QUARTERBACK- The football gods have not been kind to Brandon Streeter this season. To see a player who has already fought back from a major injury go down with an even more serious injury is tough, particularly considering that he is a senior and one of the team’s unquestioned leaders. Woodrow Dantzler once again performed admirably in relief, passing for 185-yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 138 and a score. Despite his respectable numbers against Georgia Tech, Dantzler’s run-first mentality hurt the Tigers on a number of occasions when he tucked the ball in and took off despite having open receivers. The sophomore will have to learn to recognize when to put the ball in the air and when to scramble if he is to become a more complete quarterback.
RUNNING BACKS- Travis Zachery had his second-straight strong performance on Saturday, rushing for 91-yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns. Zachery has scored 42 points in his last two games, only 24 less than the Tigers next opponent, South Carolina, has scored all season. Bernard Rambert played briefly in a backup role and flashed his potential on a nifty 12-yard burst in the first half.
RECEIVERS- Seven players caught passes for Clemson on Saturday, but it wasn’t a wide receiver who led the way. Surprisingly, Pat Cyrgalis had four receptions for 58-yards, the most for a Clemson tight end since 1989. Mal Lawyer hauled in four passes for 42-yards and a touchdown while Joe Don Reames contributed with two receptions in relief of Brian Wofford. With the exception of a 41-yard grab in the second quarter, Rod Gardner was quiet against the Yellow Jackets, finishing the day with only two catches and 45-yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE- Clemson’s offensive line play was good enough for the team to win, although the Tigers did allow an inexperienced Georgia Tech defensive line to snuff out a number of plays in the third quarter. Regardless, Clemson runners didn’t churn out 231-yards rushing without help up front.
DEFENSIVE LINE- The Tigers needed a great effort by their defensive line to slow down Georgia Tech. What they got didn’t even amount to speed bump. Clemson allowed 235-yards rushing and only recorded two sacks, both of which were attributed to linebackers. The defensive line again failed to control the line of scrimmage against a team with power running ability, allowing Georgia Tech running back Sean Gregory to get most of his 103-yards between the tackles. Joe Hamilton wasn’t pressured unless the Tigers blitzed, a factor that points to Clemson’s inability to pressure passers with their defensive front alone.
SECONDARY- Entering the Georgia Tech game, Clemson had the seventh rated pass defense in the nation. Entering the South Carolina game, they will not. The Tigers gave up 322-yards through the air, the second most they’ve allowed this season. Dextra Polite was badly burned for touchdowns twice in the first quarter by Yellow Jacket receiver Kelly Campbell on deep passes. Campbell finished the day with eight receptions for 135-yards, leading a Georgia Tech receiving corps that had five touchdown catches total. Robert Carswell and Alex Ardley had two critical interceptions, but this was undoubtedly a day that the Clemson secondary would like to forget.
LINEBACKER- Keith Adams broke the ACC single season record for tackles for loss against Georgia Tech. Aside from that, the Clemson linebackers didn’t do much, particularly in stopping Hamilton from scrambling for 106-yards. The Tiger linebackers have yet to show that they can stop an athletic quarterback from hurting them.
SPECIAL TEAMS- After two strong games against Wake Forest and Duke, Ryan Romano’s punting left a lot to be desired against Georgia Tech. Four of Romano’s six punts were short line drives that allowed the Yellow Jackets’ Marvious Hester to average over nine yards per return and give Georgia Tech excellent field position. Joe Don Reames’ 40-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter was the Tigers’ best of the season, a fact that doesn’t speak well for the Clemson special teams.
COACHING- With Streeter down, the Clemson offense didn’t seem to miss a beat with Dantzler at the helm, which is a credit to Rich Rodriguez and the offensive staff. However, despite amassing 42 points and 428-yards, Clemson’s offensive coaching was questionable down the stretch. In particular, the decision to run a reverse on third and three late in the game was puzzling, with Joe Don Reames losing four yards on a play that Georgia Tech was obviously prepared for. On fourth and seven, Clemson opted to throw deep and Dantzler’s pass was knocked away by Yellow Jacket safety Chris Young. While each of these plays had a chance to be wildly successful, they also had the potential to be disastrous, which they were. With the game on the line, both of these calls seemed too risky for a team with so much on the line. Tommy Bowden is a gambler, and a good one at that. Unfortunately, even the best sometimes come up bust.
Clemson’s defense was flat-out whipped by Hamilton and the Georgia Tech offense. Even against the best offense in the nation the Tigers shouldn’t be excused for giving up 537-yards and 45 points. On many occasions, Clemson defenders looked lost, particularly in pass coverage, where Hamilton ripped them apart on 22-30 passing. When Hamilton was flushed out of the pocket, Clemson rarely had a defender in position to stop him from scrambling for big gains. In short, Reggie Herring’s crew took a big step back after three solid outings against Florida State, Wake Forest, and Duke.
Grade: D (Offense-C, Defense-F)