top playmakers on this team are not running backs. In my opinion, the coaches would be better served to get the ball in the hands of the strength of this team- the wide receivers.

Whether Wake Forest sits back in nickel and dime coverages or not, Clemson needs to extend the vertical passing game in order to keep Deacons' defense honest.

It was obvious Virginia knew the Tigers were not going to throw deep into the soft coverage, and therefore they teed off on the underneath patterns preventing the receivers from ever getting into open space. So please, throw the ball downfield Saturday!

Create Field Position
Against both Florida State and Virginia, the Tigers were taken to the cleaners in terms of field position. Turnovers, poor punts, and special teams disasters have been the name of the game over the course of the last two weeks.

Interestingly enough, the defense has contributed to this dilemma by failing to hold the opposition to three and out. Sure, keeping points off the board is the name of the game, but when your offense is out of rhythm, every little bit helps.

The Tiger defense has been solid all year and very worthy of the ranking it has received; however, somebody needs to step up, make a big play, and provide the Tigers the advantage in field position.

It goes without saying that when Tigers' offense starts in good field position, they tend to score more points. The last two weeks, the defense has been largely ineffective in creating turnovers and the offense has been more than willing to put the ball on the ground. Both trends have to stop Saturday if the Tigers are going to take care of business.

Sweet Home Death Valley
Losing streaks are brutal, but playing a Homecoming game in the comfort of Death Valley is just the kind of medicine this team needs to get back on track. A supportive crowd could ignite the Tigers if they can grab a lead, which in turn should pump some much needed fuel into any player that may still be licking his wounds from last weekend.

This is also a glorious chance to get some confidence back before the duel with N.C. State next Thursday. The Tigers still have plenty to play for this season, and a one game winning streak is the best thing that can happen going against a top 10 North Carolina State team.

They say winning cures all that ails you, and coming into this weekend, I would have to agree. A big win Saturday would certainly go a long way in getting the season back on track.

The Tigers are a more talented football team than Wake Forest, but I don't expect the Deacons to throw their hands up and run out of the stadium if they get down early.

Saturday will be another tough conference game, but I have a feeling that the Tigers will come out focused, and ready to play in this one.

Rhymer's Prediction
Clemson-28…Wake Forest-13

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