Grading the Tigers vs Wake Forest

by - Correspondent -
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The running game: When Clemson needed the running game in the first half, it wasn’t there. After the first half, it was a moot point. But if Clemsonis kicking field goals to make the team feel better about itself, then why aren't the Tigers running the ball to accomplish the same thing in the second half.

The passing game: It was obviously Charlie Whitehurst’s worst game so far this season. There was some talk about his interception that was returned for a TD being a result of Kelvin Grant’s slip, but I think it had more to do with the pass being there too early for Grant coming out of his cut. Whose fault that was I don’t know, but he only had a split second to get his hands on the ball and I think that had more to do with the interception than his slipping. More disturbing than anything was the pressure that was applied to Whitehurst by the Wake defensive line.

The bottom line: If the offense doesn’t self-destruct in the first half, it has a chance to make a comeback in the second half. I keep having flash backs to last season when it appeared that the receivers would take plays off. A certain number of drops is expected with any team, but it’s a dangerous thing when your concentration isn’t at 100 percent. Against a team like Wake, it’s deadly.


Against the run: There weren’t any surprises here. Clemson was bothered by the misdirection against Furman and North Carolina. Wake Forest’s offense was perfectly suited for success against Clemson’s defensive front.

Against the pass: Wake’s passing game was effective when it had to be early in the second half. The yards weren’t overwhelming, but it kept Clemson honest.

The bottom line: The defense has officially taken a step backwards. You had to know that Clemson would struggle on defense against Wake. But, honestly, the defense didn’t play much worse this week than it had in the previous few weeks. You get the feeling that teams have figured out Clemson’s defense. Can John Lovett come up with something to stop the bleeding? Let’s hope so.


Kicking: Aaron Hunt hit a gimme field goal. Maybe that made someone out there feel good.

Punting and kick coverage: Cole Chason pinned one punt near the goalline. He averaged 41 yards on three punts. He also assisted on a tackle. Clemson gave up a 26-yard punt return. Jad Dean didn’t have any of his kickoffs returned.

The bottom line: Hunt has hit seven field goals in a row and hit both his PATs. Chason had a decent game. Not a bad game for either.


Two huge questionable calls here - the first was punting on the first drive of the second half when you’ve got fourth-and-four at the Wake 38. I'm not sure what kind of a signal that’s sending to your team there, but Bowden punted in a similar situation against Florida State last season and the net effect was to tell the team that the game was over. And the other was going for the field goal late. Bowden rationalized it, but it still doesn’t make sense.

Speaking of rationalization, Bowden likes to talk about “parity” and things that are reasons for these blowouts. First, Clemson hasn’t put forth the effort recruiting the state of North Carolina that they should have. But then only 18 of Wake’s players on the roster are from North Carolina, so maybe they’re right for not recruiting the state of NC any harder than they have been. However, the parity argument doesn’t hold water when you look at the top 11 from 1983.

1983 AP final top 11:

1. Miami, FL

2. Nebraska

3. Auburn

4. Georgia

5. Texas

6. Florida

7. BYU

8. Michigan

9. Ohio St.

10. Illinois

11. Clemson

Seven of those teams are currently near the top ten today and Auburn isn’t far off the pace. Does the parity argument apply to the overall program, or individual games? At this point, it doesn’t matter. I don’t think scholarship limitations did Clemson in on Saturday and I don’t think scholarship limitations have given Clemson a 5-4 record in 2003. What is Clemson more like? BYU and Illinois or the rest of that list? I would say the rest of the list, but on the field Clemson seems more and more like BYU and Illinois.

Motivation: The coaches were giving high fives and hugs to each other before the game. They appeared motivated. But the players didn’t seem to have the same enthusiasm just before kickoff. It was all business as the team went from the locker room to the field and it was obvious that Wake wanted this game from the coin toss. They took the ball and were confident that they could send a message early.


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