2009 Football Season Review


Our plan for the near future is to hold off on evaluations of coaches until after 2010 recruiting is essentially done, but we'll be evaluating each one along with the players at each position and their performance in 2009. Some will be evaluated sooner rather than later as our recruiting for this year is nearly finished, and some job performances are so good (or bad) that recruiting wouldn't help them in our eyes. That way we'll have a full picture of what each coach can do on the field and in recruiting, as well as not publishing overly negative articles about those position coaches that we think are idiots dislike to affect the minds of potential recruits until after recruiting for 2010 is done. It may be just a blog, but its part of a larger CBS network andour words get spread around. 

This post is intended as a review down the road, in case we need to look at what happened in the past, so short synopses are given, and we specifically track the QB play, OL play, defensive performance, etc. to see how they varied throughout the year.

2009 Season Schedule & Results
Opponent Outcome  Opp. Final Record 
MTSU           W 37-14 10-3 (2nd Sun Belt)
@ Georgia Tech  (Thurs)     L 30-27 11-3
Boston College W 25-7  8-5 (2nd ACC Atl)
Texas Christian L 14-10 12-1 MWC Champs
@ Maryland L 24-21 2-10 (last ACC Atl)
Wake Forest W 38-3 5-7 (4th ACC Atl)
@ Miami W 40-37 9-4 (3rd ACC Cstl)
Coastal Carolina W 49-3 5-6 (5th Big South)
Florida State W 40-24 7-6 (3rd ACC Atl)
@ NC State W 43-23 5-7 (5th ACC Atl)
The White Meat W 34-21 3-9 (last ACC Cstl)
@ Sakerlina L 34-17 7-6 (4th SEC East)
ACC CG: Georgia Tech L 39-34 11-3 ACC Champs
MCB: Kentucky W 21-13 7-6 (5th SEC East)
Final Record 9-5 102-76
ACC Atlantic Division Champs


Biggest win: @ Miami

Worst defeat: @ Maryland, @ SC

Record in Death Valley: 6-1

Final Ranking: #24 AP, unranked in the Coaches Poll. All rankings below are the opponents ranking at the time of play.

Sagarin Rankings: 22

Schedule ranked in top 20 according to Warren Nolan computer ranking, FEI, and NCAA. Clemson played four games against top 15 teams, just the second Clemson team to do that (1999).

 Clemson 2009 (up to UVa) Season Highlights:

 

Clemson 37 MTSU 14 - film review, game stats

 On the opening kickoff we got a taste of what we all hope will come often this year, CJ took the ball at the 4 along the MTSU sideline and charged straight ahead, cutting through a huge hole anddown the right sideline to the house. Soon after, he appeared to be injured, which turned out to be a turf toe that bothered him all season. Jamie Harper carried the load at RB with 15 carries for 76 yards and Andre Ellington had 9 for 72 yards.

Parker's decision making seemed surprisingly good, despite subpar statistics, but wasn't given much opportunity to do anything major. Aside from a twist that wasn't picked up by the Center, MTSU didnt get to Parker, but did get considerable pressure with their blitz cover 0-heavy system. Considering the scheme they played, I expected our young WRs to have done better but was giving the benefit of the doubt with a new freshman QB. Drops were a big problem, even by Jacoby Ford, who went out early. 

The defense played mostly a 3-2-6 Dime scheme against MTSU's5 wide Tony Franklin spread offense. Dasher managed to light us up with QB read options andkeepers because of bad pursuit angles, finishing with19 carries for 88 yards.  A slower QB would've been sacked 6-8 times. Clemson blitzed on almost every other play with a variety of fire zones and Gut-X blitzes and twists. Brandon Maye and DMac both played well. The secondary coverage was quite good.

The OL, despite 202 rushing, did not get significant push on MTSU's small DL all night. They opened up holes but the right side of the line in particular had a bad night.

#15 Georgia Tech 30 Clemson 27 on Thursday night, film review

Clemson played awful for one quarter, and then, as you're supposed to, shut down the FB Dive play altogether by the outstanding play of our DL. Clemson's offense took a quarter to get things together, and put together some nice drives with rushing and passing. Georgia Tech ran a 4-2-5 scheme for this game, with a little more press coverage and Kyle Parker showed us flashes of brilliance at QB. Drops continued to be a big problem by our WRs.

A Bowden coached team would've rolled over and lost by 30 points, but Swinney's decision to run that fake is what cost us this game. Sending Jackson out, after a TO was called, to pooch kick one. Jackson was told to kick it out of bounds, and it went straight into the arms of Terrant who returned it and broke 2 tackles on the way to the endzone. Why would you call a timeout to run this play and not have the right personnel in to make a tackle in case he cant get it out of bounds? I don't understand. GT later scored on what was ruled an illegal play by the ACC, similar to our "cock a doodle doo" play against SC in 2008.

