Monday Morning Quarterback
It has been a long time since Clemson has been this disappointing on the football field. You have to go all the way back to 2010 to find the last time the Tigers opened a season 4-3.
Clemson fans hope this season does not end the way that one did. That was the last time the Tigers produced a losing record, posting a 6-7 campaign, which included a loss to South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte.
Though 2010 was a disappointing year that saw fans and boosters upset and calling for Dabo Swinney’s head, the roller coaster ride of the 2021 season might be even worse at the moment?
Clemson people expect more from their football team in 2021 than they did in 2010, and they should.
As I sat at Heinz Field on Saturday afternoon. I said to myself, “How can this team be this bad? What is going on?”
I can make excuses. You have heard them all. Some are valid and some are not.
Injuries, of course, have been the biggest contributor. So far, the Tigers have lost nine players for the season, including three this weekend in wide receiver Frank Ladson, offensive lineman Matt Bockhorst (ACL) and defensive end Justin Foster (back). The list could grow to 10 later this week if tight end Braden Galloway is not able to come back after he separated his shoulder against Pitt.
“I am disappointed with injuries, obviously,” Swinney said. “I have never been through a season like this with the type of injuries that we have had.”
Clemson was without 18 scholarship players in its loss to Pitt.
But injuries are not the only issues for the 4-3 Tigers, who host a Florida State team this Saturday that has won three straight games and is feeling good about its chances at Death Valley.
A week after Swinney said D.J. Uiagalelei played his best game in a win at Syracuse, the Clemson quarterback digressed against the Panthers. He completed just 12 of 25 passes for 128 yards, including two interceptions.
Both interceptions were costly. One took away a potential scoring drive in the first quarter and the second came on an ill-advised shovel pass, which was returned 50 yards for a touchdown by Pitt linebacker SirVocea Dennis.
The shovel pass caused Uiagalelei to be benched for two series in favor of Taisun Phommachanh. The redshirt sophomore led the Tigers to a field goal on his first possession in the game.
With Clemson down 17-points in the fourth quarter, Swinney brought Uiagalelei back in the game, and the sophomore responded with a touchdown drive, the last possession of the game for the Tigers.
Is there a quarterback controversy in Clemson? Let’s hope not. That is the last distraction this team needs at the moment.
Swinney said every position will be under evaluation as the Tigers get back to the drawing board and try to fix the mistakes.
Sure, there are a lot more things to blame on the Tigers’ failures this season. Uiagalelei’s receivers dropped three more passes on Saturday, added to the five drops they had last week.
Bockhorst’s season-ending injury will mean the offensive line will again have a different lineup when it hosts the Seminoles this Saturday.
And, just what the Tigers did not need, the defense finally broke. Pitt totaled 464 yards on offense and was 10 of 18 on third down. The Panthers did not punt the entire second half.
“You dust yourself off and keeping moving forward,” Swinney said. “We have to finish strong. That’s our focus. We’ve had an amazing journey around here the last 13 years. This is one season in the midst of an incredible journey. We have a lot of great days and a lot of great moments ahead.”
The Tigers hope those moments begin this coming Saturday at the Valley. If not, things could get worse.
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