The running game: Clemson had its first 100-yard rusher in Duane Coleman. Clemson ran the ball between the tackles when it had to. I was pleased with the offense’s ability to do this. Overall, it was promising. Duane Coleman runs with a lot of heart. If he can add some beef to his frame he’ll be a good one before it’s over for him at Clemson.
The passing game: Charlie Whitehurst didn’t have his best game. He made some throws near the goal line that he’d like to have back. It’s encouraging that Tony Elliott is getting in the game as much as he is. That tells me that performance is being expected with the receivers instead of being assumed.
The bottom line: Clemson was playing one of the worst defenses in the nation. This wasn’t an above average performance. It should have been better. There were times after the 13-0 start that things got bogged down. After that, the offense scored just one TD.
Against the run: Clemson’s linebackers took the week off. Actually, UNC was able to get them away from the line of scrimmage and Leroy Hill went out. That opened up the middle for North Carolina's quarterback Darian Durant. Clemson’s run defense was suspect, but the line did get decent pressure on the pass…
Against the pass: Clemson’s defensive line had a decent day getting pressure on Durant, even though it didn’t show up in the stats. There were some hurries. If Clemson’s sports information department wanted to give this line some credit, it would start keeping up with the hurries. Interceptions saved the day, though.
The bottom line: You know I’m a big fan of this defense. But some things were working against the Tigers on Saturday. Some are upset that this defense doesn’t show more blitzing, but I’m ok with it the way it is. John Lovett doesn’t have a ton of talent on this defense. The interceptions probably don’t come if he starts messing with a scheme that’s worked all year.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
Kicking: Cole Chason struggled in warm-ups, and he struggled in the game. I know he’s a freshman, but he needs to start showing some improvement. I fear that the main reason he’s in there is because he’s on scholarship. Aaron Hunt has a nice string of field goals going although one extra point was missed due to a bad snap.
Kick coverage and returns: Outstanding job by Derrick Hamilton breaking the game open. Hamilton says he doesn’t like his nickname “Noodle” that Bowden gave him. Let me propose another: “Show Stopper.” Before Hamilton’s return UNC was poised to take control of the game. After his return, it was a completely different scene.
The bottom line: Once again, some concerns with punting and placekicking. Once again, they needed to stay away from game-affecting misques. Saturday they didn’t since Hunt’s missed PAT could have led to overtime, and Chason gave UNC good field position all during the first half. Give Hamilton credit for the B+. Otherwise it’s a C.
One thing I want Bowden to consider when he talks about facilities…when we have nearly 80,000 in the seats for a game that many could have overlooked, then we have the best facilities in the world. Please sell that to recruits and the world, instead of letting the facilities talk enter the conversation again. Now then, the bottom line is that Clemson survived through some fairly remarkable circumstances: Hamilton’s kick return and turnovers forced by the defense. And I think that Durant’s fumble might be the play that saved Bowden’s job. So, here’s a tall cup of Coke in a souvenir cup that gets smaller and smaller every year raised to Bowden for putting his team in a position to survive.
Motivation: The team seemed prepared. Bowden seems to be connecting with his players on the sideline better than he ever has. It would be great, once again, if all the coaches were less involved in scheming and more involved in motivation.