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Duke kicks Clemson’s trash like it is 2004.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Duke Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to QT’s Take:

This is a Bowden-esque loss that puts me right back in the year 2004.

You can try and sugarcoat it and say that Clemson was in the redzone four times and got zero points. But at some point, all of those mistakes are your team.

I should’ve put my feelings out before the game so they would be on paper—I believe in Garrett Riley, but I don’t believe in this offensive team/players or the coaches around him. I believe that Wes can be a good defensive coordinator and this defense will be good but I have yet to see anything that tells me they will be great. In fact, there are places it will take a step back. Low and behold—we have good, not great defense and an error prone offense scared of its shadow that is slightly below average right now. That is a 7-5 or 8-4 team. The team only scored because Duke gifted the offense a muffed punt.

You can sum up the night by the play of Cade Denhoff on the kick team. Denhoff has no clue what he is supposed to do as left side is overloaded and he tries to armbar and lets the Duke defender get in and block the kick. Then the extra point is almost blocked. Then he goes back out barely gets a hand on the same player who blocks it again.

That is on the coaching staff. When your talent differential isn’t monstrous (and it still is with Duke)—details matter, and running out garbage special teams because you couldn’t figure it out in camp costs you. Whoever was in charge of those teams and didn’t make the in-game adjustments to put a giant lineman out there needs to be given their walking papers this morning. But it is endemic to the kind of coaching and complacency that has grown in the program. You hired a bunch of novice yes men who didn’t have enough coaching experience or acumen (and certainly not enough to realize that Denhoff was a liability), and your program is suffering.

We were actually better than Duke for much of the night on the success rate on offense and defense. Details matter.


Get rid of your wide receiver coach. Wide receivers are tiny, can’t catch, can’t block on the perimeter (although that was slightly improved from last year), and most importantly can’t get any separation. We used to be #WRU, but anyone starting Cole Turner—who looks like he belongs on the JV team (and yes I know he is plenty fast) needs to go and get some actual coaching experience before being elevated to a ‘YES’ man position. The wide receiver play was pathetic, and it has been bad for the past two years.

How you can’t recognize that you need to bring in a differential talent at WR is beyond me. Tyler Brown was your best WR all night, and he is tiny. Beaux has been injured but is soooo weak. You blow too hard and these guys fall down. Spector? Stellato? Adam Randall looked incredibly slow and not a P5 WR level talent. Antonio Williams looked worse than last year. But don’t worry WE PUT HAMP GREENE ON SCHOLARSHIP.

You know what—add in the DE coach to this change, too. It is time for him to move on this offseason regardless.


You were wrong about the transfer portal Dabo. I have beat this drum from day one—beat it until it was a dead horse. I’ve beat the drum on NIL too (where this keyboard warrior was also 100% right). You are the ONLY coach in the P5—the only one—who will not go out and get a few talents to improve the roster. Yes—it means that you need to do better roster management. Yes—it means your one in and one out method is arcane and not the best method for handling a roster. You don’t need a roster full of transfers—you need two or three (and that means saving those scholarships—or finally learning to plan for attrition) differential talents. You recruit them in the portal using NIL collective packages/offers. If that offends anyone on the current roster—go tell them to watch the DUKE TAPE.

You needed to bring in a quality transfer WR. There were actually a good number of them (and FSU has found one every year and that is your competition, so don’t complain to me about portal tampering and decisions already made up—blah blah excuses that are overblown). You needed to bring in another Olineman. The Oline is just average. The tackles were alright until they got tired later in the game and couldn’t hold up in obvious passing downs TO DUKE. Walker Parks is still injured and doesn’t have the needed mobility. Putnum is an average center. You could’ve upgraded the talent. The third spot that you could’ve upgraded is another DE. Mascoll is a disaster who hilariously got sent to the flats and got his ankles broken on one of the many poor tackling attempts last night. XT and Mascoll couldn’t set the edge. TJ Parker is your true freshman starter. If Patterson, Lawson, or Denhoff have a problem with competition coming in—no free handouts, right? Competition. Earn it.

We brought in a backup QB. Maybe we should’ve tried to bring in a starting QB? How about a proven veteran kicker who would’ve jumped at the chance? Nope—give that scholarship to the snapper.

Trotter is obviously hampered by the hamstring—he should’ve never started this game. Slow as molasses. Maybe a transfer LB would’ve improved the depth? Not sure why Wes didn’t put Woodaz in earlier (on this one, I will give a pass since the backup got kicked off the team).

