Last year before the season even began I gave you We Own Those Pussys - They Belong To Us! And it still holds true. Nothing has changed except in the minds of the most hardcore Clemson faithful. Yet many of their more realistic fans are now admitting that, what I predicted more than a year and a half ago, may now be on the verge of fulfillment.
10 Keys To Victory This Saturday At Clemson
Key 1 - Better Coaching
I've got to hand it to Tommy Bowden. Every now and then he surprises me with his gameplans, especially early in a game. He obviously has a good offensive mind. And John Lovett, Bowden's first year defensive coordinator, does his own personal best with the talent at hand. But for every solid coaching decision Bowden makes, he makes three bad decisions. And the truth about Lovett is that he couldn't hack it in the SEC and is yet another of the reject coaches Tommy Bowden gobbled up to complete his rag tag unorganized staff.
Lou Holtz, with the aid of Skip and Charlie and their assistants, should have our Gamecocks better prepared than Tommy's Tigers will be in the opening quarter this Saturday. And that is the bottom line to Key 1. We must be prepared for every desperate attempt by Bowden and his staff to keep this game within reach by jumping to an early lead. Most importantly we must not allow Clemson to break any big plays in the first thirty minutes that would force us to play catch-up. We simply do not have a catch-up kind of offense. So our coaches are going to have to make sure that we are prepared for their early attempts at breaking the big gainers ... particularly those that go for easy scores. We know they are going to come out slinging the football. We know that their entire hope lies in being able to get an early lead. So we must be better prepared from the onset of this contest. By doing so we will be able to adjust during the course of this game rather than having to react during the course of this game. There is a big difference between the two.
Key 2 - Turnovers
South Carolina must win the turnover battle Saturday. Ideally we need to force turnovers by Clemson whenever they attempt the big play. That means intereceptions. Either intereceptions or physically forced fumbles once the Clemson receivers catch the ball. Make them pay for anything and everything they attempt through the air.
And when Clemson tries to establish any kind of a running game - we need to brutalize their backs. Force fumbles through vicious hits. Disrupt their exchanges in the backfield. Do anything and everything necessary that causes them to cough up the football.
In the same breath we must hold onto the football. We cannot afford turnovers on the road. We absolutely must guard the football, especially during long, time consuming drives.
Key 3 - Time Of Possesson
Keep Clemson's big play offense off the field by winning the battle of the clock. That means we sustain long time consuming drives on offense with no turnovers - and we convert those drives into points. A post game stat to consider would be that we should have the ball twice as long as Clemson.
Key 4 - Red Zone Points
When our Gamecocks are in the red zone they have to put points on the board. It will be okay to kick a field goal or two to open the game. But we have to score more touchdowns than field goals. Most importantly score when given scoring opportunies!
At the same time we need to keep Clemson out of the end zone. They are going to find their way into the red zone during the course of the game but we need to hold them to field goals. We will break their spirit by doing so two or three times. Clemson is more effective when they have more field to work with. But when you shorten the field on Clemson, because they have no running game, their passing game becomes suspect. That has been the case all season and we need to ensure that the trend continues. If we allow them to score early ... we allow them to build confidence and that could be dangerous.
Key 5 - Physically And Mentally Punish Them Early
If we are having success with the long time consuming drives on offense - that's great! But we need to take it a step further. We need to physically and mentally punish them in the process. If you see Clemson's defensive players limping off the field early, then you know we are physically whipping them and breaking their spirits. We have the hosses and the depth to devastate them in the trenches. Expect to see us platooning our offensive line between the twenties. Watch for this. We will send entirely fresh offensive lines into the game when we have the ball between the twenties. Then once we are in the red zone we will bring in the starters to finish the job. Remember, Clemson is limited in the depth department on both sides of the ball in the trenches. By wearing them down early we are setting ourselves up to dominate late in this football game.
Key 6 - Pressure Their Wide Receivers
The Gamecocks are going to have to jam the Clemson wideouts at the line of scrimmage. The slightest disruption in their timed routes gives us a huge advantage when applying pressure to their QB.
One key note here. We have to pressure their wideouts without giving up the penalty. As much as possible we have to avoid the holding penalties (against their wide receivers), and avoid the pass interference calls. Those are frustration penalties which might indicate that their wide receivers are beating our secondary. Not a good sign.
