Not Making the Plays

by - Correspondent -
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Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

The reasons why Clemson is 1-2 instead of 3-0 after the first three games is hasn’t made the plays.

After making the plays it needed to beat Wake Forest in Week 1, the Tigers haven’t made any plays when they needed them in two straight losses to Georgia Tech and Texas A&M.

Just like their first loss to Georgia Tech at home a week earlier ¬ when the failure to make routine plays in the closing minutes cost the Tigers a sure win ¬ they went out and did it on even a grander scale in College Station, Texas.

In Saturday’s 27-6 loss to Texas A&M, the Tigers were manhandled up front as the Aggies rolled up 324 rushing yards, while holding Clemson to a mere 58.

But even with that said, the Tigers still had their chances to make it a competitive game and even win it, if they only had made the plays.
But as we all know they didn’t.

Would Clemson have won the game?

Maybe not, but if the Tigers made the fundamental plays early on, they would have at least stood a chance and would not have fell so far behind, subsequently changing their entire game plan in the second half.

“We didn’t do anything,” said Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. “We could have at least made it a game if we’d just shown up.” And the Tigers had a lot of chances to show up.

Early in the second quarter, A&M ran play action on second and goal from the Clemson one. Facing a blitz from Leroy Hill, Aggie quarterback Reggie McNeal tried to throw the ball away while falling off his back foot. The ball got away from him, allowing linebacker Anthony Waters an easy shot at interception. Instead of catching the ball and ending the Aggies’ first scoring threat of the night, Waters dropped the sure interception and subsequently the Aggies scored a play later to take a lead they never relinquished.

Whitehurst pointed out it just wasn’t the defense that wasn’t making plays.

The offense had its share of missed opportunities as well.

Down 14-0 after a Courtney Lewis 29-yard scoring run, Clemson found itself with a fourth down and two at the A&M 31. Whitehurst spotted receiver Chansi Stuckey wide open across the middle and hit him in stride for what appeared to be a first down, but Stuckey took his eyes off the ball, letting it hit his right shoulder pad, deflecting it in the air and into the hands of an A&M defensive back.

After a 15-yard touchdown pass to Ben Hall and an A&M field goal, the Tigers again found themselves on the move with a chance to draw closer as halftime neared. Deep in A&M territory, Whitehurst tried to by time in a pocket that was collapsing around him. As he moved to his left to avoid the rush on the second and short play, Jonte Buhl stripped him of the ball from behind and the Aggies recovered the fumble at the 41 to end the last real Clemson threat.

“Offensively we haven’t shown up yet,” Whitehurst said about his unit’s 250-yard effort. “Internally, I’m pretty concerned right now.”

From there, the Tigers appeared to implode on both sides of the ball.
After another promising drive stalled around midfield to open the second half, punter Cole Chason ¬ Clemson’s Most Valuable Player of the night ¬ pinned Texas A&M at its one yard line. Down just 17-6 at the time, if the Tigers make a couple of plays here, the offense gets the ball back in relatively good field position and has a shot to make it a game.

However, this is the area of the field where men are separated from the boys, and A&M proved it was playing with the men.

McNeal hit DeQawn Mobley for a 30-yard gain, while facing little if no pass rush from Clemson to move the ball away from his own end zone. The Aggies, thanks to McNeal’s 88 total yards on the 99-yard drive, went on to score from there on a 3-yard Jason Carter run, putting the game out of reach and ending any hopes of a Clemson comeback

“We didn’t do anything on either side to change the momentum, offensively and defensively,” said Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden. “This is the worst we’ve looked.” And with road trips at No. 8 Florida State and No. 12 Virginia still lurking over the next three weeks, it’s not a good time to look bad.

Bowden and the rest of the Clemson coaches have the next few days to find those players who can make plays when they need them to the most. But they also have the task of trying to game plan for a Florida State team that is hungry for revenge as well as trying to avoid its first 0-2 start in the Atlantic Coast Conference since it joined the league in 1992.

Oh, by the way, the Seminoles have never lost two consecutive conference games.

Clemson better start making plays soon or it just might be home watching other teams make plays in late December and early January.

Will Vandervort is the Sports Editor for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.

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