Grading the Tigers vs. Middle Tennessee

by - Correspondent -
J.J. Howard brings the MTSU running back down for a loss.


The running game: 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.

The passing game: Let Charlie throw the ball. Let Charlie make decisions. Let Charlie be the horse that this team rides. If you get the feeling that I like Charlie Whitehurst (though not in the same way those two co-eds on the first row of the student section that ran out on the field after the game to stand beside Charlie…don’t know if they made it but if they didn’t it wasn’t for lack of effort) you’d be right. There’s little that went wrong with Clemson’s passing game Saturday.

The bottom line: A pessimist would say that this offensive performance came against an MTSU team that obviously didn’t have the kind of defense required to keep up with our receivers. The coaches obviously came in with a different gameplan against a team that it knew couldn’t handle the receivers and once their linebackers were sufficiently backed off the line, came with the running game. It’s great to have games like this on the schedule. We’ll see how much it helped if the team used it as a opportunity to learn some things and not just as an opportunity to heal its ego.


Against the run: MTSU rushed for 194 yards. There were times when the line appeared mismatched against MTSU’s line. Look at the tackle leaders and you get an idea of where the ball ended up Saturday: Jamaal Fudge 17, John Leake 12, Leroy Hill 9, Travis Pugh 8, Eric Sampson 8.

Against the pass: Pugh’s interception was a thing of beauty. That was encouraging so see him show that much athletic ability on that play. It stopped an MTSU march into Clemson territory and saved the defense from being the brunt of the Tiger Nation’s fury this week. However…

The bottom line: …the defense is a concern. Given what the offense was able to do controlling the ball, I would have liked to have seen a better performance here. It’s hard to put this off on the offense’s inability to sustain enough of a drive to give the defense fresh legs. Giving up 364 total yards is giving up a lot, especially when over half came on the ground. This is the kind of game that should drive your numbers down and allow you to have an FSU on you schedule and still average somewhere around 300 yards a game of total defense (expectations sure have changed over the years).


Kicking: There’s not a lot of confidence in what’s going on here, other than I’m confident right now that we need to get some new blood into the mix at placekicking. Aaron Hunt is working through some problems, but there’s no crime in getting some of the others in there to kick extra points. Aaron Hunt hit a 42-yard fieldgoal and was in for all the extra points, which means he’s still Bowden’s guy at that position. The blocked extra point wasn’t necessarily his fault, but it’s the main reason (along with the punting) for the C. You can look at the days when Bob Paulling handled the short field goals for Iguibuike to see how this could work out without anyone having their feelings hurt. But it takes time to develop this strategy and I’m not sure Clemson has that kind of time now.

Punting, kicking and kick coverage: Cole Chason averaged 35.7 yards a punt. An attempt to pin MTSU deep resulted in a punt going out of bounds at the 18. That was the main culprit as far as his average goes, but that kick should have been executed better if it was intended to be a coffin-corner kick. Jad Dean continues to perform well on kickoffs. I don’t want his ability here sacrificed if kicking off the ground, as in trying some fieldgoals, is going to do that. But you have to figure that’s the long-term plan.

The bottom line: Still some concerns here with punting and placekicking. Not sure if they’ll be fixed before the end of the season, but we need to avoid game-affecting miscues and on Saturday that was accomplished, for what that’s worth.


Bowden went late into the game coaching the offense. He doesn’t appear worn down by the season, which is admirable. He says he doesn’t read newspapers or anything like that during the season, but you know that he has had as many doubts in his mind about the offense as anyone. Probably still does, but we’ll see. It was good for the success of this season to see him on the sideline acting as animated as he was in calling the offense. For MTSU he had the right plan.

Motivation: The offense was loose from the get-go. I had expected the team to be flat, but was pleasantly surprised. The offense appeared ready for the challenge. I doubt it was a motivational problem on defense that caused the problems.


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