A few shots regarding the game, the atmosphere, and Tampa in general. First off, Tampa seems to be a cool place to host a football game, especially in good weather (unfortunately, it was chilly and overcast all day...fortunately we avoided the rain). The stadium is a great venue. A lot of fans referred to Coral Gables on the ride in, as there was a lot of tailgating in people's front yards. We were able to run into some old friends and folks from my years at old CU...all positives. Unfortunately, this is the ACC and it is geographically difficult to pack out a football game in Tampa. While the venue and town itself is not an issue, it really makes a lot more sense to put this contest in the more centrally-located Charlotte area. I just hope that I will have the opportunity to see Clemson play in one of these games in Ericson (or whatever they call it now) Stadium in the Queen City.
Now on to the game. It really seems like I repeat myself each week, talking about deficiencies up front offensively and out of the linebackers. I will go ahead and get these out of the way now. Daboreally needs to evaluate Brad's role on this staff, as we are still behind the curve here. I really don't feel like rehashing the points that both of us (particularly Dr. B) has repeatedly made on this point. Clemson's linebacker play has repeatedly caused problems for the Tigers this season. Brandon Maye (AKA Maddog, per Doc Walker) is constantly out of position and is not able to make the plays that he must make to keep this defense in football games. I really expect to see a shakeup here, as Coach Swinney is not happy with the play out of this position.
On to specifics...simply stated Clemson's offense put up plenty of points to win and the defense could not get it going. While the offense was far from perfect, ridiculous numbers from C. J. Spiller kept Clemson in the game. Spiller had 233 yards rushing and accounted for 4 of the Tiger's 5 TD's on the afternoon. Kyle Parker was not sharp Saturday, although his first interception was clearly the root of Andre Ellington not holding onto a catch-able ball. I am still not sure about the 2nd interception. To me, it appeared as though the coaching staff started to press, as Clemson was down 10 at the time. Spiller (on what looked to be a wheel route from the stands) was well covered and Parker floated a gift for this GT defense. I would have continued to run the football and pound this struggling GT front four. Rule number 1 in offensive playcalling...If you can run the football, run it again and again and again. There is no need to throw the ball unless absolutely necessary.
I would also like to see more of Ellington and less of Harper. Ellington does a great job hitting holes quickly and has some shifty moves. Best of all, after Ellington gets to the hole quickly, he makes few moves then gets North-South and picks up some nice yardage. I just think that he is a better all-around back than Harper at this point in both players' careers.
Defensively, I was a little miffed by the two point stance shown by the ends as well as Steele's strategy to swap option assignments. The ends were a little high all night (and you know what we think about playing high--LOW MAN HAS BETTER LEVERAGE ALWAYS WINS BATTLES UP FRONT). Nesbit was also able to beat Clemson on keepers all night. Clemson swapped force assignments and I really think this strategy backfired. Like Dr. B, I want Bowers or Sapp forcing Nesbit Many times on the evening, the force (here a linebacker, got caught up inside and was not able to get into position to slow down the QB, leaving Nesbit without an option decision and Nesbit with over 100 yards and a TD on the ground. Overall, Clemson had no answer for GT's ground attack and were lulled to sleep and gave up some critical pass catches. Clemson was also scorched on a long pass play out of a cover 4 look. This game turned into a track meet and not how the Tigers needed to play to beat a good GT offense.
I thought I was going to have a stroke following our botched extra point. We are 13 games into this season, why can Clemson still not kick PAT's correctly? There is no excuse for even one missed PAT opportunity, and Clemson has screwed this up countless times this season. This poor execution really hurt the Tigers late, as Clemson could have played to hold GT to a field goal a the end of the game to force overtime instead of a filed goal for the win. Missing a 52 yard field goal on Jackson's part is not the end of the world. GT really cleaned up Saturday with four (4) field goals in the contest. Scott Blair was clutch for the Jackets, converting three (3) field goals of 40 yards or more.
Overall, I would like for Swinney to evaluate the continued poor state of our offensive line and the causes of the poor play out of this group. Brad Scott will continue to receive (deserved) scrutiny. Our linebacker play has been a glaring problem down the stretch. We have pointed out deficiencies in their play all year, and teams really took advantage of this late in the season. Clemson has to get more talented at the linebacker position. The linebackers also need to play a little smarter, as they are often out of position.
Here we are, 13 games in and Atlantic Division champions. Clemson surely is not world-beaters, but are a better football team this season than last. The fact that last year's receivers coach led this team to the ACCCG says a lot abut how important the head coaching position is in college football. CU played hard in all contests (but SC), and was one defensive stop away from a trip to Miami to play in the Orange Bowl. C. J. Spiller put up some ridiculous numbers on the season both as a running back and as an all-purpose player. We saw Bowers look like a man amongst boys this season and DeAndre McDaniel turn into nothing short of a ball-hawk. Clemson still has deficiencies offensively up front and at the WR position. Kyle Parker still has a ways to go, but clearly improved throughout the year. He has the tools necessary to become a star, he just needs to put it all together. It will be interesting to see how the baseball draft works out and whether or not Parker will be with this team next season. Who would have thought (this time last season) that we would be here today expecting to see Will Korn transfer to App. State? The player who received great hype and was glossed as Clemson's "Savior" just has not been able to make it happen here. You have to feel for the guy because he has been committed to this football team for what seems like an eternity, and only has one start to show for it.
I still think that Clemson has a long way to go to get where we need to get. We certainly are no Florida or Alabama, but then again we are no longer the Tom Bowden group of excuse makers. Clemson is moving in the correct direction and I believe that this staff (especially from an offensive standpoint) has grown tremendously over the course of this season. I still would like to see an adjustment out of the staff in terms of the OL and the strategy taken there (recruiting and player development). The Tigers' passing attack still needs some work in all areas (QB, protection, and WR play). The WR corps is very thin, and I am not sure what to expect out of this group moving forward without Ford. Clemson still has lots of work to do with the linebacking corps. Overall, CU needs an upgrade at talent at quite a few positions. It is critical that Clemson hold onto a decent core class this year and hit a homerun next offseason.