Will Vandervort: Three Plays
That’s the two words heard most around the Clemson
camp this week when looking back at the first five
games of the 2005 football season.
Three plays. Pick any in the last three games on
offense and defense, and that’s the difference from
the Tigers being 5-0 and perhaps ranked in the Top 10
as opposed to their current 2-3 record and bringing up
the rear in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic
“We have to find a way somewhere in the game to make
those three plays,” said Clemson defensive coordinator
Those three plays for Koenning’s defense would be the
25-yard touchdown by Miami’s Tyrone Moss in the third
overtime, Boston College’s conversion on third down —
keeping their winning touchdown drive alive — in
overtime and any of the three busted coverages during
Wake Forest’s 31-27 win last Saturday.
“I have to do a better job of coaching and that falls
back to my responsibility,” Koenning said.
It also falls back to the players. For the majority of
last week’s game, the Clemson defense held Wake Forest
in check. After Gaines Adams forced a fumble midway
though the second quarter, the Demon Deacons failed to
pick up a first down and totaled just four yards
through four straight possessions. Showing that when
they stay with their assignments there aren’t many
“I think we are (getting) better,” said Koenning. “I
wish two or three pass plays would have been different
in that game, then everybody would have said what a
great job we did on defense because we held the No. 1
rushing team to a lot less than their average and a
lot less than what Clemson has held them the last few
“But you can’t take those things away, those are
things we gave up and we have to correct that.”
Koenning hopes to correct some of that by benching one
of his starters. Red shirt freshman Michael Hamlin
will start over sophomore C.J. Gaddis at “cat” safety
when the Tigers take the field Thursday at N.C. State.
Gaddis gave up a 34-yard touchdown pass on a
third-and-18 play in the second quarter against Wake
“I think (Hamlin) deserves the opportunity because he
has been steadier and more consistent the last few
games,” Koenning said. “It is hard to sit down a guy
who has earned a starting position through the spring
and two-a-days unless it is really, really obvious.
“C.J. did not play at the level that we expected in
the (Wake Forest game), he played at the level he
practices and that has been a constant battle with
Gaddis isn’t the only one Koenning is on. Cornerback
Sergio Gilliam was credited with the busted coverage
which allowed Wake’s Kenneth Moore to get 12 yards
behind the secondary on the 74-yard touchdown pass in
the first quarter.
Koenning said he believed Gilliam was trying to break
on the tight end underneath who he thought the ball
was being thrown to.
“He was really trying to take a chance and I think he
was really trying to make a play,” Koenning said. “He
was really thinking ‘I can go make a play.’”
Though Koenning likes Gilliam’s effort, he wants his
players to think things through before acting on them.
Gilliam was burned on a similar play against Texas A&M
in Week 1, except on that play, the Aggies used two
tight ends as opposed to the one tight end and one
wide receiver Wake Forest used.
“It’s frustrating he will make that same mistake,”
said Koenning. “You sit there and ask yourself, ‘Why
are you having problems with the mistakes and the
“That’s a very good question. I know there should be a
learning curve with it, but by game five, all that
should be gone. We’ll do it right four times, but on
that fifth time somebody may not do it right. I have
to continue to make our guys tougher and tougher
minded, but that isn’t going to happen overnight.”
And it isn’t just the younger players having problems;
senior corner Tye Hill allowed Wake’s Kevin Marion to
slide behind him for the winning score after getting
suckered inside by the guy he was covering.
“Should we have beaten Wake Forest? Without a doubt,”
said Koenning. “We went up there with every intention
and I actually felt better in warm ups about our
mental state than I did before Boston College.
“I think there is something in all of us where we can
dig down deep and find something extra.”
And that extra thing is letting the players know they
are close. Everything that has happened to cause the
three-game losing streak is correctable. Now, it’s the
coaches’ job to get them to believe it.
“We can’t lose sight of the fact we are three plays
from maybe being 5-0 and eighth in the country right
now,” said Koenning. “It isn’t one thing and it isn’t
one guy… We are no better or no worse of a football
team right now than we would have been had we got
those three plays.”