David Hood: Postgame Gator Bowl Thoughts

by - Senior Writer -
Needing 112 yards to break the all-time Clemson rushing record, James Davis finished with just 36 yards on 12 carries.

JACKSONVILLE - Ok, here is a new group of thoughts, quotes and notes from the Gator Bowl. Wanted to get it done before I head back up I-95.

First off, I just wanted to let you know what some of the coaches were saying about the game, and what their thoughts were. I ran into an offensive coach before the game, and he told me to watch out for Nebraska's No. 93. He said he was "an animal" and there was concern on the coaching staff's part that they could block him.

Turns out he was a prophet, as Nebraska's defensive line was certainly disruptive, especially old 93, Ndamukong Suh, who blocked a field goal (think about it, if that short kick is good, the Tigers have a shot to kick the field goal for the win at the end), had eight tackles, and came up with two huge sacks that resulted 19 yards lost for Clemson.

After the game, I ran into another offensive coach, and I asked him about the game plan, and why we saw so much passing early instead of trying to establish the run. He said that the staff had enough concern about the Huskers' interior defense that the plan was to try and get Spiller outside and push everything to the sidelines. Nothing worked, however, as Nebraska's linebackers and secondary squashed anything that way.

That means this offensive line, which grew up a ton over the last six weeks or so, has a lot of work to do in the offseason if they want to get to where they can dominate defenses. They made a lot of progress in recent games, even dominating the Gamecocks in the last regular season game, but the Huskers' defensive line was better than South Carolina's.

Also, just a thought that I felt I had to throw in here regarding Clemson fans: There is a lot to be proud of with this fan base. From meeting everybody at the Hyatt, and out on the streets, and even at the game, Clemson fans showed real class. I spoke with Rick Catlett of the Gator Bowl after the game, and asked him if he still felt like they made the right decision in bringing in the Tigers over Florida St. His response was huge grin, and he said, "Of course! Did you see that crowd out there? Clemson always shows tremendous support for their team and today was just another example."

Also, sitting in the press box before the game as the national anthem was being played, I scanned the crowd, and was amazed to see how many Clemson fans, even though they were in the uniform of Clemson Nation and not in a military uniform, were saluting the flag during the playing of the anthem, signifying their past or current service to out country. It brought a lump to my very patriotic throat. So, let me add my thanks to all of you for your service.

Enough of that, however, back to the game.

James Davis

The Clemson senior came into the contest needing 112 yards to break the all-time Clemson rushing record, a record that seemed a cinch before the season. However, the Clemson running game was almost non-existent, and he finished with 36 yards on 12 carries. After the game, Davis was subdued, but his typically classy self as he answered questions of the disappointment in his birthday.

"It's not a happy birthday, but I am going to go on home and celebrate with my family," Davis said. "It was frustrating (on Clemson not being able to run the ball), but I wanted to do whatever it took to win the game. If we had to throw to win, then that is what we had to do. I thought we matched up with those guys pretty well, but that No. 93 is a heck of a guy to block, and it was hard to match up with him. But I am very secure of my place in Clemson history. I feel very good just to be mentioned in the history books with guys like Raymond Priester and Terry Allen. I am very proud of the fact that I was able to come here and be successful, so that is what I take from it."

Cullen Harper

On the play to Spiller on third down that was just missed. "The safety came over the top and made it tough on C.J. We thought C.J. would be able to run right by the Mike (middle linebacker), but the safety came over and made a great play."

On the sack on second down in which he lost 16 yards. "They had soft coverage to the outside. I should have gotten rid of the ball quicker, but I thought I could make a move on that guy and get out of the pocket. That guy just made a play, I just wish I could have gotten rid of the ball."

On the missed opportunities: "We just had to many mistakes and too many missed opportunities to beat a good football team like Nebraska."

On not being able to win a bowl game in two tries as a starter. "It is disappointing, but I wouldn't change anything. I would go back and do everything the same way and play the same way."

Crezdon Butler

On giving up 20 third quarter points: "We just lost momentum and they capitalized in the second half. I don't know if we wore out or if we lost focus. I felt pretty good, and I hope my teammates felt good. I don't know what happened in the second half."

On his interception that set up a third quarter touchdown: "We were in man coverage on the play. I saw the receiver sit down, and I saw the quarterback looking at him. He looked at him the whole way. I sat on the route and just made a big play on it."

Tyler Grisham

"This is tough. I haven't won a bowl game since my freshman year. This team got really close. It is going to be tough to lose these guys. All of the guys (the underclassmen) shook the seniors' hands and thanked us for everything, so this is tough. But, if you don't score, you lose. You know that are friendships for a lifetime here, and that you have great friends, so that is the only happiness. Today, we couldn't run like we wanted to, and they just took control. That Suh guy played great and really made things tough for us."

C.J. Spiller

On what the returning players can take from the season and the Gator Bowl: "How close we were. The biggest thing we can take away from the whole season is the adversity we went through. We came together as a family, and even though we lost this game, we still have a lot of momentum going into the off-season because we know what type of team we have coming back. We just have to go back to work and eliminate the mistakes we made and try and have a successful season next year."

On not being able to run the ball: "They have a great defensive line, and did a great job of play backside. We have to take whatever the defense gives us. I am just out there trying to execute each play that's called. Out defense played a heck of a game, and we just didn't take advantage of our chances."

On how he feels about his chances of returning or turning pro and declaring for the NFL draft: " I am even worried about that right now. I am still just replaying that last play. I am not going to let my emotions or this game affect me. Whatever way I go, it's going to be a great decision."

Michael Hamlin

In the second half, I thought we played kind of flat. We weren't as intense as we were in the first half. Everything time the offense came in a made a big play and gave us a lead, and we couldn't match their intensity. We just didn't make the big plays when we needed to. It was guys missing tackles and not making the plays."

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