In the 2nd half, GT switched to the Midline Option keeper, and Clemson took just long enough to adjust to the play so that GT went back ahead late to seal the victory. Had Clemson not dug itself into such a quick hole, things might have turned out differently. Defensive breakdowns against GT.

Secondary coverage was good, and appeared to be Robber and 2-Man. LB play was woeful early but improved because of some adjustments made on the line.

Clemson's OL had horrible trouble handling Derrick Morgan, who blew up several plays and beat Cory Lambert like a drum in the 1st half. At halftime they adjusted by putting Hairston over him, and he was a nonfactor. Run blocking was pretty good but not fantastic push, its clear that the left side can move people out of the way.

In the week following, Xavier Dye decided to quit football per Dabo's radio show, and then reneged that afternoon.

Georgia Tech finished the season 13th in the AP and Coaches

Clemson 25 BC 7, film review

Probably Clemson's most dominating defensive performance in modern history, giving up only 49 total yards in a twice-stopped game due to rain and lightning. Complete raping by Clemson's front 4 and coverage was like glue except for a botched assignment by DMac after an Ellington fumble set BC up inside the Clemson red zone to give them their only score.

However, the offense, and particularly the OL, left much to be desired. Clemson averaged only 3.2 yards per play, one of our worst all season. Kyle Parker had serious problems finding open guys against Spaziani's good zone defense and the run offense was similarly woeful. CJ Spiller scored the only TD of the day on a return.

#15 TCU 14 Clemson 10, film review

One of those games that sticks in your craw, like Marshall and FSU in 1999. TCU went unbeaten until falling to also unbeaten Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl 17-10 and could've played for the National Title, but it took two fluke plays to win in Death Valley in the rain. The first TCU score was set up by a weak pass that deflected off the hand of Bowers and found a RB waiting who carried it 58 yards inside the 10.

The Clemson defense played a bend-but-dont-break style, as QB Andy Dalton was very efficient running and passing and TCU's WR corp made Clemson's WRs look like HS players. They went up for and made tough catches, and blocked downfield. Clemson's secondary did well to tackle them immediately after those catches, but the man/man coverage showed issues. Dalton's veer option and zone read plays late managed to give us enough fits so that TCU ran off just enough clock to give us little time to run a 2-minute drill. Clemson's LB corps showed serious problems in handling the zone read in this game, and later teams exploited it well.

Clemson's OL did very well to contain DE Jerry Hughes but TCU's defense played quite well against us, holding us to 309 yards of total offense. CJ Spiller had 26 carries for 112 and1TD on the ground, and it was all him if you ask me. Kyle Parker was inefficient at 17/37 for 192, most of which were completed to Ford and Spiller.

The game started well for the Tigers as we moved downfield on the first possession 72 yards but were held to a FG. Aside from a long 60 yd pass to Spiller to get inside the TCU 4, we didnt really threaten again offensively until the end of the game.A TD pass to Allen late sailed just over his fingertips after he stumbled on a pump route that had worked against GT before. In the following week, Dabo Swinney started to sound like Bowden again.

TCU finished the year ranked #6 AP and Coaches

Maryland 24 Clemson 21,   First Half Summary,    Second Half Summary

The most inexplicable loss of the season. In true Bowden style, we came out and completely shit the bed. This prompted me to fully examine the offensive playcalling and execution for the game. It was almost entirely an offense from the shotgun, hardly any I-formation running whatsoever. The OL was terrible in getting push against a team that finished 2-10, and we managed only 81 yards rushing. Napier then dodged reporters for post-game interviews, though he said he didnt know he shouldve met with them....right Billy.

The D took two drives "off" in the 2ndquarter with missed tackles and pisspoor man coverage, but otherwise did their job. One TD by MD was not really a catch but was trapped. We limited them to 284 yards total, 69 rushing on 45 carries.

After the game, going into the BYE week, we heard of on-field fights between Napier and Swinney from band members who had been to practice. We also heard of a distinct difference in philosophy for the offense from the two coaches: Napier for a more cautious I-formation approach, and Swinney for a spread shotgun. We heard that Swinney had been overruling many of the playcallson the sideline in the Maryland game. Swinney kept sounding like Tommy in his interviews. All the coaches involved denied it, and played the fight off as a normal thing between coaches in practice. All I know is that I saw more I-formation running and less zone and shotgun rushing throughout the rest of the season. It was during these first few weeks of the season that Clemson fans really got hot about TDP.

Several changes were also made: Parker quit throwing balls to young WRs who were plagued by drops. The lineup was set: Ford, Dye, and Ashe. Marquan Jones, Clear, and Brown were not noticed again until Coastal Carolina. Rendrick Taylor was hardly seen again at TE/H, and Dwayne Allen took his snaps. Cory Lambert was hardly noticed again, though he did play. Chad Diehl was utilized more as a lead blocker. Nearly every pass thrown was to Ford, Palmer or Spiller from here on out.  Dalton Freeman took over the starting Center spot.

