It's obvious at this point in the season Clemson's offensive line remains a major work in progress. Some games the unit has taken major steps forward, the others it has taken similar steps back. Saturday against Georgia Tech, the Tigers struggled mightily in establishing the run, recording just 51 yards on 24 attempts. With Rob Spence gone, the play calling was better as both Willy Korn and Cullen Harper took their fair number of shots downfield, but 17 points wasn't enough to secure the win, which results in the C- grade. The off-week should help some of the injury problems before the Boston College game, but clearly, plenty of improvement needs to be made up front if the Tigers are going to win either one of their next two games.
For the third consecutive game this unit played well enough to win. Yes, problems continue to persist on third down where the Tigers gave up two critical conversions on both of Georgia Tech's scoring drives, including one third-and-16 in which Jonathan Dwyer converted on a simple dive play, but overall this unit is playing sound football. For the record, Tech converted on 6-of-16 third down opportunities in its 21-17 win.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
Mark Buchholz continues to be a bright spot for the Tigers this year as he remained perfect on all field goals and extra points Saturday, but Clemson's punt team struggled for a majority of the game. Jimmy Maners and Dawson Zimmerman punted six times for a combined net average of 34.7 yards, keeping the Yellow Jackets in good field position for most of the fourth quarter, which helped set up their game-winning drive. Marcus Gilchrist had a nice kickoff return before halftime which pushes the special teams grade up from the "C" range to "B-".
The offense took more shots in the downfield passing game, which was a big step forward, and the defense once again easily played well enough to win. But the real job done by the new coaching staff was just getting the team to buy into what they were selling after Monday's coaching change. For the most part, that appears to have happened. The problem is the same old mistakes and issues that have plagued the Tigers in previous games under Tommy Bowden ... also happened. From turnovers to ill-timed penalties to simply failing to put an opponent away, Clemson once again did just enough to lose.
While the outcome wasn't what he wanted, credit Dabo Swinney and the new staff for re-engergizing the fans with the new Tiger Walk, re-energizing the players and just getting people in general excited about Clemson football again. It wasn't easy but Swinney's passion and enthusiasm was as infectious as any coach we've ever seen in Tigertown.
Some Improvement, but Same Result
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