Saturday, October 29, 2005

Football - Jackets Squeek out a win over Clemson

Wow. Another year and another nail-biter with Clemson. There were so many times during this game that I thought we were going to find a way to lose. But the boys found a way to battle and get the win 10-9. In the end that's what matters the most. And a must-win it really was. The Jackets move to 5-2 (3-2 ACC), and are one win away from bowl eligibility with 4 games remaining.

Some quick thoughts on the game.

1. For the Jackets, it is utlimately THESE games that determine how successful our season will be. It's not really beating Miami and VaTech that determines our season. It's beating Clemson and NCST and UVA, Wake Forest and UNC. Why? Because this is the group looking to break out of the middle tier. I know - to be the best you have to beat the best. Yeah, but you also have to beat the middle to be better than the middle. That's where we need to start. Right now we are 2-1 against that group with UVA and WF to go. That's where our season success will fall.

2. Once again, this was a tale of two halves. Clemson moved the ball well in the first half and our offense looked lost. Our defense played a little lose and a bit tentative. We can only thank Clemson for bailing us out time and time again. Let's face it - if Clemson doesn't continually self-destruct, then we lose this game. The 2nd half was a shutdown effort by the D, and the offense was better. We did move the ball well and were it not for a Reggie Ball fumble, we probably would have had even more points on the board. Not an outstanding offensive effort by any means, but ok. Major kudos to the defense in the 2nd half. Clemson didn't have a drive over 16 yards in the 4th quarter. Just outstanding. THAT, my friends, was the difference in the game. The Defense won this game - pure and simple. And probably the best tackling game yet from our perimeter guys.

3. One thing this game was not was pretty. About 6 turnovers, lots of dumb penalties. I am not quite sure how the halftime score was 3-3. By all rights Tech should have been down about 21-3. But they weren't. Luckily MOST of the dumb mistakes were committed by Clemson. But, what was with the D-Line jumping offsides - repeatedly? Obviously there was a little bit of rust from the 2-week layoff, but there was a little something else. Evidently Whitehurst changed his cadence a bit, knowing he might catch us with our aggressive style. He did.

4. Travis Bell is officially off the snide (or is it schnide). He did miss his 6th in a row, but redeemed himself with a make. And wouldn't you know it - it was the difference in the game. Travis, thanks for winning the game!!!!!

5. Our special teams was pretty poor. Ben Arndt was good most of the game except his last two punts. However, let's talk kick-off coverage. Terrible. How do you allow an 81 yard kick return at the most important part of the game? By the way, did you know that was that kid's first kick-off return ever? It was. Nice way to start................ Let's flip over and talk kick-returns. Sorry, but Chris Woods has been nothing more than average. He looks tentative and unsure out there. We all know he's got skills, but he just seems to lack confidence in that position.

6. Clemson decided that they were going to shutdown Calvin Johnson, and they did. He caught 4 balls for 47 yards, but Damarius Bilbo stepped up with some big catches - 5 for 68 yards. Heck, those stats aren't really bad for a guy that was double-teamed every play. Of course, for CJ, that's bad.

7. PJ Daniels goes for 100 yards. A nice outing for him, and let's hope he's hitting his "early season stride". He goes into the endzone for the go-ahead TD.

8. Let's talk the offensive line. I am wondering if this bad 1st half / good 2nd half pattern is largely due to the O-Line. We know our line is not strong enough to battle with a lot of ACC teams. However, we also know they're more athletic than many. Could it be that these guys are just better conditioned than the D-Lines they face? Could it be that they get overpowered in the 1st half, until the D-Lines start to wear down? If that is not what is happening, then you have to give credit to the coaching staff for halftime adjustments. In the post-game interview, Coach Gailey said that Clemson did some things in the first half they hadn't prepared for. Now if only we can figure out how to come out and play well in the first half - we'll really be in business.

9. I have to mention Reggie Ball. A good outing. Not great, but good. He hit 58% of his passes. That's better than 48%. He did throw up a terrible jump ball that CJ really never had a good chance at. The result was an INT. He did continue his "good work" of throwing balls OB instead of taking sacks. However, he is still not good at going through his reads. He's getting better, but he's not great there.

10. Anyone notice we ran the option a couple of times? It worked at least once. I know there are Jacket fans who would love to see us run that style offense. I'm not so sure myself. One thing I don't want to see us us experimenting with a new offensive style every week. Here's the deal. When opposing coaches watch gamefilm they look for tendecies. You know what - all the good teams have tendencies. They have tendencies with how they block on the O-Line - pull, trap, etc. They have tendecies with how they run - power I, sweeps, option, multiple backs, etc. You have to get GOOD at a particular style - really good - to have long-term success. So have tendencies is a good thing in my book. I applaud Coach Gailey for trying new things when what you want to run isn't working, but at some point you have to settle into your "style". Coach wants a pro-style, run first, 3 yards and a could of dust style, but our O-Line just don't seem to support it.

11. Game balls - Kenny Scott for 2 big pass break-ups, and a huge 4th down tackle to end Clemson's last chance to score. Something tells me Kenny got tired of readying about how Tech had a "no name defense"................ Evidently Eric Henderson was ready the same articles. He gets a game ball for showing us the manchild that he is. Two sacks, and both times he forces Whitehurst fumbles. Major props to EH. You can't help but root for that guy - he's a real leader........................ Tashard Choice for a big time 33 yard scamper on that crucial TD drive, then following that up with a critical 3rd down and 6 catch which he fought and got the 1st......

10. Whether you're a Chan Gailey fan or not, nobody can deny that we're one CJ catch away from being 6-1. We have a 5-2 record and just beat a team that took Miami and BC to overtime. You can say all day that we "should" win this game, but Clemson is a good football team. Today we beat a good football team. Oh, and that's not a Chan Gailey quote. That's me, but it sure sounds like something coach would say.

The coming weeks are going to get very interesting. Will Chan Gailey get a contract extension or not? Will he live on as the Jacket's head coach? Folks - if Braine waits until the season is over, Chan will definitely be hurt in his recruiting efforts. Make no mistake about that. It's already a challenge for him. Personally, I do get frustrated at times in these games, but this man is still a good fit for this team. He's certainly done nothing to to earn a pink-slip....... yet. The Chan-haters will not be convinced by this game to change their opinion. Of course most of those people made up their minds a long time ago. Stay tuned, because the next few weeks are going to be a ride -hold on.

Most importantly, enjoy the win. This is a grand day in college football. Our Jackets get the W, Clemson self-destructs, and the Dawgs get put in their rightful place yet again by the Florida Gators. It don't get any better than that.