Clemson 38 Wake Forest 3Post Game Review

Clemson woke up. In another rainy day, the DL ate Riley Skinner up with 5 sacks and we picked him off twice. WF could do nothing all day and we limited them to 178 yards of offense.  Bowers and company were in the backfield all afternoon anddid not allow Skinner to break containment for most of the game.  LB play was decent, though Maye continued to get himself blocked out at the wrong times. The secondary complimented the pressure placed on the Deacons up front with good coverage really confusing Skinner at times.  Both DeAndre McDaniel and Rashard Hall recorded interceptions during the contest.

Clemson did a nice job offensively of maintaining balanced sets andnot being out of control with the playcalling.  In fact, this is the first game of the year that we were able to maintain a nice offensive flow throughout the game.  Billy Napier did an excellent job of attempting to establish the run early and utilize playaction.  CJran all over Wake, with 9 carries for 106 and 2 TDs before being sat down. But if you take out the long runs, Clemson wouldnt average much on the ground. The OLdid well in pass-blocking with the first team, but the 2nd team was pitiful, giving up 3 sacks on Korn. Run push was minimal. Parker never really had to throw at all, but was efficient going 10 of 17 for 132 yards and a touchdown.  Parker's best showing on this day, however, involved his decision-making.  On numerous occasions, Kyle tucked the ball andpicked up nice chunks of yardage instead of trying to force things withhis arm.  When Parker did throw the ball, his best friend was Michael Palmer.  Palmer pulled down 4 passes for 49 yards and a TD on the afternoon.

If anything, this game gave us all a glimmer of hope that our freshman offensive coordinator/head coach duo had not completely lost their minds.  Clemson got back to playing to its strengths against Wake (feed Spiller the rock, dominate up front defensively, throw to the TE) and was able to put together a complete game.  The only problem for the Tigers, it appeared, was a revived Miami team that was next on Clemson's schedule.

Clemson did not seem to have much of a chance heading down to South Florida.  Miami (#8 AP, #10 BCS) was clearly favored and looked to be the class of the ACC.  The 'Canes had already beaten ACC Atlantic favorite #18 Florida State,  dismantled #14 Georgia Tech, and beaten #8 Oklahoma.  Miami's lone defeat to that point was at #11 Virginia Tech in a game that was played in a monsoon. 

Clemson 40 #10 Miami 37 OTFilm Review

Wow. Dabo's first big win on the road against #10 Miami who appeared unstoppable on offense.  Clemson was able to come out and find a way to beat this talantedMiami team.  The biggest impression that this team left with me at this game was their never quit attitude.  The team got down at various points in the game and had to rally to overcome several Rookie mistakes by freshman Kyle Parker to win this one in dramatic fashion.

Clemson managed to keep this one close early and was the benificiary of several Miami mistakes.  Miami drove well on their only possession only to have a tipped pass intercepted by DeAndre McDaniel.  Miami also mistakenly kicked off to C.J. Spiller, who immediately took it to the house.  Late in this one, Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel was able to intercept another errant Jacory Harris pass andcruised to the house.

Pass coverage was pretty good, mostly matchup Cover 2 zone. Only Leonard Hankerson really posed a continued problem for the secondary. Harris finished 17/27 for 256. The underneath coverage by the LBs and the play against the rush was bad. On one of Miami's longer TD plays, Hall was coming up in run support and missed the WR. The defense allowed 8 plays of 20+ yards. We got some pressure but it wasntgreat, I wasnt encouraged with how our DL played against them in passing situations, though I didnt expect to dominate a good team up front like WF or BC. We did not blitz as much as usual. Da'Quan Bowers was essentially bottled up all day. Jenkins was handled well. Thompson and Cumbie were handled for the most part. Sapp made a couple good plays. They had 210 yards from the 3 RBs.

Clemson had its good andbad moments offensively.  Freshman Kyle Parker made two freshman mistakes.  Parker, trying to avoid an apparent sack, put the ball on the ground midway through the 3rd quarter, allowing Miami to scoop and return the fumble for a TD.  A fourth quarter interception deep in Miami terretory also hurt the Tigers.  The impressive thing was that neither of these mistakes was able to break Clemson. 

The Tigers were able to provide pretty good pass protection for Kyle Parker, who was 25 of 37 for 326 yards, 3 TD's and 1 pick.  Michael Palmer had another great game, making an early juggling catch for a TD and coming down with several tough grabs (the last knocked him out of the game with a concussion).  Despites a pisspoor OL performance in run-blocking, Spiller still had a school record 310 all-purpose yards in the victory.  Spiller was off the field in some of the games most crucial moments, nabbing only 14 carries. The game ended with Jacoby Ford grabbing a pass and scampering into the endzone for a Clemson overtime victory.

Clemson came out and absorbed every shot Miami threw at them.  When the 'Canes scored early, Spiller returned a kickoff for a TD.  Miami returned a fumble for a TD, Clemson came back with a field goal.  Miami gets up late, McDaniel responds witha pick-6.  Clemson was able to put together a game tying drive to send this one to overtime, then won in dramatic fashion on a Parker to Ford strike.  This was clearly the highlight of Clemson's season and one of college football's most exciting games in the '09 season.

