Clemson Football: Fans should be disappointed, but not angry

Nov 5, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney leaves the field after a loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney leaves the field after a loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

Clemson Football has had a much better 2022 season than it had in 2021. This is still true, despite the disappointing performance Saturday in South Bend.

I can promise you that no one is more disappointed than the staff and the players. We might find out in the months to come that some guys might not have their heads and hearts where they should be, but I think most of them genuinely want to bring their best effort every single day.

That doesn’t mean the fans shouldn’t be disappointed in the performance against Notre Dame. You should be. This isn’t a situation where the Tigers fought to the bitter end as they did in South Bend in 2020. This isn’t a situation where the ball just bounced the wrong way and Clemson had bad luck.

The coaches got thoroughly outcoached Saturday, and it isn’t like they put together a good offensive game plan that was just blown up by an outstanding defensive plan. Clemson’s offensive game plan was head-scratching, to say the least. To be more direct, it was the most inept job of play calling we’ve seen all season.

The players got thoroughly outplayed Saturday, and it wasn’t just the offense. It isn’t like the Clemson defense didn’t know what to expect. Coach Goodwin told us exactly what the Irish offense would do and what his defense needed to be ready to stop. They simply didn’t.

Was the defense on the field a lot? Yes, more than they should be in ideal situations. Here’s the reality: nobody expected this offense to be the strength of this program in 2022. It was the defense – specifically the defensive line – that was to be the backbone of this team.

It wasn’t like Clemson’s defensive line had the talent of the Power Rangers. Depth was what was supposed to make the Avengers special. They were supposed to be able to rotate and keep fresh so they could outlast the other team’s offensive line, even if the offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

Fans have every right to be disappointed, but we shouldn’t be angry. Once again, the venom is being hissed at DJ Uiagalelei. Like in 2021, he wasn’t very good, but he also wasn’t the whole problem, or even the main problem. The most glaring problem on the field Saturday night was, once again, an offensive line that looked winded before they ever took the field.

I think there is another reason why many fans are angry right now. National pundits have been harshly critical of Clemson. A lot of fans, like myself, have stood up to personalities like Joel Klatt, Ari Wasserman, and others who have put down the Tigers. Now, those fans, like myself, are embarrassed, and some of them are lashing out at DJ, other players, and the coaches.

I am disappointed in the Tigers’ performance Saturday, but I am not angry because nobody made me tell those pundits that they were wrong and being unfair to Clemson’s resume, as well as Clemson’s opponents to this point in the season.

I am embarrassed because the pundits were right. This team wasn’t ready for a playoff push. This team wasn’t going to transition to ‘championship mode’. Clemson’s opponents weren’t worthy of the rankings they once possessed.

Clemson football fans need to be honest with themselves

If we’re being honest, the pundits weren’t saying that Clemson wasn’t good. They were saying Clemson wasn’t as good as the other teams at the top of the CFP rankings, and now we see why. They have probably been harsher on the ACC, questioning the quality of the conference, and it’s hard to make an argument why they were wrong.

We could have simply ignored the pundits’ attacks, or responded that time will tell, but most of us didn’t. Most of us counter-attacked by questioning the competency of the pundits, and now we are eating crow.

While it is fair for me to be disappointed in the Tigers, it is not their fault I am eating crow. That’s my fault, and I’m not angry at them.

If you are disappointed in the Tigers, that is fair. If you are eating crow right now, it’s your fault. If you are angry with Clemson, that’s a you problem.

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