Kind of a "blah" game I felt from the Tigers. I did not see alot of emotion in this one that I saw earlier this year, and I suppose the general malaise that infected us fans when we lost the ACCCG did make its way to the team. I did not see much from Kentucky either. I will admit that when its colder than a witch's tit; its hard to get too excited about anything when you live in the South.
This wasnt a game of huge plays, nor outstanding defense. It was more a game that Clemson wanted to win more than Kentucky did. Lets be fair, we didnt want to be there in 2006, and they really did, and they beat our asses for it. We didnt want to be there this year, but neither did they, so it was more like one of those consolation or 3rd place games that you see in basketball tournaments.....at least thats how it felt to me. I didnt see much jumping around from us or them tonight.
Clemson's offense did a pretty good job. We ran the ball well, 180 yards total. I was disappointed that Napier went away from the I-formation plays he had success with earlier with Jamie Harper. However, some of those I-formation plays were actually zone-blocked and Harper cut them back. Most of the time an I-formation play, like the Iso or Power, is straight-up man blocked. Napier went away from them because of the defensive style that KY played, which is essentially a gap-control scheme that is meant to give the I-formation a fit.
However, I'm really disappointed that C.J. Spiller did not get 30 carries in this game. If he had, I dont see how this would've been a contest. He finished with 172 yards all-purpose (15 carries for 68 rushing, 57 receiving, the rest on returns), but shouldve been well over 200. We had success in the "i" and then went to ace formations and zone-run plays only. WHY BILLY? If they can't stop the Isolation when they are playing a gap-control scheme designed to stop that play, then you dont stop running the Isolation. Harper had 8 carries for 79 yards. Ellington was off the map. Sometimes what Napier decides defies common sense.
"I'm kind of speechless right now," Spiller said after his first bowl victory as well. "I'm very happy we've won the bowl game. ... I just wanted to see what it was like to be in a locker room after winning a championship game, and that's what this was -- a championship game."
Parker was 8/14 for 141 yards, which is OK but not great. I don't think much of it was because of KY's secondary, but moreso that our WRs suck and our OL gave up a little bit too much pressure. With it as cold as it was, its hard to throw and catch, and if you give Michael Palmer another chance at that one that bounced off his hands behind the Corner, I think he grabs it.
Defensively, though the stats would say we did fair (277 total, 110 pass, 167 rush), I was not happy. While Kavell Conner, Brandon Thompson, and DeAndre McDaniel all had good games, I wasn't really thrilled with the rest of the unit's play, specifically on the perimeter. The inside guys at DT did their job, especially being down 2 linemen, but again perimeter runs killed us. Thankfully, the Wildcat did not destroy us like it has recently.
Perhaps the best news defensively is that DMac is leaning towards returning, from his postgame:
"I am leaning towards coming back. I feel I'm better than second round. Everybody keeps telling me it's probably second round. We'll know for sure within the next week or so, but I know I'm a good player and I think I'm better than that. It is what it is."
With him and Rashard Hall together, I think we have the best safety tandem in college football. Both are All-American candidates in my opinion. The rest of the secondary performed well, aside from Butler's botched deep coverage for KY's TD pass early (Cover 4 look that rolled into a Cover 3).
Brandon Maye was where tonight? I had heard about a tweaked knee, but Jeremy Campbell did admirably well and on par with Maye's recent play. Still, the Tigers had considerable trouble getting off the field, what with stupid penalties AGAIN, and at the absolute worst times, as well as QB pressure. Our guys could not get a hand on Newton all night. We barely stopped him on the 4th down play at the end.
Some people are going to blabber about the SEC vs ACC bullshit, and ESPN's site says that this is Clemson's 2nd win in 12 SEC games.....which kinda tells you what kind of research ESPN does, or that they just dont count Sakerlina in the SEC. We are 7-6 since 2003 by my count? SEC homers (other than KY fans) all figured that we'd lose to KY because of "superior SEC speed", like douchebag #1 Jesse Palmer, or that it'd be close only because KY sucked and not because Clemson was any good.....Well those people can suck it.
And Dabo can even say he retired a coach.
After the game, Brooks said he told the team he's probably not returning next season. Brooks said he's "80 percent" sure he's not coming back. Last January, Kentucky announced that offensive coordinator Joker Phillips will take over as head coach when Brooks steps down.
"I think it may be time for a change and time for Joker to take over," Brooks said.
I'd have taken 9 wins to start the season, and I'll take it now.