Grading the Win Over Wake Forest

Chansi Stuckey

Clemson defeated Wake Forest 37-30 in a double overtime thriller in Death Valley Saturday afternoon. I predicted a 4-point win for the Tigers (24-20) which gets my prognostication year off to a good start

1. Raising The Bar-Clay
Once again, Chris Barclay proved he is an outstanding back in a perfect offensive scheme for his skills. Barclay churned out 179 yards on 29 carries, including a spectacular 50 yard burst that put the Deacons up 27-19 with 12 minutes to go in the game.

While on the surface the Clemson defense failed miserably in containing Barclay, there are some subtle differences in this year as opposed to the last two years. Using our fantasy goggles, let's take away the 50 yard touchdown run where Barclay disappeared into the pile and then miraculously emerged for the score. Without that run, Barclay rushes for 129 yards on 28 carries…certainly a good day. But the 4.6 yards a carry that provides is not as dominating as it was in the year's past (although we all should envy any team that can average 4+ yards a carry).

The second area is that of time of possession.

Wake lost this battle by over 3 minutes, this season against Clemson. While I can't and won't give a good grade for improvement when the facts are ugly, to ignore the improvement is short sighted. Barclay and the Wake running game did not dominate this game as it did the past two years, despite the excellent numbers on ground.

Rhymer's Grade…D+

2. Take What You Can Get
This one is a little difficult to grade objectively because Wake stepped out of their element on Saturday defensively. The Deacons stuck with the 4-3 for most of the day and the consistently blitzed Whitehurst, something they rarely did a year ago.

As a result, Clemson was able to take some shots down the field and be a little more aggressive than orginally expected. That being said, Charlie still made the mistakes of trying to make something out of nothing on several occasions. The most glaring case of getting greedy was the interception inside the 10-yard line, a pass that never should have been thrown. But Charlie also lost his patience in the pocket at times and threw the ball before the pressure got to him.

That being said, Whitehurst consistently threw the ball to his safety valves on blitzes instead of trying to make great plays down field. While Charlie and Coach Bowden would both agree that the play at quarterback was not top notch this Saturday, you can't complain when an off day has a guy throwing for almost 300 yards.

Rhymer's Grade…C+

3. Who Kicks the Ball?
Stephen Furr was given the nod and the result of that decision was mixed at best on Saturday. Furr missed one attempt and had another hit the upright before somehow falling through. He also shanked the extra point in the second overtime but managed to barely sneak it through for the conversion.

However, to his credit, Furr hit the biggest kick of the day in the first overtime from the sharpest of angles- the right hash. In addition, he was also kicking in front of a crowd for the first time in his Clemson career. So it's not time to throw him under the bus an anoint Jad Dean the new kicker. At least not yet.

After looking at pictures from CUTigers.com of his first miss, it was obvious to me that the laces were not aligned properly. Is it possible that the Cole Chason (the holder) is partly to blame for the errant kicks? Perhaps, but considering that he connected on two of three field goals on Saturday, he gets a passing a grade.

Rhymer's Grade…C

4. Musical Chairs Continue
The one area that will debated on the most this week is the play of the offensive line. The musical chairs of the preseason did not solve the problems that we saw in the spring. It also may have been a reason Bobby Williamson jumped off sides late in regulation. Williamson, who had been playing defense most of the day, almost made a fatal mistake that would have cost Clemson the game.

There were little, if any, holes to run through for the Clemson running backs. There were times Charlie had to run for his life. And there were times where the protection was great.

But regardless of the fact that Clemson only gave up one sack, there are issues that need to be addressed at the offensive line. Wake was a team that Clemson should have been able to line up and control mono a mono. That was not the case Saturday, and that is reason for concern when Clemson plays Virginia, FSU, and Miami.

The good news is that it is a work in progress and the players that have not played much in the past now have a game under their belt. Let's wait and see how all this plays out…but for one game it was not great.

Rhymer's Grade…C+

5. Where's Your Head?
The ironic thing about the game Saturday was that it started out in the perfect way for Clemson. The Tigers, coming off a rousing finish to the season, roared out to a 19-3 lead and had all the momentum of the game at their fingertips. Wake Forest, after dropping their last 3 games of the 2003 season, was backed against the wall in a hostile environment.

Yet, Wake responded and Clemson floundered. The combination was enough to allow the Deacons to take the lead in the 4th quarter. It was also the perfect opportunity for Clemson to fold, as the Tigers were frustrated and worn down as the game crept inside 7 minutes.

But Clemson did respond, and that in itself shows the difference in this team as opposed to 3 or 4 years ago. While Clemson could not put away the Deacons when they were ripe for it, the resilience is something to carry forward as the year goes on.

Rhymer's Grade…B

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