Bitter loss leaves bad aftertaste

CLEMSON - No matter how you look at it, Clemson's performance Saturday leaves nothing short of a bitter taste in your mouth.

OFFENSE: D+
If you want to look on the bright side of things - the offensive line didn't give up a sack, All-American defensive end Jerry Hughes was never a big factor, Kyle Parker didn't throw an interception and C.J. Spiller played his heart out rushing for over 120 yards while also catching a 60-yard bomb to setup Clemson's only touchdown of the game. The Tigers also held their own without one of their top linemen seeing the field in left tackle Chris Hairston and the first drive demonstrated solid play calling in taking what the defense gives you. Here's the bad: too many dropped passes proved costly, there were short-yard struggles again, and a long pass to Jaron Brown deep into TCU territory was negated due to an illegal formation. Nevermind the fact Clemson has one rushing touchdown in its first four games. Ouch. Give TCU credit for being a legitimate top 15 team and for having a championship caliber defense, but the Tigers had plays that were there for the taking and seemingly always found a way to come up short.

DEFENSE: C
While it's good to only give up 14 points in a game, especially when the first touchdown was setup on a deflected pass that was truly unlucky from the orange and white perspective, the Tigers still gave up a mind-boggling 388 yards of total offense. Where was the adjustment made to deal with QB Andy Dalton's ability to grind out yards on the ground in the read option game? Where was pressure from Clemson's front four? It was a good effort, but poor execution in defending the quarterback keeper on the option, and a 25-yard touchdown pass into tight coverage proved to be too much to overcome. In addition, the Tigers failed to force a turnover to help out an offense that continues to struggle to find an identity.


Andy Dalton rushed 19 times for 86 yards and was critical throughout No. 14 TCU's 14-10 win over Clemson Saturday evening. (Roy Philpott)
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
Dawson Zimmerman had a solid game punting the football, routinely pinning TCU deep in its own territory. Outside of that, there's not much to feel good about. Richard Jackson missed a critical 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that could have cut the lead to one and nothing happened in the return game worth mentioning. It was thought the Tigers needed a big play on special teams Saturday to help secure a win- and it obviously hurt that it didn't happen.

COACHING: D+
The bottom line is Clemson lost the game, and that's all that matters. The idea of being one play away was one of the notions that prompted a coaching change last year and simply leaves you scratching your head. The offense remains a clear work in progress and was largely ineffective outside of Spiller once again playing out of his mind and Parker making plays once the pocket broke down. In addition, the defense and special teams took a big step backwards from last week's dominating performance over Boston College . Add it all up and it equals a "D."

OVERALL: F
With a top 15 team coming in to Death Valley the Tigers had the opportunity to make a statement about the rest of the season before simply failing to do it. The good news is it wasn't a conference game, and there's something to be said there. In addition, credit TCU- without question the Horned Frogs are a top 15 team that would give many nationally-ranked programs fits. However once again Clemson couldn't come up with the big play when it needed it the most- hence the failing grade. Simply put, this team has to learn how to win these type of games because right now it simply can't close the deal.

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