Third Down Woes


Posted Oct 7, 2004


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The numbers almost seem impossible: 14-of-20 third down conversions.


But that’s exactly what Virginia did on offense. It converted 14-of-20 third downs into first downs. And to make matters worse, two of the Cavaliers’ failed attempts came at the end of each half as they just wanted to run the clock out.

So the numbers are 14-of-18 attempts when Virginia tried to get a first down. Remarkable.

“We have to go back and check ourselves, really,” Tigers defensive tackle Eric Coleman said. “We’ve got to do a gut-check and come back next week and play hard and try to get a win.

“(I’m getting tired of saying that every week,) but what else can you say? That’s what you have to do. You’ve got to keep drilling it in your head until we get that win.”

No matter what Clemson tried to do defensively, it failed.

The Tigers blitzed 17 straight plays at one point in the first half, but it had little affect on Virginia’s offense.

Wherever Clemson blitzed from is exactly where the Cavaliers threw it to or ran away from. It made no difference, the Tigers were had no chance.

“We blitzed quite a bit tonight,” Coleman said. “But that’s what (defensive coordinator John Lovett) felt we needed to do to stop their running game and give them extra pressure coming from the outside. … But we have to do what the coaches tell us to do. We can’t question their judgment. …

“I have to (agree with it). I’m just out there and I do what I’m told to do. I play as hard as I can every play. No matter what the play call is, you have to go out and make plays.”

It got so bad that it actually became a surprise when the Cavaliers didn’t convert third down into a first down.

“We’re going to have to be a lot more productive offensively,” Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden said. “We couldn’t get them off the field – a lot of third-down conversions to sustain drives – and we’re not getting those. At some point in time, it is (the defense’s) job to get off the field, and that is a factor. We’re going to have to keep the ball and convert third downs to help those guys out.”

There seems to be no solutions to the defensive problems. Nothing has worked to date. Even so, Bowden still has hope his defense can find a solution to all their woes.

“We have problems converting third downs, other teams should have problems,” he said. “I’m going to reevaluate both sides of the ball. … There’s six games left and we’ve got to get the personnel to get it done.”



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