Miami finished the season ranked #19 AP and Coaches and lost to Wisconsin in the Tangerine Bowl.

Coastal Carolina 3 Clemson 49,   Film Review

Clemson was coming off of a huge victory at Miami and hosted the upstart CC Chanticleers.  This one was over early and really wasn't a pretty game, as Jacoby Ford had two TD's early (one passing and one throwing) to lead the Tigers after an opening-game INT by Parker.  Spiller was able to reach paydirt with very limited playing time over the course of this one.  It was a shame that Spiller had turf-toe and needed to sit in preparation for the Tiger's stretch run, as he probably could have run for 300 on this afternoon if the coaches committed to feeding him the football for four quarters. CJ may have lost his Heisman invite because of this game; he only had 5 carries.

The Tigers were up 21-0 at half, and this was clearly one the coaches were going to use to work on things, as shown all through the second half.  The third quarter featured Willy Korn under center throwing a lot of passes to young receivers.  It was clear all day that Swinney and crew were attempting to instill some confidence in the young receivers with easy screens and such all afternoon.  Ellington had yet another electric run, scampering over 50 yards for the TD.  The defense played pretty well against an overmatched Coastal team.  Clemson suffered a huge loss in this one when DaQuanBowers withan injury to both his MCL and PCL.

I thought the QB play on the afternoon was ho-hum (just like most of the rest of this game). Parker was not sharp and we thought this game should've been a tuneup for him. It was good to see another Will Korn appearance in this one, although he appeared to press a little much here and really looked like he was trying to do too much on his own.  Ellington continued to impress me, even against this inferior defense.  It is pretty evident that he is comfortable running behind zone blocking schemes.  Swinney spoke a lot before about Allen needing to be a breakout player, and I would have liked to see more emphasis on getting him the ball in this game.  The young receivers still appeared to be young, and this was really the last time all year we saw some of these guys.

The OL did well, the defense played very well but we expected more sacks than we registered.

Florida State 24 Clemson 40Film Review

We really considered this game against FSU as the first real gut check for Swinney and this staff.  Clemson had a chance to come out and make a big statement in the quest for the Atlantic Division title, but what at the time appeared to be a dangerous Florida State team was traveling to the Vally to face the Tigers.  We were especially weary of the team coming out and playing flat in Bowdenesque fashion.  We were also concerned about this Jimbo Fischer offense led by arguably the best QB in the ACC, Christian Ponder.  Clemson would be playing short handed up front defensively, as Soph. sensation DaQuan Bowers was held out of this one with both a sprained MCL and PCL.

The final question would the the offensive strategy that Napier/Swinney would employ.  Clemson was able to keep up with the Seminoles through three quarters then was able to blow the game wide open in the fourth period. Honestly, it should not have been as close as it was, and I believe Clemson was better by about 16 points. The D only gave up 17 points against a Top 10 offense. FSU beat us with crossing routes and hitches/slants all day, but could only break a few longer ones. On 3rd downs we were again pitiful until the mid 3rd quarter. The D rarely blitzed and continued to play a good mix of 2-Zone and Man.

This one was interesting all the way through.

After giving up an initial first down, the Seminoles were able force a Clemson punt.  After a nice FSU return, the 'Noles were able to cash in witha 35 yard field goal.  Clemson answered withan excellent drive that culminated with a Dwayne Allen 17 yard TD reception.  Richard Jackson then proceeded to miss the extra point following a poor snap.  FSU scored on their next drive via a 49 yard pitch and catch from C. Ponder to Lonnie Pryor.  Kyle Parker was intercepted on the following series by Jamie Robinson, who scampered 52 yards for an FSU touchdown.  This looked like a miscommunication between the QB and his receivers, as Robinson was playing centerfield and had open lanes to the endzone.  End of 1st quarter, Florida State 17 Clemson 6.

After a Clemson punt to open the 2nd quarter, the Tigers were able to force a fumble and Rashard Hall was there for the recovery.  Clemson made short work of this opportunity, scoring on the 2nd play of the drive via a 43  yard completion from Parker to Dye.  Spiller successfully converts the 2 pointer.  Clemson again forces a Florida State turnover on a Coty Sensabaugh interception.  The Tigers drive down to within inches of a score, when McClain commits a false start penalty.  Kyle Parker was subsequently sacked and fumbled away the football.  Clemson squandered a huge opportunity and went into half down 17-14 after another CU interception (Maxwell) and a makeable 37 yard field goal miss by R. Jackson.

After opening the 3rd by forcing an FSUpunt, Clemson was able to make it happen on a 52 yard TD reception by C. J. Spiller off a simple wheel route.  Florida State responded with a really nice 16 play 73 yard drive for a TD.  FSU was able to convert several 3rd downs on this drive and methodically moved down the field.  Clemson was able to successfully move the ball to the FSU 8 yard line.  Clemson had a touchdown dialed up, but Dye covered up the TE, nullifying the touchdown.  Richard Jackson then misses a mid-20 yard field goal and the Tigers get no points despite driving deep into FSU territory yet again.  End of the third with Clemson trailing 24-21.

