Black Saturday behind them, Tigers looking for answers as they face 3rd-ranked Hokies

The ease with which the Gamecocks manhandled the Tigers Saturday night is more than a little disturbing

South Carolina's Connor Shaw scrambles away from pressure against Clemson.

South Carolina's Connor Shaw scrambles away from pressure against Clemson.

Where do the Tigers go from their Black Saturday?

For certain, to Charlotte and back to work.

And then? Back to the drawing board? Into the tank? Or on to Orange Bowl?

The Tigers will write the climactic chapter to the story of their 2011 season this week when they face surging, third-ranked Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game.

They’ll move on from there to a bowl game – Orange or other – and then almost directly into off-season preparations for what they hope will be a more complete 2012 season.

The Tigers have done a lot of good things this year. Their future, in terms of young talent and potential, is bright.

But the glass-half-full unexpectedly has a crack in it.

Clemson’s longsuffering fans are looking for a sign to assure them that Dabo Swinney, Chad Morris and Kevin Steele have not only a long-term plan, but also some short-term answers, to take the Tigers to their promised land.

Losing to South Carolina for three straight years – a phenomenon unknown in the lifetime of any Tiger fan under 40 – is a tough pill to swallow. (Even though, to be fair, these are no longer your grandfather’s Gamecocks).

The ease with which the Gamecocks manhandled the Tigers Saturday night is more than a little disturbing.

South Carolina’s defensive front was so much better than Clemson’s offensive line that nothing else really mattered. The Gamecocks owned the flip side of the equation, as well, by executing their own offensive game plan against what, at the bottom line, proved to be negligible resistance.

Perhaps even more disturbing is that the Gamecocks – a really good team - didn’t do much of anything different than what NC State – a mediocre team - did a week earlier.

Last week, Swinney said that Clemson had a turnover problem, plain and simple.

As it turns out, the Tigers’ troubles are a bit deeper and broader than that.

When Tajh Boyd threw a fourth-quarter interception Saturday night –the Tigers’ first and only turnover of the game – the Gamecocks led 27-13 and were already putting the icing on their victory celebration.

And the other side of the turnover equation – the zero on USC’s side of the ledger – is indicative of the defense’s inability to impose its will on a quality opponent.

To give credit where it’s due, the Tiger defense made more than a few key stops along the way that made Clemson’s 8-0 start possible. But with the exception of the Virginia Tech game back on the first of October, the defense hasn’t provided a consistent, game-changing presence.

A victory over Virginia Tech this week would provide welcome relief. But it will take more than an ACC championship to heal the damage both inflicted, and self-inflicted, to Clemson’s confidence and upward trajectory over the past month.

Clemson fans – the more reasonable ones, at least – are back in wait-and-see mode.

They thought the Tigers were onto something, and now, while they want to believe, they’re not so sure.

It will be 366 days before they get another shot at the Gamecocks, who have won the last three meetings by a combined score of 97-37 and who aren’t likely to step off a cliff between now and next November.

Whatever happens this weekend, it’s certain to seem like an eternity.

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Comments » 14

granpappyus writes:

The Clemson coaches owe the Clemson nation more than this. QB draw after draw no adjustments were made to defend it!!! A new streanth and conditioning coach must be found if the players are going to stop getting pushed around. Other teams just keep showing more muscle than Clemson. This is tragic. Good luck. That is the only hope in the championship game..

ewhite#232824 writes:

I was hoping that a little prayer might help. I've seen a lot of CU messes, but this tops them all. Bowden couldn't win at the beginning of a season, Sweeney can't win at the end. And basketball will not provide a salve to this wound this year.

TigerNE writes:

The most aggravating part of seeing a season erode so fully and completely is the excuses being made. For those of us who are graduates but not living nearby, support for the team is a lot more than just a reason to get out on some Saturday's in the fall to watch the other team. To have this team cave where all four games are televised, a few nationally, is beyond embarrassing. Have the supporters and especially the athletic power brokers no shame? There MUST be some drastic changes. Or are you happy getting beaten fully by South Carolina? Plan on it being a routine without major, structural changes. Will they be demanded??

iptaytiger writes:

Don't throw in the towel just yet, This season is not over, we were not 8-0 for nothing. Really disappointed in some of these comments people are leaving. You know the Gamecocks are reading these, and eating them up.

putter2 writes:

The comments are the truth and the truth hurts sometimes.

BigBud52 writes:

The gamecocks should be eating this up, they chewed our butts off Saturday. What are the answers? How do you go from 8-0 to awful? I am the first to admit, if you offered me 9-3 before the season started, I would have jumped on it. The end of this season has been a disaster. To loose 3 out of 4 is bad, but we should have lost to Wake and Maryland. Changes must be made.

Lynx26 writes:

Are you serious?? we're 9-3 playing in Charlotte Saturday... PLease do not act like we're Alabama now. We're were we should be... don't over react. Yes we're struggling, but we've earned a spot to win the ACC Championship! A chance to play in a BCS bowl. There are some things we have to address this week playing vs V Tech. If our O-line shows up along with our defense,will be fine.
Weak O line, weak LB play and stagnant offense is the issue. Lets get Sammy the ball, thanks.

TRUTH4U2 writes:

iptaytiger you were 8-0 for a reason you didn't play anybody!

Lynx26 writes:

we def played somebody. To say G Tech and NC State is somebody is rediculous. G Tech you may have a point. But NC State is very avg. South Carolina will be stout for years... im not worried about losing to them. If we're 9-1 in the season .. we're in great shape. Yes its a rivalry.. but its not the end of the world. 1-9 vs 9-1.

teeman89 writes:

This ACC championship game is the moment of truth for this coaching staff. They have for weeks now been giving fans all the excuses about the problem and their job is to fix the problem. The Tigers can be a least 8 win team without any championship every year, but that is not what the fans want. Like it or not it is time for this coaching staff to do X's and O's in gametime and win a championship and not just piggy back on talented athletes as for as they can take them.

tigerblood writes:

So Truth4u2, who did the gamecocks lose too again? Yeah they lost to Auburn, who Clemson beat the week before.

iptaytiger writes:

in response to TRUTH4U2:

iptaytiger you were 8-0 for a reason you didn't play anybody!

Like I said....Gamecocks are reading these, We beat the same Auburn team that beat you.

IBDM1 writes:

in response to iptaytiger:

Like I said....Gamecocks are reading these, We beat the same Auburn team that beat you.

But did you beat the Gamecocks?

TRUTH4U2 writes:

in response to tigerblood:

So Truth4u2, who did the gamecocks lose too again? Yeah they lost to Auburn, who Clemson beat the week before.

I am trying so hard to find revelance in your statement. So Clemson beat a team that South Carolina lost to And Carolina for the third year straight dominated Clemson. I guess whatever makes you feel better about losing. Good luck in the ASHEE-ASHEE Championship.

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