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The good, bad and ugly - Bowl week

25-24 final, and with Chandler Catanzaro’s 37 yard field goal, Clemson got a much needed victory over a quality opponent. Clemson dominated the game statistically, but turnovers and bad special teams plays kept this from being a real beat down. Never the less, anytime you get a win versus a team like LSU, it is big and it gives the Tigers huge momentum heading into the final month of the recruiting push.

Chandler Catanzaro hits the game winning field goal as time expires.

The Good:

Tajh Boyd: “If you aren’t winning championships, you’re not doing your job.” Those were the words of Boyd when he met with the media during Chick-Fil-A Bowl week, and boy did he play like a champion. As I said in my bowl preview, Boyd is the straw that stirs Clemson’s coffee, as he goes, so go the Tigers.

Tajh Boyd is a warrior, he is everything you want in a quarterback. A leader, a winner, and a program guy that gives his all every time he takes the field.

Boyds stat line in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl: 36 of 50, 346 yards, 2 touchdowns. 29 carries for 22 yards and a touchdown. Doesn’t get much better than that folks.

Nuk Hopkins: Well, I hate to tell most Clemson fans, but in my opinion Nuk is most likely headed to the next level. Hopkins dominated a future first or second round draft pick in Tharold Simon. Listening to some LSU guys during game week, they said that scouts are high on Simon because of his size and athletic ability.

I guarantee you this, Simon will have nightmares about Hopkins for a long time to come. Nuk lit Simon up to the tune of 13 catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

Brent Venables and the Defensive Line: A ton of credit has to go to Brent Venables and the Tiger defensive line. They dominated LSU’s offensive line the entire night, pushed the pocket and sacked Zac Mettenberger six times.

The defense as a whole held LSU to 99 yards rushing, but take away the two touchdown runs of 17 and 57 yards, LSU would have been held to only 25 yards rushing. The game ball has to go to Brent Venables and his defensive game plan, which I thought, was the best we’ve seen in his short time at Clemson.

Tajh Boyd picked up MVP honors for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

The Bad:

Special Teams: Special teams, as they have been all year, continued to be a problem in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. During bowl week, I was at practice as the team was working on kickoff and punt coverage. What looked good in practice just didn’t correlate to the game. Clemson worked on squibbing and directional kickoffs, in order to minimize Michael Ford’s ability in the return game. Unfortunately, we saw none of that during the game. Ford had two huge returns that gave LSU great field position. On the night, Ford had two returns for 91 yards, with a long of 48 yards.

Time and time again during the 2012 regular season, we’ve seen special teams breakdowns that let teams either, get back in games, or keep games closer than they should have been. Examples of this were at Florida State, when a long kickoff return by the Seminoles basically changed the entire momentum of the game. Also kickoff returns in the N.C. State game kept the Wolfpack in that game until the fourth quarter, in what should have been a game where starters took the fourth quarter off.

Chandler Catanzaro also had an extra point blocked. Luckily for the Tigers they were able to overcome this and escape the Georgia Dome with a victory. The continued special teams breakdowns are something that must be addressed moving forward to spring practice and before next year if the Tigers want to take the next step of competing for a National Championship.

Also part of special teams was the decision to pooch the kickoff after Tajh Boyd hit Nuk Hopkins on a 12 yard touchdown pass which cut the LSU lead to just two points at 24-22. LSU lined up with their hands team on the field expecting Clemson to try an onside attempt. They had one returner deep but he was at about the 20 yard line. The proper play here would have been to squib the kick or kick it directionally in an area where the outside guys could make a play on the ball between the hash and the sidelines.

LSU fielded the pooched kick and returned it five yards which set them up with great field position at their own 39. Now, this play worked out as Clemson was able to hold LSU on three straight plays to force a punt.

Special teamsTackling: Clemson hasn’t tackled well since the mid 1990’s. This is a problem that continues game after game. Setting the edge on defense and coming up and striking the opponent must be a priority moving forward.

Far too many times in the LSU game, Clemson had runners stopped behind the line or for short gains but couldn’t make the needed tackle, which led to easy yards by LSU.

Malliciah Goodman had a career game against LSU.

The Ugly: The bad was bad, but the ugly in this game for Clemson was a few mistakes from really putting a beat down on LSU. Clemson had an opportunity to really send a message. Without the turnovers, I’m not sure the Bengal Tigers muster more than 10 points in the game.

Clemson dominated in almost every facet of the game, except the scoreboard. The Tigers from the ACC outgained LSU 445 to 219 yards. They also had 32 first downs to LSU’s 9. Clemson dominated time of possession as well, 36 minutes to 21. LSU was tired, Clemson wore them down. By the third quarter, the tempo took its toll on the Bengal Tigers, as players were cramping and having to leave the ball game.

Most of LSU’s positives came from Clemson’s inefficiencies.

Final Analysis:

Clemson won a big game on a big stage. Clemson won a physical game versus a very physical football team. Clemson dominated LSU at points in that game, which was very impressive. Clemson’s defensive line pushed through and dominated one of the best offensive lines in the country. Nuk Hopkins took Tharold Simon to school all night. Tajh Boyd, well, nothing else needs to be said about Boyd. He is going to go down as one of the all time greats in Tiger Town.

2013 has the potential to be a special year at Clemson. The Chick-Fil-A Bowl victory should turn some heads in recruiting. I’m very excited about the prospects of competing for a National Championship this coming year, as should all of you. 11-2 is a solid year and a year that needs to be celebrated.

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