First Things First - Saturday was Military Appreciation Day and Clemson University gave this special day the attention it deserves. There is nothing like a military flyover to get the patriotic juices pumping. I thought it was a great idea for the coaching staff to wear the camouflage pants. C.J. Spiller running down the hill with the American Flag in tow was a great moment as well. But nothing compared to the honor and respect shown to our military and fallen soldiers at halftime. I hope we never forget our military heritage.
Seniors - I always look forward to seeing the seniors run down the hill one at a time. The coaching staff met each player at the bottom of the hill, congratulated them, and had their picture taken with them. Coach Swinney and company continue to do the right things on and off the field and this was just another example of that fact.
Much Better - The kicking game seemed to get back on track this week. Richard Jackson made all four extra points and added two field goals. His only miss was from 51 yards and it wasn't a bad miss. If we are going to pile on when they are bad we need to lift them up when they are good. The kicking game was good Saturday.
In the Trenches - Clemson won the battle at the line of scrimmage again this week. Granted, it wasn't as decisive as it has been in weeks past but it was still a victory. Pass blocking was solid once again. The Tigers were good at the point of attack in the running game but did struggle with getting to the second level. I attribute a lot of that to the Virginia defense who's front seven are better than their record would indicate.
Tight Ends - Michael Palmer had three catches and Dwayne Allen had one against Virginia. Clemson tight ends have now caught seven touchdown passes this season and have caught 46 passes overall. The 46 receptions tie the Clemson team record for most receptions in a season. In my opinion these catches have as much to do with the offensive success as any. Michael Palmer should get a lot of opportunities at the next level. Tiger fans have Dwayne Allen to look forward to over the next several years. Allen has had a tremendous redshirt freshman year and has the versatility you expect from a tight end.
Poise - Kyle Parker has shown improvement in every game and this week was no exception. He is comfortable behind his offensive line and is making good decisions. Parker is no longer staring down his target and is using his eyes to create space for his receivers. There were two plays Saturday that warrant special attention. The first was the option read where he kept the ball and ran for the first down. He not only made the right call by keeping the ball, he sold the play as well as anyone could. The other was the 24 yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Ford. I've watched that throw a dozen times now and I'm still not sure how he was able to throw it with that much velocity. Parker pulled up just inches from the line of scrimmage and threw a bullet off of one foot to Ford in the end zone. There are only a handful of quarterbacks in the country that can make that pass.
Sweet Emotions - When Coach Swinney took over I feared that he would struggle with keeping his emotions in check. That might have been the case in his first couple of games last season but is certainly not the case now. I am convinced more now than ever that he knows exactly what he is doing and that he is in control. Swinney realizes that this team takes its emotional cue from him. While it is a big deal to win the division, there are much larger trophies to be had and he made sure this team remembered that. I expected a huge locker room celebration Saturday night and there would have been if Swinney would have done that himself. Instead, it was similar to all the others after a win. You could tell that Dabo was excited but he was quick to remind his team that there were still a lot of goals that are still in reach and the divisional crown was just the first. He told his players to enjoy the victory over the weekend but that all eyes would be focused on the Gamecocks this week.
Wrap Up - My biggest concern is still tackling. This was another game where the first defender got to the ball carrier and then couldn't finish the job. Lower your pads, wrap up, and make a tackle! If you can't arm tackle Virginia you aren't going to be able to arm tackle South Carolina or Georgia Tech. We have a few players that seem more concerned about making a big hit than a fundamental tackle.
Sloppy - There were several offensive plays where they didn't seem to all be on the same page. I stopped counting the blown assignments on defense in the first half. Maybe it is just an elaborate scheme to make Georgia Tech overconfident in two weeks because if Tech watches this game film they will be licking their chops over the number of blown assignments.
Keeper - This was another game where the quarterback keeper and/or wildcat formation hurt the Tigers. We are going to see that this week and are certainly going to see that next week. Do a better job of tackling up the middle and this isn't as big of an issue.
Contain - Defensively we bit on way too many play action moves and somehow forgot all about back side containment. It wasn't all the time but it happened often enough to raise my concern level a notch.
Cherry - Commissioner John Swofford was in attendance for this game so let's just hope he saw what we saw from Ron Cherry and his band of brothers. It ceases to amaze me how someone like Ron Cherry can reach the level he has reached and still miss so many calls. I was not surprised at all that Dwayne Allen was called for unsportsmanlike conduct when he saluted the crowd. It was Military Appreciation Day and Allen was standing in the end zone in front of our ROTC when the act occurred. He was not drawing attention to himself nor was he taunting the opposing team in any way. There are a lot of officiating crews that would have thrown a flag for doing this but if ever there was a time to look the other way this was it.
Buy a Ticket- All week long I watched people try to sell tickets for $100 or more. I counted more than 50 people at one of the gates looking for tickets just 20 minutes before kickoff. The game was not sold out! How can you scalp tickets for a game that is not sold out? Once again there were way too many empty seats in Death Valley for my taste.
The Good, Bad and Ugly: Virginia
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