My Take on the Tigers
Posted By:Brett Haynes - Greenville, SC Tags:
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The bottom line: Clemson has not gotten over the hump. All three losses were winnable, but all three losses are losses. If there is one thing that I usually always have, it is an opinion about the Clemson football team. Until now. I really just do not know what to say. The football season takes up but a quarter of the season, yet we think about it year round. And now, just five short weeks into this 2009 season, most of the goals this team had are all but washed away, just like all of the rain we have seen this fall. A mixture of poor red zone performance, poor execution at the wrong times, decent enough competition, and just good old fashioned bad luck have Dabo Swinney's first Tiger team on the ropes.
Before going a step further, I will say I will stick with this team because I like Dabo and I believe in him. A team can start a winning streak at any time, and I will never give up on my team. We have good people and we can figure this out. With all of that said however, there are major concerns.
First of all, the offense makes you shake your head in disbelief. How can a team have a line with good experience, the conference's best offensive football player (in my opinion, CJ Spiller), and a quarterback that is young, but very, very talented, and move the ball as little as we do? I believe it starts with the offensive line. Those guys just do not seem to be pushing anyone around. They are a solid group on paper, but come game-time, the performances haven't been too exciting.
A glaring issue on that offense too, is wide receiver. Jacoby Ford has been better than anyone ever thought he would be. Not only is he a speed demon, but he has shown toughness and an all around knack for playing football well. He has made lots of really solid catches. But after him, Clemson is missing something. Xavier Dye finally came around and made a couple of nice grabs Saturday, but a second serious threat at receiver is missing. Ford is short and quick, and the Tigers need a tall receiver to step up. Dropped passes have been a serious issue for Clemson. Several more balls were dropped against Maryland.
Secondly, Clemson has got to stop playing to the level of its competition. I honestly believe the Tigers could line up with most any team in the country for a four-quarter game. But on that same hand, they also allow teams like Maryland to hang around all day, and the consequences are obvious. Clemson has mental issues as far as this goes, and it won't be easy to shake.
Thirdly, I have never been witness to a Clemson team that has had as much weird and unfortunate stuff happen to it as this team has. Now, don't get me wrong here, I know that excuss are for losers, and that teams create their own luck, either good or bad. And when you are even in the game with Maryland instead of seperating from them then you obviously have bigger issues to worry about. But still, it is hard to ignore some of the things that have come Clemson's way in 2009.
This pattern is scarily similar to the kind of stuff that happened to Tommy Bowden's teams, but it is almost like Swinney's squad has found a way to take it to the next level. From monsoonish rainy games, to unexplainably bad calls by the refs, to field goals made but time-out was called mid-flight, to knees not being on the ground when you want them to be and being on the ground when you don't, this team has somehow been on the crap end of nearly all of these strange happenings...... Hey, you make your own luck, right?
If you read my first sentence of this article, you will see that it says that a loss is a loss. And that is really all that matters. Clemson could be 5-0. Go ahead, laugh, I don't care. The Tigers were a play away in each game from winning each. But they are not because they are not a team that knows how to close the deal. They still have not learned to be blood thirsty enough to put teams away when they get the chance. They cannot get that extra score when they need it, and they cannot get the defenseive stand when they have to. Basically, they are a play short in each game. That's their thing right now: to be one play short of what it takes to win.
So how does Clemson get over that? How do the Tigers start making one more play each game? How does Clemson stop letting things like the officials get in the way? The answer is a clear "I don't know."
I have no idea. I have dissected this team to shreds and quite frankly I cannot figure it out. I like Dabo a lot, but right now I say to him,"hey buddy, figure this out, let's go." And he will figure it out. He is smart and he cares. The look on his face as he left the field against the Terps said it all. He hates to lose. I know he does. And that is why I am not about to give up on him or thie team. Yes, there are problems - namely the offense. But I know that he and his staff and his team will figure it out. It sucks that the ACC Atlantic is this wide open and we have once again put ourselves in a hole, but if you start winning, who knows...
If you are a Clemson fan now, all you can do is continue to support the team. This a major crossroads for this first Tiger team, and they do not need a divided crowd. Whether you are for Parker or for Korn (another issue we didn't get to here), or for Dabo or for a bigger name coach, that doesn't matter. We have to support Swinney and this team because each game counts. The ACC Atlantic race is slipping away fast, but stranger things have happened, and like I said above, a winning streak can start at anytime...Are times good? Not really. But they can only be turned around if we continue to support this team.
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