After trading punts to start the 4th (and Clemson narrowly avoiding a disasterous interception that would have resulted in a Seminole TD), Christian Ponder tosses yet another pick, this time to RashardHall (note that Hall got extremely lucky with a lateral that could have gone terribly wrong here).  Ellington and Spiller combine for 24 yards and the Tigers again reach the end zone.  Clemson, however, misses yet another extra point, this time by Spencer Benton.  After an FSU punt, Clemson lays the hammer down on a 73 yard drive.  Both Ellington andSpiller were able to rip off huge chunks of yards on the ground here and Durrell Barry makes the 2 yard TD catch (Jackson missed extra point).  Clemson picks off Ponder once more and C. J. Spiller finds the end zone from 5 yards out to complete this one, 40-24 Tigers. 

We were excited about the overall effort here.  The Tigers came out and played hard all night.  While they made mistakes, they did not give up.  There were some ridiculous mistakes, however, that showed this team still has plenty of improvement needed.  Clemson made basic errors in lining up, missed tons of kicks and EXTRA POINTS, could not punch it in from short distance, can't cover anyone on returns, and were fortunate that there is an FSU linebacker who can't catch.  Clemson did show lots of heart and the defense played well against this talented and well coached FSU offense.  This is definite improvement over the early season games yet shows that the Tigers still had a lot of work left to become a killer team after being unable to deliver the knockout punch earlier in the game.  Spiller had 312 all purpose yards (including 165 rushing and 67 receiving) and a couple of TDs to propellhim into legit Heisman discussions.  Parker also ended up with some nice numbers on the night, throwing 4 TDs to 1 INT and completing 18/30 for 242 yards.  Clemson was clearly in the driver's seat for the Atlantic Division crown after this win.

Clemson 43 NC State 23Film Review

Clemson went to Raleigh as the clear favorite over banged up NC State Wolfpack team.  C. J. turned this scrimage into a showcase by notching a rushing, passing, and receiving TD in this game (first time this has been accomplished in school history).  Jamie Harper also had a nice effort in this one, rushing for 86 yards and a td on only 4 carries.  Clemson also enjoyed great field position due to squib kickoffs and directional punts designed to keep the ball out of either Spiller or Ford's hands. Due to this, its a bit difficult to rate the offensive performance. The OL did well in run-blocking and relatively little pressure got to Parker, who had an efficentday. Clemson scored at least 38 points for a school-record fifth consecutive game.

ACC referees managed to botch a fumble call on Spiller in the game, and no explanation was given by the Conference. Spiller ran towards the boundary and did fumble the football, before his knee hit the ground. The refs said he was down, and Clemson snapped the ball. After the subsequent play started, the side judge threw a flag saying it was a "no-play" and then said no penalty. They reviewed the play and said he was down, which was again wrong. Referees are not allowed to review the previous play once the next play starts.

Defensively, Clemson was not as sharp as in earlier weeks, and was flagged for quite a few key penalties on the afternoon. In fact, two of NCSU's scoring drive were helped by stupid personal fouls on 3rd downs.  NC State also failed to take advantage of some favorable situations that were available for the taking (they rarely tried the zone read but had success with it) and the Tiger defensive coverage stymied Russell Wilson until letting up in intensity late and giving up a cheap TD as time expired. Kevin Steele is likely still pissed about Jonathan Meeks'coverage on the last play.  All in all, it was about what I was expecting with the exception of the undisciplined play of the defense at times.  Clemson was able to pick up a road win to move one step closer to a rematch against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship.

Virginia 21 Clemson 34,   Film Review

Coming into this week, we all knew that a Clemson win against UVa would assure the Tigers a spot in the ACC Championship Game the first week in December.  A loss by Boston College earlier in the day, however, assured that win or lose, the Tigers would be in Tampa in a few weeks.  Clemson came out and was able to put away the visiting Wahoos in the second half and finish the home schedule on a positive note.  C. J. Spiller accounted for 1 TD and 114 all purpose yards to break the conference single season record for APY. 

The play of the defense in the first half against such a bad team really sticks out in my mind.  Virginia was able to move the ball against the Tigers.  Virginia pulled out an assortment of trick plays and was extremely effective running out of the Wildcat formation throughout the first half.  Steele and company made some adjustments at half that allowed the defense to shut down Virginia for the duration of the contest.

I for one will say that I was particularly pleased with the staff's ability to recover after the devastating loss at College Park earlier in the year.  Clemson reeled off 5 consecutive ACC victories to capture the Atlantic...the first sniff of a championship in anything football related since '91.  While not the greatest win in the world, the ability of the offense to come out and execute basic plays combined with some nice halftime adjustments to win an important game was good to finally see in Death Valley.

