The Tigers were blown off the line of scrimmage by Alabama's defensive line and the stats show it, especially on the ground where Clemson managed one yard rushing on 14 attempts. But that's not all: the offensive line looked shell-shocked, Cullen Harper looked lost and the Thunder and Lightning backfield simply had no punch. While the 5-yard passes on 3rd and long to former walk-on receivers are somewhat concerning, the bigger issue may be Clemson's offensive line, which looked overmatched from the first series on.
Clemson's much-hyped defensive line didn't close to living up to its billing after it was beaten up one way and down another for four quarters. Time after time Alabama ate up the clock with time consuming drives and time after time the Clemson defense simply couldn't get off the field. In the end, Alabama recorded 419 yards of total offense, including 240 on the ground and 179 through the air. The most painful stat to analyze was third down conversions: Alabama was 11-of-17 while Clemson was 1-for-9. The Tigers avoid the 'F' after holding the Crimson Tide to a field goal after freshman running Jamie Harper fumbled in Clemson territory in the first quarter.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
C.J. Spiller's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was Clemson's lone highlight of the evening. Mark Buchholz also connected on his only field goal from 33-yards out. The grade would be higher had the kickoff and punt teams done better in coverage but overall the special teams weren't too shabby.
To be brutally honest, Clemson's offense has become too predictable, and when it's not, the line isn't able to block long enough for the skill players to make plays. Defensively, the Tigers couldn't get consistent pressure on John Parker Wilson and couldn't stop the run. It's hard to imagine the team came out flat considering the opponent, the preseason hype and the fact the game was on national television, but it sure looked like it. Perhaps 'shell-shocked' would be a better way to describe it. However you phrase it, it wasn't pretty.
Put this one up there with the 2003 season opener against Georgia, the 2002 Thursday night home losses against N.C. State and Maryland, and the thrashing in the Tangerine Bowl at the hands of Texas Tech. Nothing worked and everything went wrong in just about every aspect of the game at the worst possible time. From penalties to turnovers to the offense just looking lost at times - it was all bad. Oddly enough, we won't find out what this team is truly made of until October when the Tigers travel to Wake Forest on a Thursday night as the September schedule features two FCS teams in The Citadel and S.C. State and two of the weaker teams in the ACC in N.C. State and Maryland. In other words, this one is going to hurt for a while.
GRADES: Tigers Fall Flat
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