I spent most of the afternoon to myself simmering over this loss and you can bet we'll write a very scathing game review when we look at the film, whenever that may be. It won't be tomorrow but likely this week. I cannot cover all the specifics of the defeat from memory but I can go over the main points. What I want to discuss first is the sentiment from Clemson fans that I'm seeing on the message boards or the other online outlets, at least since I've turned my phone off.
None of us ever want to lose to Sakerlina. Never is a loss to them acceptable, never. However its not the end of the world like so many are feeling. This is why no one should post anything in postgame situations, either after a big win or defeat, because you exaggerate and get ruled by emotion, and either think we're world-beaters or the worst team on Earth. Neither is the case. We are 8-4. Thats who we are. We're neither chicken salad or chicken shit, though we played like the latter today. It just sucks that I have to listen to that old fart Loose Boltz jabber on and on about how great Sakerlina is now, and how they've played such a superior schedule and are the better team.
I've seen some distinct groups of fans so far. Some think losing to Sakerlina is alright because we finally won something this year and have a bigger goal left to acheive. My response is clear on that one. Its never alright to lose to Sakerlina, and Dabo Swinney will learn that this offseason, no matter how the next two games turn out. There are folks that want to withhold their IPTAY money. There are going to be those who bring it up to him at the various speaking engagements this offseason. He may say right now he understands, and he has been in it with Auburn-Alabama growing up, but he's never been the top dog and took the heat. He will know now.
Another group thinks that Sakerlina has no players and shouldnt be on the field with Clemson.The truth is that Sakerlina matches up well with Clemson athletically, and to tell you the truth they almost always do, at least since the 90s. Its not like they have no talent pussies over there. I'm not making the "they have 85 schollies too" excuse that Tammy threw around, but Steve has pulled in several good playmakers. If you go anywhere and can't stop the run, and turn the ball over, you should lose. They continue to lose because Pitchfork Ben sticks them every once in a while, and they won't ever consistently win in the SEC as long as there are coaches named Urban Meyer, Mark Richt, Bobby Petrino, and Lane Kiffin on their schedule every year. Hell, Bobby Johnson has less talent than anyone, and can still beat the Fightin' Spurriers. Seriously, Steve has never had them playing on the same level week to week, and come bowl time, they'll play to the level of their competition again. So don't think now that they've won two out of ten, that they'll be a 10-game winner next year. Its not happening. They'll upset somebody who overlooks them, like Steve does once or twice a year, then choke against some crap teams.
I see others say that this will impact recruiting bigtime. Yes and no, I say. Will it swing any players? Yes, one or two tops. It could swing Justin Parker this year. Some on TNet will say "Oh well, we suck now, now they'll beat us in recruiting and Dabo should be fired immediately." I know how you feel, I have the thought.....for about a second. I'm going to break it to some of you: the 2010 class will not be stellar. Its just not going to be up to what some of you want. I'm not saying you shouldnt have high expectations, but its going to come down to 22-25 signees (assuming we oversign by a couple for academics) and it'll be a Top 20-25 class. They could pull down a better class and this game would only have mattered for one or two players this year.
Don't listen to what a 17-18 yr old kid says about this game, and if he was really so easily swayed by one game, and chooses to get 6-7 wins a year, then pump gas after his college career, you probably don't want him anyway.
The 2010 class is affected by the staff changes last year. Don't forget that this staff essentially halted serious recruiting when Tammy was fired. They tried, but you cant inspire confidence in a kid when you dont know whether you will have a job at the end of the year. We got behind on many of the 2010 players in our footprint last season. We didnt take a big class, but we didnt have many schollies to give in 2009 either. We lost a few then, and that problem carries over another year, so dont be gloom and doom when or if RIvals ranks SC ahead of us in February. Those rankings have never translated to victories over Clemson. Its about who is ready to play come Thanksgiving, and we were not ready to play today. We did not want to be there, or so it looked to me.
Losing today does not mean we suck. Losing to Maryland didnt either, just like beating Miami on the road did not mean we were great. Calm down. We have serious problems that were pointed out in Game 1 and have not been fully corrected. Dasher ran all over us in Game 1. Nesbitt did on the midline option, which I'm going to cover this week. Dalton ate us up on the zone read. If you want to look at each game review, they are available. In most of them you'll see how we have had problems with inside zone running and QB rushes. Why? Lets see...
