Offensive Identity Eludes Clemson Thus Far


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - The Wake Forest team traveling to Death Valley Saturday has taken a
cue from its head coach and become a tough, physical, run-oriented football
team.


That the Demon Deacons reflect Jim Grobe's personality is no accident. He had
the same effect on a downtrodden Ohio University program, bringing it a
certain level of respectability before leaving the Bobcats for Winston-Salem.


Meanwhile, Clemson - by head coach Tommy Bowden's own admission - still
searches for an identity halfway through the 2002 season. At least that's the
case offensively, where the yards have come in bunches but the points have
not.


"Defensively we've been really consistent. Offensively we've been a little
more inconsistent," Bowden said following Thursday's practice. "We lost quite
a bit from last year, the interior of the line and our quarterback. We had
been plucking along pretty good, (but) turning the ball over, that's the
biggest disappointment as much as we've talked about it."


Clemson's offense took a maddening step backward last Saturday at Virginia,
which was a textbook example of a team - and perhaps a coaching staff - still
trying to find itself.


Though it compiled over 400 yards for the fourth consecutive game, the
statistics were lopsided.


Clemson had 251 yards total offense in the first half, 174 of it rushing. The
final totals were 412 and 207, respectively. The Tigers ran 30 plays in the
first quarter alone, yet only 26 in the second half.


Yusef Kelly, who has seven rushing touchdowns this season and has menaced
opponents in the red zone, touched the ball just once in a first-and-goal
situation from the Virginia seven. Clemson settled for a 19-yard field goal
on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line after driving 93 yards in 19 plays.


Meanwhile, despite running the ball at will for most of the first half, the
coaching staff suddenly began resorting to trickery in short-yardage
situations.


Once, on fourth-and-two from the Cavs' 36, rather than run straight at
Virginia the call was to shift four players at the last minute into a
diamond-shaped formation wide left. Willie Simmons' pass to Derrick Hamilton
was high and outside, the ball sailed out of bounds and Virginia took over,
another scoring opportunity wasted.


The same play in a similar situation against Georgia Tech also failed earlier
this season. Both times the play was open for big yardage. Both times the
offense failed to execute.


Run when expected to pass. Pass when expected to run.


Not bad strategy if properly executed. But Clemson hasn't in several clutch
situations this season.


So exactly what is the offense's identity supposed to be?


"To me it becomes a point of execution, to be able to line up and whatever
they're in you take what they give you," Bowden said. "Most good offenses can
do that. We can't execute at that level of efficiency right now. I'm not
going to stand there and say, on fourth-and-four, I'm gonna line up and run
right at them even though they've got everybody up there (waiting). Nobody
can do that.


"So the identity I would want would come from an execution standpoint, not
from saying I'm a 75 percent run and 25 percent pass (offense). We're not
getting points, and we're not executing because we're turning the ball over.


"The identity comes from being able to execute. I'm looking for the identity
of being a real good team."


NOTES


- Wide receiver Kevin Youngblood is listed as questionable for Saturday. J.J.
McKelvey took most of the snaps with the first team at the X receiver.


- Bowden said he'll wait until watching both Wynn Kopp and walk-on Kyle
Tucker punt in pregame before making a decision on which one kicks vs. Wake
Forest.

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