Clemson 17 South Carolina 34    Film Review

Extreme let down.  That is the only way to describe this one.  All week, the players spoke to the media about how they were going to take this one extremely seriously and not look forward to the upcoming conference championship game.  We were all excited about the ACCCG, enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday, andready for the team to cruise into Columbia to play a SC team that appeared on the skids.  Clemson came into this one riding high with tons of momentum.  SC came just off of a bye week after a few tough ones to end their conference play.

The game opened well for that Tigers.  A sick (literally) C. J. Spiller returned the opening kickoff for a TD.  This one set an NCAA return record and seemed to get the team off to a good start.  After picking off a Garcia pass, Clemson drove the ball well, down to the USC 24 until a Jamie Harper fumble changed the entire game.  Clemson could have taken complete control of this one early but instead the fumble (and subsequent return by Eric Norwood) moved all momentum into Carolina's favor.  The Gamecocks then began a march out of the Wildcat formation (led by Stephon Gilmore) that could not be stopped by the Tigers, and resulted in a South Carolina TD.  On Clemson's next posession, Kyle Parker threw a pick that ended up essentially giving SC a touchdown. 

Clemson really could get nothing going from that point over.  The Tigers were completely dominated up front on both sides of the football.  I really have to tip the cap to Steve Spurrier and his offensive game plan.  Often this season, South Carolina has appeared to be in control with the rushing game only to have the playcalling move to unnecessary passes.  Here, South Carolina was determined to run the ball.  South Carolina lined up in the shotgun and ran power plays, traps, midline read options, and zone reads.  Jamie Cumbie had a good day up front, and in the 2nd half the DT combo of Jenkins and Thompson woke up, but otherwise a woeful performance by the front 7. Secondary coverage was fairly good all day but for 2 botched coverages. Stephen Garcia did not beat us with his arm.

While this left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, one would have to believe that Clemson did not take this one as seriously as they should have.  The Tigers had the division wrapped up and were playing a slumping SC team.  While I will not take anything away from the home team (as they clearly beat Clemson in all aspects of the game), you could definitely see that this one meant a little more to Spurrier and crew than the Tigers.  As a Clemson fan, all you can do is lick your wounds and look forward to the trip to Tampa the next week.

Georgia Tech 39 Clemson 34,    Film Review

Clemson finally won something, and was headed to Tampa to play a pretty good Ga Tech team.  Both squads were coming off of upset losses to instate rivals with a trip to the Orange Bowl on the line.  Clemson fans were really hoping that the previous week's game was a product of the Tigers overlooking their whipping boys the Gamecocks and could get after the Jackets.  The big key to this game would be Clemson's ability to stop the run, specifically Paul Johnson's triple option.

 The game was unseasonably cool for the Tampa area when both teams took the field.  Both teams' offenses were prepared for this one and combined for 73 points on the evening.  Clemson started the scoring with a 71 yard drive highlighted by a 40 yard scamper and3 yard TD run by C.J. Spiller.  GT was able to counter with a field goal and forced a 52 yard miss from Clemson's Richard Jackson.  GT then scored a touchdown, was the beneficiary of a Clemson interception aided by an Ellington dropped pass, andfollowed with a Scott Blair field goal.  Spiller then carried the ball five (5) consecutive times and scored off of a 41 yard rush.  Clemson then failed to convert the PAT and I contemplated assasination of Richard Jackson.  Blair was able to hit his third field goal of the half to put Tech up 16-13 at half.

This was a very interesting half of football.  Georgia Tech was keen on rushing the ball, only attempting a handfull of passes.  Scott Blair really showed out for the Jackets.  This is exactly why you need a good kicker who can get you points anytime you get inside the opponent's 35 yardline.  Clemson also looked good on offense here.  Spiller (as usual) had a great half.  Clemson was hampered by an interception that went through Ellington's hands, a long field goal miss by Jackson, and a botched PAT attempt thwarted by a bad snap.

GT opened the second half with a TD, and Clemson followed suit by scoring on another long Spiller run.  Tech then scorched the CU defense on a 70 yard TD pass (on 3rd and 10).  Kyle Parker was hit as he threw a pass on the next possession, giving Tech the ball back and stopping what looked to be a nice Clemson drive.  Tech was able to return the INT to the Clemson 28 and set their offense up with great field position.  The Jackets did not waste this opportunity and scored 3 on another Blair kick, this time from 40 yards out.  Clemson responded with another TD off of a Spiller 9 yard carry.  Clemson was then able to stop GT on 4th and 1 from the Clemson 37.  This was the first GT possession (and only) GT possession all night that did not result in Yellow Jacket points.  The Tigers took advantage of this defensive stop and drove 63 yards.  In this drive Spiller had a nice 54 yard carry and Ellington was able to punch it in to give the Tigers a 34-33 lead with about 6 minutes left in the game.  Georgia Tech, true to fashion all evening, responded with a 13 play, 86 yard drive that culminated in a Jonathan Dwyer game winning touchdown.

