This week in The Smoldering Ruin we take a look back at the weekend that was (or wasn’t) for Clemson football during Dabo’s 2nd trip to South Bend. Everyone needs to take a breath and relax. Let’s take a beat.
Losing is the worst.
I hate watching Clemson lose games. If you are like me, you feel like absolute death for a few days. I haven’t read Twitter since Saturday night and I don’t plan to until at least Thursday. I make a concerted effort to avoid Clemson sites (outside of this fine one) in the aftermath of a loss. It is the worst.
I’ve found the best way to get past a loss is to talk about what went wrong, and what Clemson can do to move on.
So, let’s rip this band-aid off.
I can’t repeat (or write) what I got in several different text chains and DMs on Saturday night but most of the conversation was about the absolute Lincoln Log Clemson laid on offense on Saturday night. The crux of the complaints wasn’t necessarily the QBs, although they weren’t immune (I will get back to them in a sec). The chief problem that drew their ire (and that’s putting it mildly) was the offensive playcalling. And buddy, it was rough.
Clemson attempted 4 passes across the line of scrimmage in the 1st half. Attempted is the keyword; only one pass was attempted past the sticks, ironically thrown on a 4th and 4. This was one of the worst game plans I have ever seen for an offense.
The defense gave up a shocking 263 yards rushing. But honestly, can you blame them? They were constantly on the field and only managed to give up 2 sustained drive touchdowns. The 3rd was on a short field, after once again being put in a massive bind by the offense.
Moving forward, Clemson may well win out the remainder of the games this season. But make no mistake, the primary issue that everyone can see is the offensive scheme. This isn’t Chad Morris’s offense anymore. This isn’t remotely close to an offshoot of it. Saturday’s game plan looked more like something pulled from the pages of Rob Spence’s 2008 or Billy Napier’s 2010 playbook.
DJ has not looked the same since his 1st quarter interception to Syracuse. But at the same time, I don’t think this staff did him any favors with the plan they gave him and the plays they “dialed up” Saturday night. Once the coaching staff realized they needed to push the ball downfield, it was far too late. It pressed DJ into throwing a pick 6, but also led to 2 late TD’s that made everyone wonder where that offense had been all game.
On another note, I will defend Cade Klubnik as well. I legitimately do not understand the fan base’s weeping and wailing over him not immediately being the second coming of his college football anomaly predecessors. He’s a freaking freshman and he’s barely played. Sure, he threw a bad interception but there is a much bigger issue that needs to be addressed.
Since Cade’s effortless TD drive in Atlanta, has it not seemed like they have just tossed him into games with no real sense of a plan? The Georgia Tech drive almost seems scripted at this point. Any time he’s been on the field there hasn’t been a real attempt to give him some easy throws like he had in week one, which makes no sense at all. Naturally, when you trot a true freshman onto the field, in the biggest game of the year, with his feet on the goal line and no real plan to help him out, you get the results we saw Saturday. Notre Dame jumped the TE Clemson had thrown to all night leaving Cade with no other options and forcing him to throw against his body.
Cade can be a great Quarterback, but my goodness this staff needs to help him out somehow. Maybe, actually, have a plan for him this week?
With all that being said, I think there are still a few positives and other points to be made.
Despite the loss to Notre Dame, Clemson football still has its goals squarely in front of them
Number 1, this team still has all of its goals ahead of them. Winning the National Championship isn’t on Clemson’s big board. I think it’s something that the program strives for, but until the 12-team playoff comes around (hey, complain about it now) they can only win week to week and see where the chips fall. A conference championship, with a 12+ win season, along with some changes made to the offensive scheme (whatever they may be), would instill a little bit more confidence to a fanbase that has been in “Karen mode” since DJ threw his pick 6 against Georgia.
All this to say, everyone needs to chill. Dabo isn’t blind. I think he’s seeing the exact same issues that everyone is seeing. I don’t think he will sit idle after the clock hits zero in whatever bowl game they go to this year. But I’ve gotten more than enough messages that “the ride is over” or “Cade sucks” or “we’ve relied on (insert spoon-fed talking point here) till now and we don’t have it”. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. Clemson was 6-3 at this point last year and the best we were hoping for was chaos to send Clemson to Charlotte and maybe a shot at the NY6.
Clemson is 8-1, with a loss at Notre Dame. They’re still the first class of the ACC. Don’t believe me? How did Miami do Saturday? Clemson still holds its own its destiny, and I personally would be content with a 13-1 season with an Orange Bowl win given the state of the offense over the last 2 years.
Until then, you have to be patient with what Clemson has and see what changes might happen in the offseason.
Either way, let’s all take a breath and take a beat.