The running game: You couldn’t blame the running game for this one. Whatever faults the offense had it couldn’t turn around and point the finger at the running game like it has been able to. Don’t get me wrong, there were still times when the running game didn’t get the job done. Running inside is a crap shoot. You don’t know what’s going to happen half the time. But the running game has to show up for this offense to be effective. Whether it showed up is debatable. Kelly didn’t play much after his injury (I’m guessing he was injured. Based on post game reports I’m not sure) and that was a difference. Chad Jasmin had a decent game and showed some flashes that he might be Clemson’s go-to guy. But there obviously wasn’t a willingness to go to him either on the two-point conversion or on Clemson’s last drive.
The passing game: Charlie didn’t have a great game. The offensive line didn’t have a great game protecting him. The receivers didn’t have a great game catching the ball. Based on all this it’s surprising the Tigers weren’t shut out. However, I never got the sense that Charlie was making mistakes like a quarterback does when he throws it to the wrong receiver or throws the ball into coverage. It was more that Charlie was having to force things. Even with Airese out we should have been able to do much, much better against NC State’s pass defense. 196 yards here is unacceptable from this offense at this stage of the season.
The bottom line: The offense didn’t do what it had to do. I hate to go from a B+ to a D, but at least I didn’t give the offense an A last week. This smells of inconsistency and it’s the same thing that was inconsistent last year – the wide receivers. Dropping passes is something you do in the spring, not October. The running game isn’t going to be able to save this team, so I don’t blame Bowden so much for going away from the running game in the final drive, but we can’t be struggling with the kinds of things we struggled with Thursday night at this point in the season. Does 2 points and an overtime win change the grade here? Maybe some, but we didn’t get the 2-point conversion and we didn’t get the overtime win so the grade fits.
Against the run: Clemson held NC State to 70 yards on 36 carries. TA McClendon wasn’t completely healthy and he had just 60 yards. NC State didn’t have another back that can do the things McClendon does. NC State is a different team offensively without McClendon’s presence. The run defense did OK.
Against the pass: The stats say it wasn’t an awful performance. The one long pass against Justin Miller was a good pass and catch. The touchdown pass showed a lack of concentration, which was the feeling I got from the entire defense. You got the feeling that the defense would have liked some more assistance from the offense. Almost that they were looking for the offense to make a play to take some pressure off, or that they didn’t expect the offense to have so much trouble scoring touchdowns.
The bottom line: Penalties killed what could have been an above-average defensive performance. As it was it was below average. The kinds of penalties that hurt the defense were the kind of penalties that a team makes when they’ve got a ton of things on their mind other than what needs to happen on that one specific play. There were comments about the 37-yard touchdown pass that indicated some of the defense thought the play was going to be stopped. That’s crazy if they thought that and disappointing. If the whistle didn’t blow they should have been going full speed.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Kicking: Aaron Hunt hit three field goals. Maybe he doesn’t feel as much pressure now. Maybe he just got lucky. Who knows what’s going on inside Hunt’s head. However, we still passed up a field goal attempt to go for it, so Hunt’s inconsistency was a factor. Jad Dean had a great night kicking the ball.
Punting and kick coverage: Cole Chason had an average night. 36.7 yards per kick. Just a prediction: the punt protection will break down at some point this year and result in a block. Not sure when, but I hope it's not against Wake Forest, a game that we'll have a hard enough time winning anyway.
The bottom line: Hunt took a step forward. So did Jad. Chason stayed pat.
I am as close to giving an F this week as I ever have been. Why we couldn’t use the Virginia game as a springboard falls on the coaches as much as anyone. I’m not talking about keeping the team fired up, I’m talking about keeping the players playing at a talent level that they displayed in the Virginia game. I know that the offensive line is motivated by the thought of having to sit out if performance isn’t up to snuff. I’m not sure the receivers have that same fear. NC State was favored coming in, so I don’t think anyone was under the assumption that Clemson was that much better than State. But State didn’t play well at all on offense and Clemson’s offense never answered the bell. And leave it to Lee Corso on ESPN to cut to the chase and put it to Bowden by saying, in effect, “quit scheming on every play. Just line up and hit somebody.”
Motivation: Maybe I was too quick last week to give any of the credit for having the team motivated to the coaches. Is there a correlation between this team playing in front of a friendly crowd and its motivation? I don’t know considering they played well at Tech and didn’t play well at home against Georgia or Furman. But the last three weeks it appears that motivation has been much worse in the road games. There’s just not much here that tells me that every player on this team wants to make the player standing across from him afraid to come back on the field for another play.