Today, our guys on the interior of the defensive line got their asses kicked by an Oline that is inferior in talent. No SC fan will tell you they are happy with their OL play this year, and any sensible one will tell you they were afraid of our DL coming in. They came ready to play and we did not. X's and O's get you only so far, but I think this is a technique issue and an emotional issue more than schematic. Our DTs have been handled for at least part of every game for the last few weeks. They've not gotten off blocks, and arent controlling their gaps. They were blown off the ball today. The second problem is that guys who arent blocked are not making plays. The midline inside trap is a play we were beaten by today. Its not the zone read but looks like it. When you see the DE unblocked, its probably a zone read option. In a trap, a guy is intentionally unblocked and then walloped by a pulling lineman. Our DTs were beaten by this today, they are supposed to get penetration to beat it and did not. A third problem is the LB corps: they ain't that good. Its not a new problem folks, we've pointed it out here all season. When you run a shotgun zone option, a player up front is unblocked, but that blocker goes to the 2nd level and hits a linebacker. They don't get off their blocks at all, and a LB is supposed to make the tackle on the QB in the zone read. Its called a scrape exchange, and the DE takes the RB, while the LB scrapes behind him to take the QB. Brandon Maye is a tough player with alot of intensity and heart, and he has speed, but he's not a great linebacker right now. He can improve. Kavell Conner has peaked, and I think he's better than Maye right now, but he's not great either. Kevin Alexander is a run-plugger who wont get in at SAM against 3-4 wide spread sets. However, teams are doing things to combat this DE/LB scrape exchange tactic as well, which I think you need to read.
Wildcat is just the Single Wing offense, it was here in the 1940s under Coach Howard, and it can be beat, but its working because they are outnumbering us at the POA and because of the problems above.
I just don't think the Defense had fire either. Defense is emotional as much as scheme in some games, and that part wasnt there.
Now to the offense...and my opinion on Brad Scott is pretty damn clear. The OL improved throughout the winning streak, but took two steps back today. There is no excuse for it. South Carolina outplayed us up front, where the game should be won and lost. They didnt suddenly get good, we were much worse up front last year and whipped them. The gameplan was bad. We did not take advantage of a weak inside defense. They are thin and we did not attack it. For years, the way I've seen to beat Carolina is to run the football inside, and we basically gave up on it. Why? I have no answer. Even with the turnovers, we were not in so big a hole until the end that we would have to abandon the run until late in the game. This gameplan does fall clearly on Napier. He improved his calls since Maryland, but he also took a step back today. I'll credit him when he succeeds and have so far, but he blew it today. However, with the linemen playing so bad, even Austin and Hairston, I don't know how well it would've worked.
They just didnt play hard up front. Parker had less time, and then made bad decisions. Then Spiller was sick, and then a little groin pull according to Swinney and himself. Thats why he was out of the game early. Some of the player quotes tell the story:
"I woke up this morning with a bug. I was messed up all morning. I felt like I was going to throw up the whole game," he said. "It was best to give another guy a shot and let him go out there 100-percent. Plain and simple, they outplayed us today," said Spiller. "We had too many turnovers, we gave up too many big plays."
"We kind of just showed up and thought we'd put the pads on and that we were better than them"
"There were points in the game where I sensed it on the sideline, the enthusiasm from the team," he said. "I sensed that guys were thinking about next week. It was just a quiet feeling. It was a calm, quiet feeling. Even when we scored, it was just quiet. There wasn't much celebration. There wasn't much enthusiasm for the game, on offense and defense."
"We didn't play gap-sound," Maye said. "We were prepared for it, plus more. Coach Steele did a good job all week preparing us for this game. It definitely wasn't his fault. Players got to go out and make plays in big games."
"We caught Clemson at the right time," he said. "They have a big game next week, and we haven't done much lately."
Maye pretty much tells you what happened out there. So Cockfans should be excited, they did outplay us, but for those who think its the end of the world, take a step back and look at both the positives and negatives. We're 8-4. We have problems that 11-0 teams don't have. We don't have enough at some positions and it was showcased today, but if we'd not turned the ball over and gotten the turnovers that they tried to give us early, it would've been at least a closer game if not a Clemson win.
I firmly believe this team can beat Georgia Tech, if they play with the intensity on defense that we have lacked for a few weeks. We haven't put a whole game together on defense lately and we need to this week. We still have an ACC Title to fight for, which we haven't in a long time. Beating Carolina is important, but Championships are moreso. Be prepared, however, to not be invited to the Peach or Gator should we lose to GT. We very well may fall to the Tangerine.
Who cares if Carolina fans could say they beat the ACC champs, let them. They wont even ever win the East, much less the SEC. We can win the ACC, and that banner is what matters to all of us. Its what we wanted most of all.
Would they shut up even had we won? Hell no, only for one week at best. They'd complain about their schedule being so hard and beating them up and that we beat a shitty team. And they'd claim the Offseason National Title come May anyway, so pay them no attention.
Wear your Orange to work Monday and don't make silly arguments, just remind them they haven't won two in a row since the 1970s, and have about 20 years of wins to make up this series. We just got beat today, plain and simple. There are reasons for it, and they can be corrected. Hold your head up high, they can be better one day, and by rights it means they could be the better team this year, but they'll never equal us.
We own them, not because they are inferior in talent, but because they are and always will be our bitches.
One year doesnt change it.