Monday Morning QB

CLEMSON - Let us get this out of the way early. Beating a Division 1-AA opponent, as Clemson did The Citadel 45-17 on Saturday, doesn't wipe away the shock and/or shame of the Alabama loss.

Running the ball seemingly at will vs. the undersized Bulldogs doesn't mean the offensive line has its act together.

It doesn't mean the Tigers should catapult back into the Associated Press poll (they didn't). It doesn't mean the talking heads on national television or local radio should suddenly make nice with Tommy Bowden again.

It doesn't mean any of that.

What it does mean, however, is a baby step back in the right direction.

After being humiliated by the Crimson Tide on national television, after having to answer questions about it on campus all week, and after being run ragged by the coaching staff in practice leading up to Saturday, the Tigers simply did what they should have done - beat an inferior opponent.

And that's not a swipe at The Citadel. Not in the least.

On the contrary, the admiration for Kevin Higgins and the job he's done at the military-based school has done nothing but rapidly grow on this front. Last season's first winning record in 15 years, coupled with a Top 20 FCS (there, I said it) ranking this season, is one of the great stories nobody is talking about outside of the Charleston area.

So to say Clemson should have throttled the Bulldogs isn't disrespecting Higgins and his program.

It's simply pointing out the usual reality when schools from different divisions meet, as they did last weekend at Death Valley.

But back to the original point. In the grand scheme of things, all Saturday proved to be for Bowden and Co. was a chance to try and get things right.

Be better runners. Be better tacklers. Read keys and assignments better. Dominate the line of scrimmage.

It's a list of things Clemson more or less accomplished by day's end. The one significant area of concern was the pass defense, which gave up almost 340 yards to the Bulldogs.

But even there, one could see slight progress.

Andre Roberts, The Citadel's outstanding wide receiver, caught nine balls for 153 yards and a touchdown. But only three of the catches and 13 of the yards came in the second half, after defensive coordinator Vic Koening made a few adjustments.

Don't misunderstand. Give up that many passing yards to a team in your own division - in your own conference - and you likely find yourself in trouble again.

But because it was The Citadel, Clemson got away with it. And after the previous week's debacle, no one is complaining.

But they are studying. The players, that is. And working. And trying to improve.

Because while that effort was good enough to beat The Citadel, and likely would be enough to take down N.C. State the following week, it won't fly on an October Thursday night in Winston-Salem.

Or many other places.

So take Saturday for what it was. A beautiful day for the home opener, and an easy victory for the team in orange.

But don't get carried away.

Heaven knows there's still much work to be done.

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