Our Safeties are slow. Mickens is slow. Phillips isn’t fast. They have been in the system for millions of years, and they are still busting. Plenty of DB talent could’ve been brought in.


The reason Cade didn’t start last season is the same reason he struggled today. Error prone turnovers. He did it when he threw the ball straight to the Notre Dame player on the goal line, which put that game out of reach. You could see it when he started launching easy passes way over everyone’s heads. Too amped—whatever. You have to execute. Too many balls put in jeopardy. Probably should’ve had a couple more interceptions on the night.

The offense did look better, and they gained a ton of yards. If someone breaks a tackle and gets into the endzone instead of being tackled at the three-yard line—Clemson goes up 14-13 and the game feels so much different. Maybe Cade and the team settle down, but that didn’t happen.

I liked the tempo in the second half. I hate that these games are 10-20 snaps less—that hurts a team wanting to make a comeback. Go down two scores in the fourth and its tough sledding. The third Q tempo had Duke on its heels and we were gashing them in the run game. I liked the run plays and the design. Receivers were open at times, and then it turned into a mixture of balls clanking off hands and balls being poorly thrown. Leigh and Miller both struggled in pass pro too many times. Parks struggled with mobility and Putnum and the rest of the line are average. It was an improvement from last year but not a strength for the team right now. Too many Olineman looking like the tempo was getting to them rather than getting to the defense.

Briningstool was nonexistent. Remember that time when we told Brock Bowers we were full because of Briningstool, and Dabo couldn’t be bothered to leave his vacation? Brent Venables—the relentless recruiter—we miss you.


Mixed bag.

Duke gets the ball out fast, but the Dline wasn’t able to dominate the entire game. The best defensive end was a true freshman who was coached more by high school coaches than our current DE coach. Parker should basically start. I thought Davis and Ruke looked pretty average. Ruke still gets out-leveraged too often. Disappointed in Ruke’s play—didn’t look like a first day draft pick at all. Davis disappeared.

The busts on the RBs out of the backfield were beyond embarrassing. That is LB and Safety communication. LBs looked slow. Barrett Carter looked totally overhyped—missed tackles and was pulled for Woodaz late. Both he and Trotter missed tackles—everyone missed tackles—and couldn’t bring down the QB but also WRs (Parker saved Wiggins from a total whiff on a good hustle play). Obvious that they didn’t do enough live work in the offseason.

Sheridan Jones had some rough plays. On the touchdown, he didn’t break down, and Mickens was so slow on the crosser. Jones settled in, though. Wiggins is still not physical enough. Lukus played well in what I saw. Still too much cushion. Mukuba had a few good moments in coverage and the fumble recovery, but he was too soft a few too many times too.

I hate to say I was right about Mascoll when I got roasted by so many when I said he wasn’t a top 100 player, but I was actually wrong. He wasn’t a top 250 player. 6 years in the system, and you can’t set the edge or get off a block. XT is a pass rusher now and struggled to set the edge, too. I would go more 3 down lineman going forward, but the problem is the LB depth.

I’ll stop.

If you lose the first game, it isn’t the end of the season. You quickly identify the problems, and you make immediate changes. No more walk-ons on the kick coverage teams. No more starting jobs to seniority. No more WR’s who can’t catch. Make hard decisions that give you the best chance to beat FSU. Drill those guys and work them. You also walk into the meeting room with your coaches, and you say—I’m sorry, I messed up. I should’ve listened to QT and STS and taken transfers, and adapted to NIL. We will do that in the offseason. I’m also sorry that hired some of you coaches and put you in positions you weren’t ready to fill, but you got paid really well, and you will be able to join other staffs in the offseason.

Lose to FSU, and the playoffs are done, and the season is gone (for those of us who believe best is the standard, and by best, we mean competing for championships). Beat FSU, and you get to play Notre Dame and FSU again—that can get you in the playoff. It would certainly get you in the expanded playoff. If you go 2-2, then you enter the potential for a Bowden era, and you would only have your hubris and transfer/NIL policies to blame.

But I still believe in Riley and in his ability to improve the offense. I think Dabo can right this ship. Wes is decent, but the jury is still out on elite. It's just a shame that you beat a dead horse—seeing the inevitable decline in front of you, but can’t get enough people (or the right people) to believe that changes need to be made (and here I applaud Dabo for firing Streeter).

Thanks for listening—if anyone wants me, I will be in the doldrums. This one stings like it's 2004 all over again.