This one was cut and dry...Spiller played a ridiculous football game, rushing for 233 yards and 4 TD's on the night. Almost all of it coming from the I-formation. Clemson's OL was doing its job all day, and even handled Derrick Morgan well. Parker was inaccurate at times, as usual, so C. J. carried this team and put together an effort that should have won the game in and of itself.  The problem here was the Clemson defense.  Clemson was unable to stop the option attack, as Ga Tech ran up and down the field to the tune of 333 yards on the ground.  A critical pass coverage error (on third and long) and two interceptions gave GT all the help they needed when they weren't rushing the ball.  Hats off to Paul Johnson and crew for winning the ACC Championship in only his second year leading the Jackets.  Clemson had plenty of chances to win this one, but could not stop GT in the end.

After the conference championship game, sophmore Willy Korn announced he would transfer from Clemson after he graduated from the university in May.  We all saw this coming, as Korn was highly touted coming out of high school and had higher ambitions than backup QB at Clemson.

Kentucky 13 Clemson 21, Film Review

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The Music City Bowl selected the Tigers and the Kentucky Wildcats to face off in this late December matchup. Both teams had higher hopes to end the season, but a Kentucky loss to Tennessee and consecutive losses by the Tigers set the stage for a rematch of the 2006 Music City Bowl. The Tiger Staff had asked to play in the Meineke Car Car Bowl in Charlotte against a ranked Pitt team, but though Swoffy let FSU go to the Gator undeservedly, he would not let Clemson talk its way into Charlotte. UNC went for their 2nd straight year. I think everyone wanted to see if Clemson could rebound after getting trashed by USC then losing a close one for the ACC Championship.  I think we were all a little nervous about UK's ability to run the ball, especially out of their Wildcat formation with their best all around player, Randall Cobb.  We were confident that Clemson would be able to run the ball against this defense going into the contest.

The 2009 edition of the Music City Bowl opened with a Clemson 3-and-out followed by a 61 yard Kentucky drive.  While the TD was scored on a 17 yard pass from Morgan to Chris MatthewsCobb successfully ran the ball during this series and put some doubts into my mind about Clemson's ability to shut down this athlete.  CU and Kentucky then traded punts to set up a 4 play, 90 yard drive by the Tigers.  CJ had a nice gain (42 yards) off of a short pass but fumbled the ball at the end of the play.  Clemson was really fortunate that Spiller'sfumble ended up out of bounds.  After a nice run by Ellington, Parker found a wide open Jacoby Ford on a post route for the Tigers first touchdown of the night.

Kentucky responded to the Tigers' TD with a field goal of its own to take a 10-7 lead midway through the 2ndquarter.  Clemson came back with the Jamie Harper drive, as Harper accounted for 4 of the 5 carries and61 of the 62 yards gained on this drive.  Harper really responded here with rushes for 26, 33, 2, and a 1 yard TD.  At half, the Tigers were up 14-10.

Kentucky was able to open the 2ndhalf witha field goal.  Clemson drove its first second half possession to the UK 26 where Richard Jackson missed a 44 yard field goal.  Clemson got the break that it needed on a Kavell Conner forced fumble that gave the ball to the Tigers at the UK 19.  A carry by Ellington, then Parker, then the 8 yard Spiller TD run put the Tigers up 21-13.  Kentucky put together a pretty nice drive, getting to the Clemson 32 yardline before turning the ball over on downs.  A steady diet of Spiller and Harper allowed Clemson to run clock out for the victory.

C. J. Spiller racked up 172 APY and a touchdown to end his career.  Spiller scored a TD in each game this season, and in 14 straight games, a Clemson record.  One frustrating aspect, though, was the playcalling.  I would have liked to see more formations utilizing a fullback and the I-formation was essentially unused except for 2 series, one to wrap up the game. One wrinkle that I did like offensively from Clemson was the Pistol formation.  Running out of this formation allows the back to be moving forward while receiving the handoff.  This gets him to the LOS quicker and hopefully to the hole as it is opening.  Parker rarely had to throw but was again inaccurate on some throws. The Clemson OL was subpar at best. Zero push but Parker was unpressured.

Clemson's defensive effort was much improved over their previous two games. Brandon Maye was largely out with a knee injury suffered in practice. Jeremy Campbell and Corico Hawkins played admirably well in his stead. Kavell Conner played better and DeAndre McDaniel was constantly pressing the LOSto help with the run as the secondary shut Kentucky down. Clemson successfully harnessed the Kentucky rushing game to score this victory.  Clemson had a few reckless penalties, but was able to play well enough to hold the Wildcats to 13 points.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

We really don't want to get too deep into any position here, as we will provide a position by position breakdown in future posts.  Here we would like to give a general overview of our perspective on the team as a whole, the offense, the defense, and special teams. 

