Missed opportunities cost Tigers

Rendrick Taylor

CLEMSON - Andy Dalton proved to be a dual threat in Death Valley Saturday, picking up 100 rushing yards and completing 17 of his 26 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns in a 14-10 win over Clemson.

Clemson had trouble slowing down Texas Christian quarterback Andy Dalton as he led the Horned Frogs to a 14-10 win.

Just because the Tigers lost to the No. 15 ranked team in country, C.J. Spiller believes his team good enough to be ranked that high too.

"We are an elite team," he said. "We are a top 15/top 10 team in the country. We didn't come away with the win. But we were right there."

Scoring touchdowns in the red zone will help Clemson win close games. Unfortunately, it's still an issue.

In four trips inside the Texas Christian 20, Clemson scored one touchdown, a one-yard rush by Spiller, giving Clemson its second lead of the game. The other points finished the game's opening drive when Richard Jackson kicked a 26-yard field goal by Richard Jackson.

Coach Dabo Swinney referred to a dropped pass in the end zone during the fourth quarter as the most disappointing missed red zone opportunity.

"It was the right call, the right play, we just didn't make the play," he said.

It was three or four plays, Swinney said, made the difference in winning and losing.

Even though Chris Hairston sat out because of a knee injury, one play that didn't happen was a Jerry Hughes sack. Swinney would have liked his odds on winning during the week had he known Clemson would not commit a turnover or give up a sack.

"Hats off to Cory (Lambert) and Landon Walker," Swinney said. "I thought the offensive staff did a good job of minimizing (Hughes) impact. He wasn't a real factor in the game."

Pleased that Spiller was able to run for 120 yards against a defense that gave up 43 rushing yards a game last year, Swinney again praised the offensive line.

"I'm proud of the offensive line. We hit some runs on them but to have no sacks, that's really, really good," he said.

Walker was confident because of his good week of practice. He credited Kourtnei Brown for his work at defensive end during the week on the scout team.

"We just played our game today. We didn't do anything special," he said. "We put the back over there a couple of times on the protections but we didn't do anything we don't do in other games."

With some expecting Hughes to be one of the game's biggest factors, he wasn't. It was Dalton who was the biggest playmaker for the Horned Frogs.

In the first quarter, the veteran Texas Christian quarterback moved into second-place in school history for passing yards. The play: Da'Quan Bowers tipped pass that Ed Wesley caught for 58 yards. Two plays later, Curtis Clay was on the receiving end of a six-yard touchdown, giving Texas Christian a 7-3 lead.

"It was a fluke play," defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said of the completion to Wesley.

He mentioned it as a critical third down conversion for the Horned Frogs, "That was one of the five. The other four were critical too."

Texas Christian didn't have a third down on final scoring drive when Dalton hit Antoine Hicks on a 25-yard touchdown. Struggling to slow down Dalton on the ground also proved to be critical.

"They were faking the zone read (one) way and the quarterback would step (another) way. They would pull the guard and they would chase him. They were chasing the zone read," Steele said.

Those are things that he believes are up to him and the defensive coaching staff. Da'Quan Bowers said the defense's mistakes aren't impossible to fix.

"We know our mistakes are not bad mistakes. They're bad but they're correctable," he said. "We have to go back to the drawing board this week and focus on Maryland to get an ACC victory."

Still in first-place in the Atlantic Division, there's plenty of work ahead to be the class of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Although the Tigers won't look ahead past the Terrapins, Clemson will still have a couple of shots at a few of the best.

"If you want to be one of the best, you have to beat one of the best," Spiller said.

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