Just two weeks ago Tommy Bowden had to deal with the task of keeping his team from getting too high after its big win over Georgia Tech.
After losses to Virginia Tech and Maryland, he now has to find a way to keep his team up in order to salvage what may still be a good season.
As Bowden said on Sunday, he and his staff do not need to reinvent the wheel. As is nearly always the case, things are not as bad as they seem.
Nevertheless, the sky seems to be falling in Tigertown.
There were a lot of missed opportunities Saturday and that always makes a loss much harder to swallow. Just one play at nearly any juncture of the game, and Clemson is likely in the heart of the hunt for a trip to Jacksonville, after Wake did their part against Boston College.
Instead, all hope is lost for their first ACC championship since 1991 and they have to battle through adversity to finish strong for a nine-win season.
The Tigers’ offense has quickly gone from being a juggernaut to a schizophrenic mess in two games.
Since scoring on their second drive of the Virginia Tech game, the goal line has seemingly become Clemson’s version of kryptonite.
Nine of Clemson’s 11 drives against Virginia Tech were three-and-outs after James Davis scored. Although they did a better job of moving the ball against Maryland, and reached the red zone four times, coming away with just four field goals is hardly worth calling improvement.
The offensive line played their worst game of the year. Barry Richardson and Nathan Bennett looked like they were going through the motions at times.
Marion Dukes whiffed on Clemson’s unsuccessful fourth down attempt.
Had Dukes made his block, James Davis would have certainly picked up the first down and may have reeled off a big play because the defense had crowded the line of scrimmage. At the very least, Clemson may have put themselves in position for a field goal that could have sealed the win.
After playing so well against Georgia Tech, is appears the line has become complacent. They have done a miserable job of sustaining blocks and working to the second level, which is something they did so well for eight games.
Virginia Tech and Maryland are good defensive teams and deserve lots of credit, but Clemson’s line made their jobs much easier.
Will Proctor had a pretty good day from a numbers standpoint, but there is a lot more to the story. Three of his passes accounted for 159 of his passing yards. Take those away and he was 15-of-24 for 92 yards. Averaging six yards per completion is anything but solid.
It was painfully obvious his confidence has been all but completely lost.
He looked tentative on a number of attempts in which he seemed to aim more than throw, and he slid once with no one within nearly four yards of him.
He nearly sailed another bubble screen into the stands and forced Chansi Stuckey to cut off his route on the team’s first play. Granted, he was on the run and facing some pressure on that particular play, but that is a throw a fifth year senior has to make.
Bowden has thrown players, especially veterans, under the bus in the past but has been reluctant to do so with Proctor. That tells me the staff has no confidence in Cullen Harper or Tribble Reese.
Furthermore, Spence’s decision to keep it on the ground on the final third-and-goal means he has very little confidence in his starter. He did not want to risk a turnover when he knew he had to put points on the board.
Based on Proctor’s play as of late, I think it was the right call.
The lackluster performance by the offense somewhat overshadowed just how well the defense played.
The Tigers gave up the short and intermediate routes early on as Sam Hollenbach looked to be on track for a career day. He led his team to the only touchdown of the game, but Clemson settled in and played well enough to win the game had they gotten any help from the offense.
Maybe the most impressive series of the game was the same series in which the Tigers gave up a 57-yard pass that gave the Terps a first-and-goal at the three. The Tigers forced Maryland to settle for a field goal after losing a yard on three plays.
It would have been easy for the defense to pack it in after Duane Coleman gave up the big play, and it was evident the offense was not going to help the cause. But they dug in and kept the team and crowd in the game.
The front did an unbelievable job against the run as Maryland averaged fewer than two yards per carry. Their longest run of the day was 11 yards.
They did not fare as well in passing situations. Hollenbach’s success early
on was aided by the lack of pressure Clemson was able to generate. There
was very little push up the middle, and the ends always seemed to be a step
late when they did get there.
Gaines Adams deserves credit for continuing to play at a high level and not
losing his cool. He has been held more than a crying baby this year, but
has rarely gotten the call. Such was the case again Saturday, especially on
Maryland’s final pass in which he was literally tackled in front of the
Michael Hamlin had a very good day as he picked off a pass deep in Clemson
territory and offered very solid run support. He had two big hits at the
line of scrimmage on runs that looked like they were about to pop for big
yards. He has become a very heady player who has very few missed
Jad Dean and Cole Chason each had good performances. Dean made all four of
his field goals and came through in the clutch after struggling earlier in
Chason had good hang times, did not allow a return, and was able to pin the
Terps deep in their own territory late in the game. He also did a good job
of placing the ball on kickoffs as the staff elected to pooch kick.
The punt coverage unit had an excellent day, but the kickoff unit continued
to struggle. They gave up returns of 32 and 17 yards, and Maryland was
close to breaking a few more big ones.
Clemson’s return units were kept in check. Jacoby Ford did have one punt
return of 18 yards, but that was aided by the fact that Podlesh out kicked
his coverage. Ford called for at least one fair catch when he should have
attempted a return.
A solid defensive performance will keep you in most games and even win a few
for you, but it is hard to do the latter against a good team when the
offense does not come through.
Although they improved from the previous week, the offense still looked
sick. The lack of production was a tough pill to swallow, but having only
10 men on the field and having to burn a timeout after coming out of a
timeout, made that pill feel more like a ball of razor wire.
There is absolutely no excuse for being a man short on offense. Between the
position coach and the coaches in the box, the quarterback, and the man or
men who are lined up beside the missing person, someone has to see the
miscue and call a timeout. That has now caused Clemson two losses in two
What should make every fan’s blood boil, as much if not more, is the lack of
urgency coming out of the timeout. How the staff allowed that to happen is
beyond me. Even more mind-boggling is how the players nonchalantly took the
field after the play clock was below 20 seconds.
As much as fans may hate to admit it, those two brain cramps by the staff
and players were reason enough for the Tigers to lose. A team should not be
allowed to win after making such mistakes in a close game. If Football 101
were a class, those things would be taught the first day.
It has been a startling decent for an offensive unit that was leading the
nation after eight games. Until they figure out how to pull themselves out
of this funk, wins are going to be tough to come by no matter how well the
defense continues to perform.