Tuesday, September 25, 2012

FSU in Review – Grading the Keys

Prior to the FSU game, we gave 5 keys for Clemson to leave Tally with a win. Now that the game is over – and Clemson’s defense is well known across college football for the wrong reasons – it’s time to take a look at the 5 keys to see how Clemson fared:

Run the Ball
The statement I’m about to make is not widely held, but I believe it to be true: “Clemson ran the ball well against FSU.”

Though Clemson only totaled 136 yards on the ground, the run game was effective and it kept the defense honest. Ellington did well on the stretch plays, turning the corner on multiple runs and Watkins was tough up the middle.

If anything, I think Clemson got away from the run in the third quarter when they went five straight possessions without a first down. During those five possessions, neither Ellington nor Watkins got any carries and it allowed FSU’s defense to focus on Boyd as the primary ball carrier. In addition, the run would have allowed the defense time to rest and regroup, though not sure how much it would have mattered.

Grade: B-

Make FSU Drive the Ball
Summary of FSU possessions:
1st Half: 6*, 10, 4*, 8, 8
2nd Half: 6, 3*, 2*, 7*, 7*, 6, 1*, 3

The purpose of making FSU to drive the ball was to eventually force them into mistakes and keep them off the scoreboard. In the first half, this proved to be fairly successful as FSU’s three longest possessions resulted in no points (two missed FG and a punt). Unfortunately, in the second half, Clemson was unable to sustain the same success as FSU added five touchdowns, with the turning point being when FSU scored two touchdowns in five plays to cut the lead to 3.

And Clemson never recovered.

Also, the Clemson defense gave up huge plays in both the passing and rushing game. All totaled, I count nine FSU plays of greater than 20 yards, including two touchdowns.

Ultimately, the Clemson defense wore down and FSU was able to impose their will. And with every play, the inevitable became more and more of reality.

Grade: C-

Stay Ahead of the Chains
In building their 14 point lead, Clemson faced only three 3rd and longs, two of which they were able to convert.

In the following seven possessions, Clemson was 2 for 6. Staying out of 3rd and longs is critical to this offense, and the disparity between the two halves bears this out.

Against any defense, converting 44% of 3rd and longs is outstanding. But against this defense, it’s downright amazing. And in the first half to limit yourselves to only three 3rd and longs is quite an achievement.

Even though Clemson struggled for a bit in the second half, their overall performance was impressive.

Grade: B

Win Field Position Battle
Clemson started only 1 (one) drive in FSU territory (the muffed punt). The result of that one possession - touchdown. Every other Clemson drive started from inside their 35. Needing 35-40 yards for to get into field goal range and 65-70 yards for a touchdown is much to ask for any offense. To ask it against this FSU makes it even tougher.

But to Clemson’s credit, they had four touchdown drives of 65 yards or longer. But even with that success, you’re left with this taste in your mouth as to how well this offense could perform if it had a short field to work with. Considering Clemson has turned every possession started in opposing territory into a touchdown, 1 or 2 more opportunities could have made a major difference in the final score.

Grade: D

Score Early
Clemson did exactly what it needed to do. They scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and three of their first four. Included in that span were the bomb to Hopkins, a fake field goal, new offensive wrinkles, and an FSU fumble. The Doak crowd was quieted and the Clemson faithful were rockin’.

Unfortunately, it didn’t matter in the end, but without this start, Clemson could have been run out of the building 1990’s style.

Grade: A+

Clemson did everything it needed to do to win this game – except finish. The offense stalled, the defense sucked, and the special teams were quite “special”.

And while a win over FSU in primetime would have been amazing, losing doesn’t change the projection of this season. We knew the road to Charlotte would go through Tallahassee and the advantage would be FSU’s. And losing to FSU on the road is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.

But, while you shouldn’t be ashamed, there is little room for morale victories.

Should you be pleased with how the defense played? No – you should expect better.

Should you be happy to have competed with FSU on the big stage? No – you should expect to be in these games, and to win them.

I’m certainly not happy, but I’m not distraught either. We knew this team would hit some bumps, and we knew FSU was the most likely place for such bumps.

But if Clemson is not going to allow this loss to derail their season, I won’t let it dampen mine. My support is still strong – and so should yours.

Go Tigers!

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