TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Sammy Watkins #2 of the Clemson Tigers runs away from Telvin Smith #22 of the Florida State Seminoles during their game at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 22, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
We said earlier today in the gamethread, and yesterday in the preview, that big games like this always come down to the play in the trenches. It did, and at the end it showed. It just happened to be more about our DL vs the FSU OL. Clemson's defensive line is the worst line in my memory of Clemson football. And no one here or anywhere else can argue with me after we gave up 9 yards per play. No good defense allows that kind of yardage. Nine per play means you may as well have just not been out there on the field and just let them score a TD by parting like the Red Sea.
A lot of people have kept asking me all year, What is the problem on defense? Its a little of everything. Its not just coaching. Its not just the players. I don't have a problem with the schemes, but they clearly don't get it. This defense tonight was worse than the Orange Bowl. New DC, same problems.
I saw nothing tonight that I haven't seen beforehand. Its been discussed ad nauseum in the film reviews. I don't know why anyone would think that its just going to fix itself via the emotion of preparing for a big game. Once the ball is kicked that emotion only goes so far. You still have to be in your gap, and if you aren't in your gap because you don't know where it is, or how to get there, its not going to fix itself in one week is it?
If your Corners don't know how to find the damn football in the air in week 4, in M2M coverage, when we ran M2M for the last 3 years, its not going to fix itself just because you're playing the #4 team in the country.
If you can't set the edge against Ball State you won't against FSU. We haven't set the edge for 2 years now.
If your LBs can't get to the flat to cover the underneath route, and can't sink enough with the crossing receiver to stop the intermediate completions against someone like Ball State or Furman, it is not going to fix itself against FSU.
But lets get one thing straight, we got beat up front tonight first and foremost. Clemson could not generate ANY pressure with the down 4. Shocking I know. Goodman might as well not be there, and the DTs still get pushed around like little girls. There was some speed from the other end position, but they didn't get it done either. We could not stop the run because we cannot stay in a gap. When we play Read techniques they're the absolute worst I've ever seen. When the OL goes one way, you start going, then you get off the block....you dont just let him keep you going where he wants you to go.
I think Venables realized this in the 2nd quarter. We shifted to a 3-3-5 because he saw we couldn't do shit with a 4-man front, and we might as well drop 8 and hope for the best. We could get more bodies in space with a 3-3-5 and get to the edges faster, because our DL sure as hell wasn't setting the edge (as usual). Now, if Jimbo had not have gotten a little pass happy, they could've controlled the game from that point. We were not stopping them on the ground. They started throwing into 8 and we got some stops. This was basically the only thing the defense did right all night.
You play a Read technique and keep blockers tied up so the LB can get through to make a play. Unfortunately they were horrid too. I said last week that Furman's gameplan was to attack the flats and force our poor OLBs to get over there and pick guys up. It worked for them. It worked for FSU too apparently, because I didn't see a LB get over there all night. The tackling and angles tonight from the back 7-8 was horrid. It got worse at the end as they grew tired, but it was horrid earlier. We cannot miss tackles against a fast team. Its unforgivable. Again, if you think i'm being too hard just look at the yardage: 9 per play. Tell me I'm wrong. Manuel played great, but 9 per means you couldn't do a damn thing right.
And it ruined a great night by the offense. I'm not going to complain about Tajh, he did everything he could be expected to besides one throw. I have only one complaint about the whole ballgame from the offensive side: why did you not run the ball and attack the middle of the field from the 3rd Q onwards? It was there. We got pass happy too, stopped running, and then went 3 & out. 3 & outs are killer for the Clemson football team with a weak defense. Sammy stopped getting the ball. AE stopped getting the ball, and we lost. I think The Chad called a great game until this point, but credit to them because they stopped what he did call.
I thought the OL played a great game. They played hard. Overall the protection was good tonight. The DL that we were told was made of pure titanium didn't sack Tajh Boyd 35 times as we were told they would. I just thought at the end that we should've gone more max-protect and help Gifford Timothy when FSU could just pin their ears back and pass rush. The OL did generate rushing yards and holes inside, but we stopped running. Once the defense gets a stop, you can't quit what you do, and I think we got away from it, pressed after the Special Teams score flipped the momentum, and that was that.
I don't think anyone else is going to stop the Clemson offense all year. I still think The Chad is worth what he's making, and the only team to stop us will be ourselves. A big injury or a bunch of turnovers will stop us and that is about it.
So can the D be fixed? I'm not sure. I've had my reservations about Venables since the hire. Still, FSU is fast enough to expose some holes that other opponents aren't going to. However, if another team can run on us and play keep away, we're going to have a problem. We have to have good tackling and good gap integrity to get any better. That can improve this year. The pass defense needs players. We have botched some of the recruiting evaluations. We need guys who can make the hip turn on a dime, take the RIGHT DAMN ANGLES, and NOT LOSE THE BALL in the air. If we don't recruit another cover corner to sit beside Breeland, we're screwed in 2013 too.
All in all, its not a "Clemson pulling a Clemson" night. We lost to a good team on the road and the home team usually wins here. We gave them more than they wanted and neither should lose from here on out. If our team wants the respect they felt they were not given this week, they'll have to bring the pain to BC and every opponent thereafter, because losing to BC next week, or wetting the bed against Wake Forest would be "pulling a Clemson". If they want that respect, then win every game and play every play with all the effort and intensity they can bring.
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