The running game: Here’s what we said after the MTSU game and it hasn’t changed:
We’re not in the business of beating dead horses here. If this part of the offense becomes reliable before the season is out, I’ll be surprised. Otherwise, we need to make sure that most of the running comes outside the tackles. At the same time, keep working on it. Being a good or great lineman is about knowledge and experience
Only difference this week is that if you’re going to run outside the tackles, please do it with a tailback. You can’t scrap this part of your game, but you do have to figure out ways to make this happen against decent defenses. Bowden said we really only averaged one yard less a carry than Maryland if you take out the sacks. Maybe, but if I were an opposing defensive coordinator I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about our running game.
The passing game: Charlie had possibly his worst game of the season, even with 320 yards passing. It’s obvious that if you get Charlie out of the pocket he has a hard time throwing the ball. He’s being told to think about running the ball, but it just isn’t there when he gets outside the pocket, so he should just worry about throwing the ball. That’s a lot to think about for a sophomore. I like to compare Charlie’s progress to Steve Fuller’s and he’s still learning just like Fuller was during his sophomore year. I didn’t always give Fuller, or the other quarterbacks that played (including O’Cain) A’s in every game in 1976. Fuller made enough A’s in the classroom. Charlie will be fine. He’s a great QB and nothing happened Saturday to change that. He does need to lean on Tony Elliott in some of those roll-out, scramble situations. But, of course, for that to happen Elliott has to be in the game. Elliott deserves the playing time.
The bottom line: Good defenses can take away enough of our offense right now to keep us from scoring. Maryland’s defense is that good. The game is about scoring points and without a running game at Tech we wouldn’t have been as effective either, but I still put most of the credit for that win on the defense. Doesn’t matter how fast your “air force” is, if you can’t run the ball you’re going to have problems against decent teams. If not for an absolutely superb play by Derrick Hamilton, we would have been shut out for the second time in five games. I don’t blame the “air force” for this. They’re just doing what the coaches are telling them to do.
Against the run: Maryland rushed for 134 yards. Not horrible by any stretch. We were able to make some plays on the corners against the option, which was a good sign. I can remember a certain game against Missouri in the mid-90’s when the option tore us apart and, to be honest, I have said that mis-direction would fool this defense. I was wrong. I think this defense, including the defensive line, is playing decent. Not great, mind you, just decent. And on Saturday it was nearly good enough to win. The option wasn’t a major part of the Maryland offense, but Clemson did OK in those situations and that’s a real positive…a real sign of improvement from the first few games.
Against the pass: Put enough pressure on our defensive backfield and there’s going to be some lapses. We knew that coming into the season. Still, this part of the defense has played well considering there hasn’t been any blitzing to speak of to keep the opposing offenses off balance. I think anything said by coach Bowden about the defensive line not performing is a smokescreen to keep people from taking a longer look at the offense. I think coach Lovett has done a good job getting these players in the right positions to make plays. It is time for Justin Miller to start doing that, though, and stop taunting the other team in pre-game warm-ups. I don’t remember any of the great players in our history having to prop themselves up like that. At this point, it’s just not appropriate to taunt the other team. Be fired up, sure. But leave the taunting out of it.
The bottom line: I like our defense and our defensive mindset. I trust what Lovett is doing with this defense and its personnel. It also makes sense considering our offense doesn’t give the defense much of a break at times. This defense gets saddled with poor field position and still figures out ways to get out of the bind. The defense continues to force at least one turnover a game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Kicking: If you’ve read what I’ve written about this part of the game you know what I think: we should have been working on more options here after the spring game. Nothing’s going to get fixed here at this point without divine intervention. The only thing Jad Dean is going to do by trying to kick field goals now is ruin the confidence he has on his kickoffs. Stick to the long term plan here and figure out something else to do on fourth down besides pitching it to the fullback.
Punting, kicking and kick coverage: Cole Chason averaged 36.2 yards a punt. Nothing new here. I hope he can start kicking better. Kick coverages were OK. Keep up the good work. Derrick Hamilton is very good at what he does on punt returns.
The bottom line: Still some concerns here with punting and placekicking. Keep away from game-affecting misques. That is, don’t call for a fake punt in your own territory with Cole Chason. Give Chason credit for covering up that bad decision by kicking it away. That could have been a disaster.
There are some obvious questions about the play calling. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve said we need to run the ball outside the tackles in order to be effective in short yardage. I did not say a pitch sweep to a fullback would accomplish anything, though. The fake punt with Chason was questionable at best. Having Hunt kicking the 48-yard field goal into the wind…we all knew what was going to happen there.
Motivation: The sideline was devoid of emotion. What is it going to take to get a reaction out of these guys? Here’s a suggestion: get all of the coaches out of the press box and put them on the sideline to watch these guys when they’re not on the field and make sure their minds are in the game. If they come back on the field with some emotion it’ll be time well spent. It’s a tough game…it’s tough to go out on the field and get hit and run over and everything else that happens on the field and still stay emotionally engaged. But that’s what the coaches are for. Bowden can handle the offense (including signaling in the plays) and Lovett can handle the defense. Everyone else needs to be on motivation duty until we start playing with some.