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Clemson versus Syracuse: Instant Reaction

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This play almost beat us.
This play almost beat us.
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

I'm very grumpy with this game. Sloppy is the word I would use to describe our play. A comedy of errors at other times. We came in and expected to blow them out and started doing that in the first two minutes, but then we started to have mental lapses. Kelly Bryant shouldn't go into the game until you are up by at least 3 or 4 scores. It sends the absolute wrong message to the team. You can give players quality reps without being silly about it. That was within the first five minutes of the game--no reason for it when Watson is dealing. It leads to a turnover and the defense sucks on the change of possession.

With these games you want to win, first, and then get out healthy. We won the game, but the injuries are worrisome. I counted Wayne Gallman, Mackensie Alexander, Mitch Hyatt, and even Jordan Leggett as guys who got some kind of injury. All of those would be key losses if they missed any time.

A bit of perspective though. We won our tenth game of the season (5th straight 10 win season) and compiled almost 600 yards in offense. Still, we are the #1 team in the nation and didn't play like it.

Not sure what to say about the officiating. Phantom holding call but we got a hands to the face that I didn't see. I guess its a wash. Whatever.

Special Teams

Lets start here because this is getting ridiculous. First the positives--Seth Ryan helps eliminate a coaching/player error by not having enough players on the field. I liked the Kearse block. Heugel is money. Everything else is bad.

Alabama and North Carolina both excel at special teams. They use their talent advantage to overcome other teams. We have some of the worst special teams in the country despite having a huge talent differential against most teams. Why are we consistently so poor on special teams? This also isn't something new, we have been bad for years. Lakip is our best kick coverage defender. I hope this shows that CJ Davidson and Greenlee running into the kicker? What is he thinking? Mack committing pass interference on a punt pass--why not jam the receivers at the line if we know this is coming? Why do our punt coverage teams never jam anyone or really block anyone really? Its ridiculous. Switzer is going to turn our coverage into swiss cheese. Either that or we will have a 30 yard punt.

Defense

I don't even know what to say. Most rushing yards given up all season. Probably the worst defensive effort all year. Syracuse QB deserves a lot of credit and Shafer is silly for not going with him all year. We were not prepared to play assignment football. We had film from the LSU game. I understand it can be a nightmare to contain a running QB, but this was just poor gap control and effort at times. Once again, Boulware had a very poor game. He was out of position a bunch of times and got picked on in the passing game. We had to play our starters the entire game yet again.

Kearse and Green didn't play good games either. We gave up a ton of chunk plays. This defense might get it done next week against Wake and maybe South Carolina Jr. (maybe), but it will get us beat by UNC or a playoff team.

Is the lack of depth finally catching up with us? Or is this our defense regressing to the mean and being a top 20 unit but not the top 5 unit they have been thus far.

Offense

For the second straight game we weren't able to run the ball as well as we wanted. We were horrible running the ball on third down in the fourth quarter. Maverick Morris is a serious downgrade from Crowder in the interior of the line. Still I question some of our offensive gameplan going in. We went away from the run early on and passed it way too much. Its not like we didn't have success throwing the ball, but we would have been better served with more of a running attack. Too many trips screens that were predictable on first down.

Watson played a solid game. He had the one errant throw to Peake that was an interception. Turnovers were a problem though. Renfrow had another game where he struggled. Obviously he had the fumble, but struggled with perimeter blocking as well. I still like him better in the game than on long and intermediate routes than Hopper but he is going to have to fight for his job. Peake had a really good game. Cain was having a great game but needed to stay in-bounds on the beautiful long throw from Watson.

I think I am really just upset because, man, I hate Syracuse. I really wanted to blow them out. At least we probably helped Scott Schafer keep his job.