Outside of an early touchdown drive, there once again wasn't much to feel good about and the final stats reflect that sentiment (81 yards rushing, 193 yards passing). Dropped passes hurt the Tigers once again through the first half in addition to ill-timed procedural and holding penalties. The lone bright spots were C.J. Spiller (72 yards rushing) and Michael Palmer. (five catches for 65 yards). Through the first five games of the season it's become crystal clear the Tigers have no identity on offense and are unable to consistently control the line of scrimmage. Simply put, unless the defense and special teams have spectacular performances, this unit isn't good enough right now to get the job done.
Clemson's normally standout defense looked vulnerable in the second quarter, giving up two long touchdown passes, but was still good enough to secure the victory. Keep in mind the defense was put in a horrible situation after a long punt return that was stopped at Clemson's one-yard line and seemed to answer the challenge for most of the second half, including consecutive stops on third and one and fourth and one late in the game. It wasn't their best performance by any means, but it was good enough to get a win.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D+
C.J. Spiller's brilliant 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown is the only reason this is a passing grade. It's too bad the disappointing loss overshadows another incredible performance. Richard Jackson missed two late field goals that could have tied it and Dawson Zimmerman was largely inconsistent through the first half. The Tigers also gave up a long punt return down to the one-yard line that provided Maryland's final touchdown of the game. All in all, it was a disappointing effort.
It was a game eerily similar to last year's lost Maryland - Clemson dominates early then can't close the deal. What will it take to for this program to learn how to consistently win close games again? Is it toughness? Does there need to be some sort of major shift in mentality? Whatever it is, it better happen fast or this season could turn even more disastrous in a hurry. Dabo Swinney said he takes all the blame for the loss in what was an emotional post-game press conference, hence the failing grade, but he surely must realize the a portion of that blame should also be passed down to his offensive staff as well.
When you lose to a 1-3 team what does it say about your own program? Whatever it is, it's certainly not good. Another close loss goes in the books but this one hurts especially bad because it's a divisional loss. Preseason hopes of competing for an Atlantic Division championship were apparently out of line as this team may struggle to get to .500 unless things quickly change.
GRADES: Tigers in trouble
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