CLEMSON — Before I leave to cover every Clemson football game, I pack my laptop bag with everything I need at the stadium. And before I lock the door, I make sure one task is never left undone.
I check my DVR, and make sure the game is being recorded.
There is this myth about sportswriters: that we have the best seat in the house.
The free food and drink is great, as are the (mostly) comfortable chairs. But press boxes have a tendency to be higher than any point in the stadium (Georgia Tech was an exception), and sometimes sherpas get on the press box elevators with us to guide us the final steps to our seats.
Sometimes, things slip by us in the heat of the moment. We don’t have a remote control to rewind and double-check plays. Yes, there are televisions in press boxes, but we’re at the mercy of whatever athletic department official has the remote control in that stadium we’re at on a particular Saturday.
Sometimes, all we get is the same replay that you, the fan in the stands, gets on the JumboTron. Or our seat gives us a terrible angle at the replay on ESPN or the ACC Network.
Or, as was the case for me Saturday, you spend the second half of the third quarter and part of the fourth distracted while trying to will your laptop onto a balky wireless network to send the notes your desk is clamoring for on deadline.
Point is, you miss a thing every now and then. Which is where your DVR comes in handy.
And what better time to share the results of my weekly Clemson DVR watch with you than today?
After all, it’s an open week, and I’m sure you’re wondering what went wrong in Saturday’s 31-17 loss to Georgia Tech.
Without further ado, let’s get on with it.
Big plays: Georgia Tech had no plays of 40-plus yards in its last three games, but burned Clemson for three Saturday night – Tevin Washington’s runs of 44 and 56 yards and Washington’s 44-yard completion to Stephen Hill.
Initially, Washington’s first run looked like a well-blocked play. But on second view, “Sam” linebacker Quandon Christian did what Kevin Steele preaches never to do on the option – he left his man, Washington, to “help” cornerback Xavier Brewer with the pitch. This freed Washington down the right sideline.
On Washington’s second run, give credit to B-back David Sims. It was a straight quarterback draw, and middle linebacker Corico Hawkins was in position to make the play as Washington burst through the line. Sims flattened Hawkins, giving Washington a major opening to accelerate for a 56-yard run. That was a key moment: Clemson had just scored on its first second-half possession to cut the lead to 24-10, but Tech finished the touchdown drive for a 31-10 advantage.
Hill probably should’ve burned corner Darius Robinson for two big gains, dropping a sure-fire big-gainer in the first half. The only difference the second time around? He caught the ball.
The flexbone is connected to the pitch bone: Clemson absolutely smothered Tech on its first two drives, allowing six yards in six plays. But Tech found a clear edge outside, running pitch after pitch after pitch. Washington’s draw inside busted for a big play, but the Yellow Jackets were otherwise far less successful running against Rennie Moore and Brandon Thompson inside than they were when they got the Tigers’ linebackers, corners and safeties involved.
Speed kills: Although Clemson freshman receiver Sammy Watkins made one big mistake – a miscommunication with Tajh Boyd early in the fourth quarter led to the easiest interception Jemea Thomas will ever make in the end zone – he was too fast for Tech’s defense. Once he caught the 48-yard touchdown and accelerated a bit, there was no way the Jackets’ defenders were going to catch up with him, strained gluteal muscle or not. ESPN’s Mike Patrick said Watkins has been clocked at 22 MPH, and said “my car in college didn’t go that fast.” Tell us more about Prohibition, Mike.
And while Patrick labeled an early Mike Bellamy carry a “reverse,” it wasn’t; Bellamy is just fast enough to go right, find nothing, and change direction for a big gain to the left side.
So do mistakes: Bellamy’s fumble at the Tech 39 early in the third quarter was deadly. Jemea Thomas – who had an impressive game covering Watkins – knocked the ball out while Bellamy carried it in his left hand like a loaf of bread.
And while the defense eventually gave up a score anyway, D.J. Howard was very lucky the play on his first-quarter fumble was whistled dead. Tech corner Rod Sweeting should’ve had a touchdown.
Offsides? Um… yes: Clemson got a major break on Washington’s fumble at the Tigers’ 3 late in the third quarter. Moore was clearly – and I mean clearly – offsides on the snap. Heck, he practically took the ball out of Washington’s hands. How officials missed that is a total mystery.
That sparked a 97-yard drive that ended with Clemson’s first offensive-lineman touchdown since 1966. I watched five different replays of Tajh Boyd’s fumble into the end zone (recovered by Thomas), and I never saw Thomas recover it. I assume he did, but it was at the bottom of the pile, surrounded by about 1,500 pounds of sweaty, angry lineman.
Ugly moments: Chandler Catanzaro’s 40-yard field goal try in the second quarter never had a chance. A low, line drive, knuckler. And while Clemson’s receivers have been sure-handed, I watched three consecutive drops or missed passes in the fourth quarter, between Martavis Bryant letting a potential deep ball slip away, DeAndre Hopkins dropping a pass and Bellamy dropping a screen.
Oh, ESPN: I was reminded how little I enjoy a Mike Patrick-Craig James broadcast, too. Patrick gained infamy for butchering Clemson basketball coach Brad Brownell’s name, calling him “Brad Brownlee” and “Brad Brownwell” during a game at Duke. He took another trip to the butcher shop with Swinney Saturday, continuing to pronounce his first name “DOBBO” instead of “Daah-BO”. Incredibly off-putting. And while covering an ACC game, James did his best to subtly shill for the SEC, saying he wouldn’t mind seeing a one-loss team (*cough AlabamaorLSU cough*) in the BCS national title game. I certainly wouldn’t blame college football fans if they found a way to sync their DVRs with a radio broadcast when these two are on the call.