CLEMSON - The recent struggles for Clemson's offense have been widely
discussed over the past few weeks, by coaches and fans alike.
And while there are plenty of legitimate reasons the Tigers' attack has been
on a steady, rapid decline over the past three games - turnovers, poor line
play, suspect play-calling, just to name a few - there's another, more subtle
Opposing defensive schemes.
Since the Florida State game, Clemson has faced three straight opponents who
have employed similar defensive strategies. Virginia, Wake Forest and N.C.
State all spent a good bit of time rushing as few as three players and
dropping eight into coverage.
Designed to take away the big play, the strategy seems to have brought the
Clemson offense to a near complete halt. And head coach Tommy Bowden doesn't
see it changing anytime soon.
"We'll see a good dose of (the three-man front) the rest of the season,"
Bowden said. "There are blocking schemes and protections you can use to be
successful against it. I'd like to see us hit some open (receivers) and see
what we can do."
SAME OLD SONG
Another nationally televised night game, another special teams debacle.
Clemson has been nothing if not consistent in that category. After serious
breakdowns in previous ESPN losses at Georgia and Florida State, the Tigers
again fell apart on special teams and, in doing so, allowed N.C. State to
grab the early momentum in last Thursday's 38-6 Wolfpack victory.
The opening kickoff should have been an omen of things to come, with Lamont
Reid scooting 56 yards to the Clemson 42 before finally being tackles. That
N.C. State missed a field goal on the possession likely gave the Tigers a
false sense of security.
The feeling was shattered on Clemson's second possession. State's Manny
Lawton came untouched through the middle of the Tigers' protection scheme and
blocked Wynn Kopp's punt. The ball was picked up by Terrence Holt, who raced
39 yards for an easy touchdown and an early lead.
Clemson never recovered.
"On the one that was blocked we totally missed a blocking assignment," Bowden
said. "We corrected it after that, but it's like crying over spilled milk.
The damage had already been done."
INSTANT STARTING JOB?
Bowden often touts the idea of playing nationally-televised Thursday nights
as a recruiting tool, being usually one of only two games scheduled that
The idea, he says, is the fewer teams playing, the more exposure your team
But when you lose badly, as Clemson did last Thursday, can potential recruits
be turned off by such a performance?
"I don't know," Bowden said. "Some guys will look at it and say 'I can play
there right away.' Maybe we'll get some of that."