Maryland efficiently dismantled the Tigers on offense and held the Tigers to only 4 field goals on defense. Once again, the Tigers came up way short against a good team, at home, at night, on national television.
I predicted a 28-27 Maryland win. I was off only 2 points on the Terrapins, but a whopping 15 points on the Tigers. My overall record for the year improves to 9-2.
Well…Isn't That Special?
Ironically, the one area that I most feared that the Tigers would lose the game at was on special teams. Not only did the Tigers not self-destruct on special teams, Justin Miller had a 76-yard kickoff return to highlight a 156-yard return day for the true freshman.
The Tigers held Steve Suter, who leads the ACC in punt returns for touchdowns, mostly in check all night long. It was nice to see, for once, that the Tiger special teams came ready to play and avoided baring the brunt of the reason why the Tigers were unable to win.
One area that I was not wrong in saying would be a key was the protection (or lack thereof) of Charlie Whitehurst. Whithurst was sent scrambling almost all night long, and he never got comfortable sitting in the pocket as he had in his previous two starts.
The lack of blocking on the offensive line is not a new problem against good teams. It has become a regular performance that will obviously not be solved in this football year.
What was most discouraging, however, was the "happy feet" that Charlie seemed to have from the very beginning of the game. Granted, it is hard to blame him for jumping around in the pocket when it is closing on you like a collapsing building. It was just something that we have not seen from Whitehurst in his previous two starts.
5-11 versus 6-4
The good news for Tommy Sharpe was that the offensive line blocked so poorly you could not pin it on one individual player. Sharpe, playing undersized against a talented Maryland front, was overmatched despite the effort he put out.
But Sharpe can't be singled out, and there in lies the crux of the problem for the Tiger offense. Injuries can shoulder some of the blame, yes. Poor recruiting can shoulder its share as well. But, I still wonder if there are not ways to attack defenses without asking your offensive line to block for so long in pass protection.
Whatever else happens this year, it is safe to say that the offensive line has made a pretty good team into a very mediocre one. And Tommy Sharpe is not the reason why. Maybe some of those big fellas could take a page form Sharpe's playbook on playing hard every down and the line would be better.
Once again the linebackers were about as active on defense for the Tigers as a fat cat. Once again you don't see linebackers flying all over the place making big plays. Once again the running game and the middle of the field were exposed.
Same song. Second verse. Same as the first.
Until the linebackers become an integral part of the game, the defense is going to struggle despite what is being done in the secondary. There is not sense of urgency. No fire in the stove. Nothing that excites the fans. Where have you gone, Levon Kirkland?
The crowd and the team seemed pumped and ready to play early in the game. The Tigers got a big interception from Justin Miller, and things seemed to be rolling fine. But, once again the Tigers fell behind in a big game and could not dig themselves out of the hole as the game wore on.
Even at halftime, trailing only 16-9, there was a sense that this game could go either way. Clemson never could make the big play that would swing the momentum. And once again, the Clemson faithful were forced to drive home late at night with bewilderment on their faces.
I am about as frustrated as I have been in quite some time. My frustration does not lie with the lack of talent on the field, but much more with the execution and effort.
But, this is NOT the week to wallow in self-pity. This is NOT the week to question coaches. This is NOT the week to complain about game plans. This is NOT the week to talk bad about specific players. And this is NOT the week to allow yourself to question your loyalty.
This is Clemson/Carolina week. The biggest week of the year. And while all of the frustration of this season will not be washed away with a win over the Gamecocks, it is a start. The flip side is incomprehensible to think about right now, so I won't.
Go Tigers…Beat the Gamecocks. My preview will come out on Thursday...stay tuned.
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