QUARTERBACK- Woodrow Dantzler was relatively quiet but effective for the Tigers, passing for 249-yards while rushing for an uncharacteristic 17-yards on 15 carries. South Carolina deserves credit for continually harassing Dantzler in the pocket and swarming him when he attempted to run. With the exception of a tipped-ball interception, Dantzler’s passing was accurate, particularly on short to mid-range plays, while the sophomore continued to avoid making costly mistakes. Now that the Tigers are headed to a bowl game, Dantzler will have an aditional month of practice to hone his game for next season.
RUNNING BACKS- Travis Zachery ripped through the vaunted Gamecock defense for 105-yards on 17 carries, including a 22-yard burst that set up the Tiger’s final touchdown. Freshman Bernard Rambert was spectacular in relief, rushing the ball only six times and piling up 54-yards- 40 more than heralded Gamecock rookie Derek Watson. Clemson’s backfield looks to be loaded for the future behind Zachery, Rambert, and Chad Jasmin.
RECEIVERS- Perhaps the only thing that Clemson’s Rod Gardner didn’t catch on Saturday was the opening coin toss. The junior wideout pulled down virtually every ball thrown near him, including a 29-yard touchdown lob from Dantzler that effectively fried the Gamecocks. Tight End Pat Cyrgalis had another strong day with two catches while Brian Wofford, Mal Lawyer, Matt Bailey, and Justin Watts all contributed in a fine performance by the Tiger receivers.
OFFENSIVE LINE- Things didn’t start well for the Tiger linemen as Woodrow Dantzler was sacked on consecutive plays in the first quarter. But Clemson regrouped behind a bizarre formation that had the tackles lining up directly in front of the Tiger wide outs. The alignment seemed to throw the Gamecocks off balance, effectively turning back the pass rush and giving Dantzler more time in the pocket. Later in the game, the Clemson line began to open up gaping holes for Zachery and Rambert as the Tigers took over in the trenches.
DEFENSIVE LINE- While scoring 21-points certainly qualifies as an explosion for the Gamecock offense, South Carolina failed to ever establish an effective running game, largely due to an outstanding performance by Clemson’s defensive line. Despite a few lapses in fourth quarter, this was a solid afternoon for a Tiger line that desperately needed to assert itself.
LINEBACKERS- Keith Adams was a monster against the Gamecocks, recording a school record 27 tackles, including four tackles for loss. Despite Adams’ heroics, the Clemson linebackers continued to allow Phil Petty to find the Gamecock running backs and tight ends for big gains underneath. With Reggie Herring’s gambling defense, the linebackers must do a better job of picking up men out of the backfield.
SECONDARY- The Tiger cornerbacks were solid, allowing only 71-receiving yards on four receptions to Gamecock wide receivers. However, South Carolina tight ends piled up ten catches for 85-yards as the Gamecocks burned the blitzing Tigers over the middle. Regardless, the Clemson secondary bounced back from a tough day at Georgia Tech to get the job done in Columbia.
SPECIAL TEAMS- In what could have been a disastrous play for the Tigers, a Gamecocks punt bounced off Clemson’s David Evans and was surrounded by a number of Gamecocks. Instead of pouncing on the fumble, the South Carolina defenders simply stared at the ball, not realizing that it had touched a Clemson player. Tiger freshman Brian Mance dove on the ball, saving both possession and momentum for Clemson. The Tiger’s punt coverage allowed South Carolina’s Ryan Brewer to break into Clemson territory and give the Gamecocks new life in the fourth quarter. Tony Lazzara’s missed field goal in the first quarter seemed to deflate the Tigers after an impressive opening drive while further highlighting the team’s desperate need for a kicker.
REFEREES- A special group of referees deserve a special mention this week. In an apparent attempt spice up its football games, The Atlantic Coast Basketball Conference has somehow managed to find the absolute worst officials in the United States of America and set them loose on the gridiron. A typical ACC football game now involves the following: 20-30 yellow flags streaking through the air with reckless abandon followed by 20-30 five-minute huddles in which the referees trade Pokemon cards and sniff glue. The officials then try and decipher where to actually spot the football, a process not unlike a monkey trying to learn to play the tuba: painfully slow and sadly disorganized. Of course, these remarks are exaggerated- I’m sure monkeys are fine tuba players.
Grade: F- (game), F- (season)
COACHING- In choosing the men to lead their respective football programs last year, South Carolina and Clemson took two very different routes. The Gamecocks went with the wily legend and his hard-nosed, bruising approach to offensive football, while the Tigers took an up-and-comer with an offense much like a basketball fast break. One year later, it looks like Clemson got the better deal. Tommy Bowden’s Tigers are exciting and disciplined, two qualities Lou Holtz’ Gamecocks sorely lack. Holtz’ team continued to make stupid mistakes en route to racking up eleven penalties, including an inexplicable delay of game call with less than four minutes to play. The Gamecocks jumped off sides an amazing six times- not in the entire season, but in one 60-minute game! Clemson fans were pleased with Tommy Bowden before Saturday’s game. Now they should be absolutely ecstatic.
Grade: B+ (A- for offense, B- for defense)