Clemson, S.C. — These short takes are presented in conjunction with the Georgia Tech-Clemson game column, which can be found here. Tech lost 43-24. The score flatters the Yellow Jackets.
1. Paul Johnson’s famous offense is broken. That’s not to say it can’t be tweaked, but an outright fix might be too much to ask from this team this season. The Jackets rushed for 71 yards Saturday, marking the nadir — over seven seasons plus five games — for Tech under Johnson. “I’ve never experienced anything like that in my coaching career,” Johnson said, “to be this inept on offense.” Clemson had 11 tackles for losses. The Jackets were 1-for-12 on third-down conversions, mostly because they were forever facing third-and-long. Defensive coordinators insist that the way to halt Tech is to keep it “behind the chains,” meaning out of third-and-short. Clemson’s Brent Venables did it. Notre Dame’s Brian VanGorder did it. Heck, Duke’s Jim Knowles did it. That’s three times in four weeks. That’s not a slump. That’s a clean fracture.
2. Justin Thomas isn’t the same player he was last season. Much of that has to do with the lack of talent around him, but Thomas hasn’t been very good, either. Tech’s third snap of the game was a Thomas interception that was thrown into a cluster of six players. (Three for each team. No way any pass pattern calls for three Jackets to be that close to one another.) He rushed 14 times for three yards. He completed six of 14 passes for 159 yards. As happened at Notre Dame, all Thomas’ spinning and darting availed him naught. That’s what happens when you’re playing good teams 1-on-11. You lose.
3. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney doesn’t like the term “Clemsoning.” Earlier this decade, the term was coined to describe a team that succeeds only to turn around and fall flat. (Like Clemson, er, used to do.) When a reporter used the invented word in a postgame question, Swinney threw a snit. “That’s bullcrap,” he said, and that’s not a paraphrase. He mentioned that his Tigers hadn’t lost to an unranked team since 2011 — “and here we are in 2015 being asked about ‘Clemsoning.’ ” He went on and on, and Swinney can really run on. For once, this didn’t seem the usual Dabo hyperventilating. The man had a valid point. The description is indeed outdated. It hasn’t lost to anybody terrible in a very long time. Clemson has become a superb program. If any ACC team looks bound for the College Football Playoff, it’s this.