Key 7 - Pressure Their Quarterbacks
Keep an eye on the inside game in the trenches when Clemson has the ball. Clemson is going to have to double-team Langston Moore if they hope to keep him out of their faces. So our linebackers like Hurley, Laury, Lemon and Garrison should have openings up the middle. When they double-team Langston one of two things will happen. They will either have to wedge-pinch down towards the center to prevent our Gamecocks from coming up the middle. Or they will have to try to get rid of the ball before one of our blitzing linebackers or safeties can get to their QB. Either way the outside or inside is going to be susceptible to our blitz because by having to double-team Moore someone is going to be left untouched. If Clemson tries to cut off our inside pressure then we have the guns on the outside in Moe Thompson and George Gause to get to their QB and cause disruption. We will be bringing it on every down from every direction this Saturday.
Again, it all starts in the middle with Langston Moore. And Clemson's offense is so dependent on quick hitters across the middle and long timing routes that if we can get any pressure on them whatsoever it effectly shuts down their big play ability and forces them into a more conservative attack which they cannot win.
Key 8 - Stay Conservative On Offense
I know everyone wants us to open up our offense and go to the air more often. But, if we do, we will be making a huge tactical error. First and foremost we are not a good passing football team. We may be better now that some of our wide receivers are returning and now that Pinkins appears to be the starter ahead of Jenkins. But still yet our bread is buttered on the ground.
If we will simply establish that bruising rushing game and keep it going, as boring as it may be, we will win this football game.
If we come out trying to do something that we are obviously not adept at doing, then we will play into Clemson's hands and give them an opening to win this ballgame either through turnovers via the intereception, through short three-and-out drives, and/or by damaging the Carolina players' confidence in our gameplan. Stick with what we know we do well and it is more than enough to win this ballgame in an impressive fashion.
Do not misunderstand. We will have to complete a few passes, preferably short passes, if we really want to see unbridled success this Saturday. But we need to keep it simple and play it close to the vest as long as we are in control in the trenches. We cannot panic if we find ourselves down by only a touchdown during the first half of this football game.
Pound it out. Use Turman and Pinnock and Robinson, if he is available, to wear them down. Then use Irons to break a couple of long runs. Irons also gives us another dimension out of the backfield as he is a threat to turn the passes in the flats into decent gains. But keep it simple and conservative on offense. The most we should hope to see is our backs lining up in a Pro Set or perhaps more often in the I.
Key 9 - Stay In Control. Forget About Penalties
That's right. Forget about the penalties right now. They are going to happen. The SEC is sending a crew to officiate this game and we all know how utterly poor this game is going to be called. We cannot allow the officials to get into our heads. Not the coaches, not the players or our fans. We must be prepared for a poorly called game. We are going to have more penalties called against us than not. So accept that fact now and forget about it. We can only hope that we do not have penalties in key situations such as short yardage goal line opportunies. And NO PENTALTIES that would negate third down conversions on our behalf. But expect some breaks to go Clemson's way and accept them as part of our luck this season. If we will do that then we will have a much better chance of driving on against the adversity and still finding a way to win no matter what happens with regard to the officiating.
Key 10 - Take Their Crowd Out Of The Game
Listen to me Gamecock fans. Clemson fans are not the best fans in the world. They have booed Tommy Bowden at practically every home game this season. When you hear the boos they are not booing their players, they are booing Bowden. And they will do it at the drop of a hat.
IF our Gamecocks will come out and establish that physical dominance early in this ballgame, their fans will give up in a hurry. We cannot allow them to hang around early in this game. All we have to do is take control with an early long drive that results in seven points. Then force them into a couple of short, non-productive drives, and it will essentially be over before it has even begun. The booing will start and their crowd will fall silent ... except for the boos.
Clemson fans may not be the best fans in the world but most of them do know their football - the older wiser crowd especially. Those that were around during the Danny Ford days will recognize the reversal in talent, depth, size and speed on the football field this coming Saturday night. Once the reality sets in, you will hear them saying things like, "That's the way we used to win football games," or "Good Lord they are killing us on the line of scrimmage." And once you hear those words being uttered amongst their fans, then you will know we are in control and we own them.
I told you more than a year and a half ago that we now own the Tigers. After this Saturday more and more of you will finally believe.