Thursday, September 15, 2011
At the conclusion of last year's Clemson overtime win, I really felt like we stole one! We were outplayed, outmatched, out-coached for most of the game, yet rallied to do just enough to snatch a win from a hungry Clemson football team. And as I reflect on the entire 2010 National Championship season, it's that Clemson game I feel like ignited a spark and unleashed an attitude of competing for four quarters regardless of the circumstances. This proved vital against South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, and of course Alabama.
Auburn resonates with this Clemson team because of their coaching staff. At least four coaches (Steele, Harbinson, Pearman, Swinney)either played, coached, or did both at Alabama. To say these guys get energized and heartily express their utter disdain and dislike towards Auburn to their team all week would be quite an understatement. They have an ingrained bitterness toward Auburn that is not lost on a team (Coach Tuberville was that way with Mississippi State). Make no mistake, the Clemson coaching staff, thus it's players, have this game circled on their calendars. Throw in the way last year's game unfolded, I would bet they've longed for this game since they walked off Pat Dye Field!
What's remarkable about Clemson to this point is how similar their on-the-field issues are to Auburn's. The press clippings I’ve read after Clemson’s first two games go like this…”missed assignments, work in progress, more physical up front, young guys thinking and not reacting, poor tackling, loss of key starters, etc." Sound familiar? Clemson was losing to Troy at halftime and beat Wofford (in same division as Samford...actually playing Samford this week) by a single TD. Wofford completed but TWO passes all game on EIGHT attempts! Those two completions went for 127 yards and a TD! They rushed for 272 yards! I have a hard time believing Clemson is that bad. I think it has more to do with Clemson preparing for Auburn the past month as opposed to Troy and Wofford and the coaches used those two games as a dress rehearsal for Saturday. Expect a better Clemson football team!
Keys to the Game...
1. Ball control. When you go on the road you've got to move the chains and you need to be successful early. Third down efficiency both offensively and defensively will be the difference.
2. No unforced errors/turnovers. Have to be perfect with ball security and decision making. Clemson has struggled to be consistent on defense...we can't make life easy by throwing INT's or laying the football on the ground.
3. Play physical. Week two saw us improve exponentially in this area. We have to continue with the growth and knock Clemson off the football, tackle with authority yet precision, and continue throwing the proverbial hook, jab, and uppercut all afternoon.
4. Relax. Going on the road for the first time is always a challenge. Communication will be altered, but it has to function without hiccups.
I expect this one to be another close game...would you expect anything less? And like I said last week...until the nation's longest winning streak is snapped, it won't be predicted by me!