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Tuesday Thoughts 9/21: I Missed This

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In which we talk wolf mascots, lightning, and nostalgia.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Clemson Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

HOO BOY HEART ATTACK GAMES ARE BACK BABY.

Game Recap in Three Sentences

After a recovered onside kick with 1:19 left to play, it all came down to a fourth-and-goal at the two that was stopped by the Tigers.

Jordan Yates played a great game in just his second career start; his 203 yards on 60% completions with no turnovers is the best stat line the Clemson D has given up to an opposing QB so far this season.

The defense was especially good in this one, holding Clemson to under 300 yards and forcing a big fumble late in the game.

#404 Swag Champion of the Game

For the second week in a row it’s Jordan Yates (but this time he stands alone). I can’t say enough about how impressed I was that he could go into an environment like Clemson and play his absolute [Aerosmith] off for 60 minutes. I think he’s easily earned the starting role.

ATLeast We Ain’t Them of the Week

This week’s honors go to *cough cough ahem*....NIU. The Huskies had themselves quite a time against Michigan, and by “quite a time” I mean “gave up 606 total yards”. Those 606 total offensive yards for the Wolverines included 373 yards on the ground. Michigan only faced 6 third downs the entire game. The drives for this game are pretty hilarious; there’s a stretch where it went: Michigan TD, NIU Punt, Michigan TD, NIU Punt, Michigan TD, NIU Punt, Michigan TD, NIU end-of-half, Michigan TD, NIU Punt, Michigan TD, NIU INT, Michigan TD, NIU Punt, Michigan TD. Folks, we call that a textbook drubbing.

Above The Line of the Week

  • Playing up. If NIU was a case of playing down to our opponent’s level, this was the exact opposite. We matched one of the most talented rosters in the country step-for-step the entire game.
  • Kyric McGowan. This dude has quietly come in and immediately made a huge impact on offense.
  • Lightning delays. I dunno, there’s just something so invigorating and neat to me about a game under weather delay.

Stat of the Week

20%. That was our third down conversion rate on Saturday and it’s not great. In a game this close I can’t help but think that even a few more third down conversions could’ve changed the result. Given how strong Clemson’s defense is I expect that this’ll be our lowest rate all year. Over the past couple years our third down rate has been abysmal and it’s one of the things that we really need to see change.

5 Star (7 Star, 5 Star) Developmental Program Haiku of the Week

So close to bedlam
Even with loss still so proud
Tigers in trouble

I Missed This

Normally “quality loss” is a phrase that we make fun of when used to describe a ranked 4-3 SEC team losing by 15 to Florida. But looking back on Saturday night, I can’t help but think that was a quality loss if there ever was one. Clemson might turn out to be having a down year, but they’re still an extremely good team that we hung with down to the absolute wire. For a team projected to lose by 28 points you couldn’t have hardly asked for a better performance. I’ve had two overwhelming feelings since the game: pride and nostalgia.

I don’t want heart attack games every week, but boy have I missed them. And by the way I’m not using “heart attack game” just to signify a close game, I’m using it to mean a close game with huge implications. Losing a close game to a bad opponent when you’re 3-8 doesn’t really matter; losing a close game to a nationally-dominant opponent early in a prove-it season does. These are the kind of games that renew my faith and passion; it’s exciting and rewarding to feel like you’re so close to making it.

No it wasn’t perfect (and it wasn’t particularly pretty either), but by-and-large this was a well-played game against an opponent with a huge talent advantage. There are good things to say about basically every facet of the game. The defense was awesome; they held DJU to 126 passing yards and the entire Clemson offense to just 284. They also forced a fourth quarter fumble and safety. The Tigers may be having a down year offensively, but holding them to 14 points is incredibly impressive considering how much talent they still have. And while our offense wasn’t exactly fantastic they did keep us in the game and I can’t say enough about Jordan Yates. Eclipsing 300 yards against a defense as strong as Clemson’s is no small feat (especially when UGA only got 256). Special teams also really stepped up in this one; Clemson didn’t return a single kickoff, punts were consistent, and Cimaglia was 2-for-2 on huge field goals.

I dunno, I’m just still buzzing (pun intended) after this one. Losses like this can be huge for program development. Hanging with a team like Clemson for 60 minutes is a huge confidence boost and just missing out on bringing home the win builds that chip on your shoulder for next time. Whenever I lost a tennis match like this my overwhelming feeling 5 minutes later was I WANT TO GET BACK OUT THERE NOW.

Watching a game like that has me reinvigorated about Tech football. Writing a weekly column for the past few years has honestly been a bit tough; I started in 2018 and we’ve been a disgusting 14-24 since the beginning of that season. It’s hard to stay motivated and invested when ⅔ of your columns are written immediately following losses (including a lot of bad ones). But a game like this can breathe new life into fandom, even if it is a loss. It makes you remember a time where everything mattered, where it felt like the whole season hung in the balance of a single fourth quarter. It makes you feel like your team is playing a pivotal role in the fabric of a college football season. I’ve missed that so much. I’ve missed that feeling of your team being nationally relevant, even if just for a couple hours. I’ve missed that feeling when you’re so caught up for three hours and then all of a sudden in a lull you notice for the first time that the sun has set during the game and it’s dark and chilly now. I’ve missed that feeling of if we can just pull this one off, everything will be better. It’s exactly the kick in the butt I needed to give me a fresh outlook on things and to give me hope for the future.

Look Ahead

Up next is a matchup against another ranked opponent, UNC (9/25 7:30pm at Mercedes Benz). I’ll be honest, UNC confuses me. One minute they look like they’ve earned a top-10 ranking and the next they’re losing to a bad Virginia Tech. This one probably comes down to which version of the Tar Heels we get. Priority One is containing Sam Howell who’s coming off an excellent game against UVA so let’s hope the defense carries over whatever they did to shut down DJU. My best guess though is that this one will turn into a shoot out with every second-half possession carrying more weight than the last. Right now UNC is somewhere around a 12-point favorite but I think an outright Jacket win is easily within reach if we continue to play at our best.