Is there enough chalk to go back to the drawing board?

Is there enough chalk to go back to the drawing board?

Football

Is there enough chalk to go back to the drawing board?

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By Ed McGranahan.

By Ed McGranahan

Winning masks the blemishes, but Florida State unmasked Clemson and those things that were troubling the first six games were exposed Saturday night turning a potentially historic night into an epic embarrassment.

With five games remaining on the schedule, only South Carolina may be capable of fully disrobing Clemson in a fashion similar to Florida State, but you can be sure Maryland, Virginia and Georgia Tech will be taking notes.

Clemson struggles to manufacture more than a pedestrian run game. It has been evident all season. Last week Chad Morris bristled at questions about the run. Isn’t it any wonder?

Not pointing fingers, but the offensive line continues to be a work in progress and none of the backs are game breakers like Mike Bellamy or Tyshon Dye might have been.

Florida State committed to containing the playmakers, keeping everything in front and challenging Clemson to win with the run.

When Clemson dug itself into a hole with two score-producing turnovers in the first quarter, dropping passes and committing turnovers at a season-high pace, it made Florida State’s job that much easier. At halftime Clemson’s rushing total was 42 yards on 15 carries. For thenight, minus Tajh Boyd’s 37 on sacks, the net was 123 on 40 carries.

Clemson occasionally struggles to stop the run. If Florida State loses James Wilder Jr., for awhile Devonta Freeman could do some damage alone. Clemson doesn’t have one like him.

Dabo Swinney tried to employ the same philosophy that he used when C.J. Spiller was his rainmaker. Swinney often said he wasn’t going to look back and regret he didn’t put the ball in his hands enough. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins were to be the horses.

Problem is the field tips to Watkins. He doesn’t have Nuk Hopkins to help keep things level. Losing Charone Peake to an injury was a blow.

Boyd seems intent on trying to do it himself, which is admirable but a touch foolhardy. The fumble that Mario Edwards returned for a touchdown, we’ve seen that before. The touchdown pass was off-target but Watkins contorted himself to snag it. Boyd seems too frequently to lock on a receiver, something good teams must notice if some gnome in the press box does.

Clemson wouldn’t be 6-1, let alone 7-0, were it not for Boyd, but he has played much better.

All that said, this is isn’t a prediction of pending doom. All these things ought to be correctable. Nobody here has accused this team of
cheating itself or its fans. Florida State was a better team Saturday night, and if you listened to our Friday video you’d heard me say a game such as this was possible.

There were too many mistakes Saturday night and it culminated in one of the worst performances in the stadium.

“You can’t make the mistakes we made,” Dabo Swinney said. “We couldn’t put it all together like we’re used to doing.

“We got our butts handed to us, so we have got to respond.”

Swinney may be right. Florida State could be the best team in the nation. Six other top 15 teams that thought they had a shot at the
national title lost this weekend, too, and they all have problems that need fixing.

“We know we’re better, but tonight we weren’t,” Swinney said. “They’re a very good team, and we are too.”

Swinney said the team was “hurting,” and he thanked the players for their effort and heart.

“I’m not going to sit here and throw our team under the bus, nor our staff,” he said. “We’re going to get better and finish strong.”

But there’s work to be done, or somewhere along the way those blemishes may be revealed again.

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