Thursday, October 4, 2012

5 Keys for Clemson Against GT

Here are five keys, not named assignment football or scoring more points, for Clemson to send their 10th Street Trade School friends back to Atlanta as losers:

Win 1st Down
What makes both offenses so tough to defend is the unexpected. For Georgia Tech, any one of 3-4 guys can tote the ball on any given play. It makes you think and find the ball rather than react and attack the football. For Clemson, the run/pass option and constant movement creates chaos, forcing you to think and find the ball rather than react and attack the football.

On 1st down, the playbook is wide open, for both teams. The only time the playbook is bigger? 2nd and short.

If Clemson can win 1st down and put GT in 2nd and long, it forces the GT playbook to shrink, which makes their offense slightly more predictable. Also, when it’s 2nd and long, you don’t mind giving up 3-4 yards because you still have a 3rd and 4-5 to defend, which is in the defense’s favor.

On the flipside, Clemson needs to win 1st down to stay ahead of the chains and keep their offense at optimal speed. 2nd and short typically means first downs, and with this offense, first downs mean points. This is not to say Clemson can’t score from behind the chains (they’ve proven quite proficient on third down), it just makes the play-calling slightly more predictable, which means execution has to be that much tighter.

Score Early
Georgia Tech comes to Clemson reeling, especially following last week’s 21 point loss to MTSU. If Clemson can find the endzone early, it will help keep GT in the “here we go again” mood and maybe make them give up. Also, if Clemson can jump on GT early, it may begin to change the play-calling of Paul Johnson, which works to the Tigers’ favor.

And separately from scheme advantages, Clemson scoring early will help to erase the memories of last year. And once they get some positive vibes and confidence, the offense will feed on that and get better and better.

Take the Points
Historically, every point counts between these two teams. And if Clemson has a chance to score, they should take it. 4th and 2 at the 20? Field Goal. 4th and 1 on the 15? Field Goal. 4th and 4 on the 35? Field Goal. Take the points!

For instance, against BC Clemson passed up a chance at a make-able field goal only to try a trick play. The play never happened as a penalty was called, which forced them out of field goal range. But which was better – a trick play or 3 points? We’ll never know, but the second half could have been easier with an extra 3 on the board.

Against GT, we need to take the 3. We may need it.

Don’t Panic
In Tech’s two wins, they are averaging over 465 yards rushing. In their three losses? Nearly 240. So they’re going to get theirs, we just can’t panic when it happens.

Nothing is more degrading than having a team run roughshod over you (see FSU), but against GT that feeling will persist for 60 minutes as that’s all they do. But if/when they bust one for 20-30 yards, you can’t get down on yourselves because they’re coming right back at you the next play. If you get frustrated or angry, then what would have been a 20-30 yard run turns into a 60 yard run and 6 points.

Also, what makes the GT offense so frustrating is the fact that their offensive line cut blocks, which means they go low on you to knock you down or take you out of the play, rather than push or control you. And players aren’t keen on people going after knees and lower limbs. But if you try to fight it or dodge it, you only work into their hands as you take yourself out of the play.

Feed the Crowd
Of Clemson’s last nine overall games, only two have been played at home: Ball State and Furman. Saturday marks the first time a BCS school rolls into Death Valley since Wake Forest last year. More than that, it’s not a noon start. And more than that is GT is a rival, a rival who’s had our number.

Just a home game should be enough to get the crowd pumped, but throw in a thirst for good football and a natural rival, and the Valley should be rocking. It needs to be and these players need to know we appreciate their hard work and dedication.

And in times when they want to panic, we need to stop them.
Or when Dabo wants to roll the dice, we need to be the voice of reason.
Or when the defense needs a big stand, we need to help them.
Or when the offense breaks off a big play, we need to celebrate them.
Or when GT plays the “You Suck” song, we need to let them have it.

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