We were satisfied with the results of this season.  As promised earlier, we will give due dilligence to this staff, especially early on as Swinney gets experienced as a first year coach.  Offensively, we played best when we kept it simple.  I think the staff was trying to do way too much early on in the season, as it seemed like they were hell-bent on trying to run certain plays in a game no matter the situation.  Then came the Maryland game and it seemed like the Napier/Swinney play-calling machine took a step back.  They began to realize that it is more important to run a few plays well and get into a rhythm than to try to run a hodgepodge of plays that, when called in succession, make no rhyme or reason. 

These guys also made a committment to playing and getting the ball to only the players who would perform.  Early on we saw a ton of dropped passes to young receivers.  These receivers were all but shelved for the rest of the year, with Ford, Ashe, and Dye getting almost all the WR touches--emphasis on Ford. Clemson began throwing the ball to the TE much more, utilizing Michael Palmer's excellent route running and nice pass catching abilities complimented by Dwayne Allen's speed and athleticism.  Spiller's load increased also and we got some positive play out of his backups, Ellington and Harper as the season wore on.

There were times this season where Spiller carried this team on his back.  Spiller really made this thing go and deserves all the praise that he receives as the most dynamic back in the nation.  You really cannot say anything bad about this guy as he played (spectacularly) through a season-long turf toe injury to have one of the finest seasons in the game.  Our hats are off to CJ for a great year and career.

Kyle Parker went 9-5 as a RS Freshman, and at the start of the year showed us real flashes of brilliance. After GT though, it seemed like he was given too much to handle and his decision making plateaued until Wake Forest and then again began to progress. His number one fault all year has been the accuracy of his throws and should be worked on in the offseason. He certainly has a rocket on his shoulder but does not set his feet properly and sometimes throws off his back foot and opens his shoulder too soon. If KP becomes an accurate QB, and our WRs develop, Clemson's offense should be just fine without Spiller.

Up front, Clemson seemed to improve over the course of the season.  As the staff played musical chairs with these guys we saw some improved play.  Freshman Dalton Freeman played well for a frosh and allowed Mason Cloy to take some snaps at the guard position and spell McClain and Austin.  This move allowed David Smith to play at the tackle position providing depth(not named Lambert) behind Chris Hairston and Landon Walker.  While we still are not impressed overall with this line (or the numbers game that caused all these position changes), this unit did improve over the course of the year, which is the main objective (other than driving defenders off the ball and onto their asses). The pass protection after the first half of the Thursday night GT game was quite good.

Defensively, Clemson was fine up-front (as expected).  We were stacked at the End position and got really good snaps out of the ones and twos all year long. The DEs did tend to take some days off however. Jarvis Jenkins and Brandon Thompson held down the center of the line, and we thought that Jamie Cumbiedid a pretty good job (with the exception of missing curfew in Nashville). At times they would take series off, but rarely an entire game.  The secondary played well and was highlighted by safety DeAndre McDaniel and Rashard Hall.  McDaniel is truly a ballhawk and can also provide great run support.  We were all  impressed with Rashard Hall who came in and played really well as a RS Fresh and barring injury expect him to be an All-American next season.  The linebackers still have a bit of work to do to get to a level that can win championships.  These guys had difficulty with gap assignments, pursuit angles, and getting off blocks all season. It only became increasingly evident as other coaches began to notice the problem and take advantage of it.  Hopefully some of these shortcomings are growing pains from Steele's complex defense and will be ironed out by the start of next football season.

Special teams was a mixed bag.  Early on we were all impressed with Richard Jackson and his cannon leg.  However, multiple botched extra points and missed chip shot field goals have taken some of the shine out of his distance.  We also had a few miffs when kicking and receiving the ball.  Early on these problems were coaching mistakes (see the quick kick against the first Tech game that was returned for a TD).  Later on we could not get out of the way of a "peter'ed punt", giving the ball back to the opponent a few times.  One thing we can't argue about is how good our return men played this season.  Both Spiller and Ford lit up the opposition with dazzling returns.  They were such a threat that opposing coaches were asked weekly if they would dare kick the ball deep at any point. 

Final FEI and  NCAA rankings

Clemson NCAA Offensive Ranks
Rushing Offense 170.36 40th Nationally 3
Passing Offense 192.00 88 7
Pass Efficiency 127.09 67 8
Total Offense 362.36 74 8
Scoring Offense 31.14 28 3
Sacks allowed 1.36 pg/19 total  31 2
Overall turnover margin           .43 28 3rd

 

Clemson NCAA Defensive Ranks
Rushing Defense 151.50 67th Nationally 7th ACC
Pass Efficiency 110.88 21st 3rd
Pass Defense 162.79 7th 1st
Scoring Defense 20.43ppg 25th 4th
Total Defense 314 20th 3rd

Other NCAA Defensive Categories
Sacks per game               2.57 27th Nationally 2nd ACC
Sacks 36 13th 1st
Tackles for Loss 7.29pg/102 total  12th/8th 2nd
Interceptions 21 5th 1st

Special Teams NCAA Rankings
Punt Returns                          7th Nationally 2nd ACC
Kickoff Returns 24th 1st

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