CLEMSON, S.C. — Two years ago this week, Tommy Bowden resigned under pressure as Clemson’s coach, was ripped going out the door by then quarterback Cullen Harper (”It’s what he deserved.”) and was replaced by assistant, Dabo Swinney. Clemson’s first opponent after one of the most tulumultous weeks in the Program’s history: Georgia Tech.
The Tigers, to their credit, put up more of a fight than most expected before losing to the Jackets 21-17 on a late touchdown pass from Joshua Nesbitt to Demaryius Thomas. The Jackets went on to finish 9-4 in coach Paul Johnson’s first season and we started to get a sense that they could be legitimate players in the ACC.
Back in Death Valley two years later, we’re waiting for that sense again. Maybe it comes today. Tech enters its most important stretch of the season with consecutive ACC games against Clemson, at Virginia Tech and home against Miami. Win today and the Jackets’ game in Blacksburg in two weeks takes on major significance. (The Coastal standings going into today: Virginia Tech 3-0, Georgia Tech 3-1, Miami and North Carolina 2-1.) Lose and Tech’s chances of defending its ACC title drop to almost nil.
The Jackets have won three straight but over relatively weak teams (Wake Forest, Virginia, Middle Tennessee State), and Johnson admitted this week he’s not sure yet what kind of team he has, saying: “The game could be 14-7 or it could be 42-40. It’s not like we’re dominant in any one area.”
The positive sign is that there has been improvement on both sides of the ball. Also, while Al Groh’s defense still has some issues, the chances of Clemson hurting Tech with big passing plays seem slim. The Tigers are ranked 89th in the nation in passing and 80th in total offense. As usual, if the Jackets can run the ball and not turn it over, they should be fine.
A quote from Johnson earlier in the week: “Offensively, we’re still not where we’d like to be but we’re averaging 35 points a game. It’s a lot better than it used to be. But it’s not up to everybody’s expectations or even our expectations. Sometimes I’m not sure if I don’t create some of that myself because I have such high expectations. Very few offenses score every time they get the ball but that’s been our mindset.”
One last thing before I turn it over to you: Because of some quirks in scheduling (and baseball playoffs), the last Tech game I covered was in Lawrence, Kansas. That result (Kansas 28, Tech 25) is even less believable now than it was then. The Jayhawks are 2-4. Their only other win came over New Mexico State, which is 1-5. New Mexico State’s only win came over New Mexico, which is 0-6.
In the last two games, Kansas has lost to Baylor (55-7) and Kansas State (59-7) by a composite score of 114-14.
That loss in Lawrence is a difficult memory for the Jackets to get past. But win today and they still have a chance to end their season in the Orange Bowl again.
What are your thoughts on this team? I’ll check back shortly.
I’m giving you last 3 blogs for free