I consider myself a good fan. I've been to every home game thus far in my 5 years of college. I've stayed until the end of almost all of them, come Hell or high water (which is more often than you'd think). I cheer for the team. I defend the team. I believe in the team. I high-five them as they run to the locker room after they win at Bobby Dodd. I wish them luck as I walk around campus and see them, as I do with the coaches. I LOVE this team, and that will never change.
And yet, even after making the investment to buy tickets and be at last night's game, I left to drive home as the team ran to the locker room for halftime. You want to know what's worse? I've yet to feel the least bit of remorse or guilt over that. Here I am, 3 hours from home (if you include the time it took to walk clear across campus to the car), in high-30s temperatures, one step in the wrong direction from falling all the way down to the Tech bench, and I'm here to cheer on a team that looks like they don't even want to be there.
But before that, there were definitely a couple of positives. Through three drives, our defense had given up 6 points. I was very proud of them. They kept Clemson's receivers in front of them and played a beautiful defense. Even on the fourth drive, Clemson's first touchdown, I was fine with DJ White going up to try and make the pick on a deep pass. As I said earlier this week -- you don't have anything to lose in this game, so be aggressive and try to make something happen. It all went downhill very quickly after this, but we saw a really great effort early on from our defense. Offensively, Robert Godhigh continued to make me seriously question why he had to walk-on with us. Dude had 126 yards and 2 touchdowns on 12 carries, plus another 5 catches for 103 yards -- not to mention he had a third touchdown overturned on a review that left our offense on the one yard line. To put it in perspective, Godhigh had over half of our 440 yards of offense, and had the most yards offensively of anyone in the game. He also was one yard away from matching Sammy Watkins' total in that category.
Now to the rest of the game.
You know someone who I've really avoided calling out ever, but who I can't ignore right now? Paul Johnson. Just so many decisions being made that make no sense to me. Vad Lee played into the fourth quarter, even as the offense sputtered a lot of the time. (There's also speculation that his ankle isn't 100%, meaning more reason to give Thomas a chance.) All that, not to mention that he made comments about wanting to give Thomas more time in this game. Playcalling was questionable at best. I'll never understand how one calls an option play with 1:45 until halftime, on your own 25 yard line, down by 3 scores. At that point in time you should be running a 2-minute drill, which involves a lot of things, none of which are our standard option offense. Oh, and this all after we had 4 straight drives to open the game without a first down. Surely that wasn't just Clemson's defense stepping up majorly.
The blocking was horrific. Clemson's defensive front isn't some group of bums by any means, but good grief we made them look like the '85 Bears. Our offense in general has had about one impressive performance so far this year, and that was against a Syracuse team that was unexposed to our offense.
The defense quit after the first quarter, I thought. Again, they came out inspired and on top of their game plan, but I just feel like them getting no offensive support led to a complete drop in effort. Why play your ass off out there if it won't accomplish anything in the grand scheme? By the time Tech got on the board it was too late -- they had been down 20-0 after giving everything they had and really had no reason to continue burning that fire.
Folks, this is the second time this year that we've played on national television as the spotlight game, and in both cases we couldn't get out of our own way and fell flat on our faces. This is a problem. Losing on national television is not a major problem -- playing like garbage on national television, on the other hand, is.
Where am I supposed to draw confidence from at this point, exactly? Since the start of 2012, the biggest win our program has was a 21-7 win over a very dysfunctional, Lane-Kiffin-led USC team. Over that same span, we're a cumulative 13-11 with 2 losses to Miami, Virginia Tech, Clemson, and BYU, as well as losses to Middle Tennessee State, uga, and Florida State. Yes, 8 of those 11 losses came at the hands of 4 teams, and another 2 combine to complete the list of "marquee" games we've played outside of USC. So we'll say we're 1-10 in "marquee" games, unless you want to count UNC, which would put us at 3-10.
No matter how you slice it, there's not a considerable amount of reason to have confidence in this team being nationally relevant any time soon. There are just too many issues on a fundamental level. We'll keep beating the middle-to-lower tier ACC teams, and uga's injuries mean we'll have a shot against them in a couple of weeks, but when put up against anyone worth their weight in salt, I can't be confident in this team, and I hate that.
(Clearly I'm experiencing a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that don't make a whole lot of sense right now.)
I want to be confident. I want to believe. I want every year to be 2009, where we're shocking the world and reeling off upset after upset. I want to go to a BCS game and make a splash and be the premier team in the ACC. But unfortunately that's not happening this year.
Maybe it happens next year. Maybe the year after that. Who knows. All I know is that we're looking at a list of problems right now that isn't short and features a varying level of control (injuries have plagued our defense in the worst way).
Until we can fix a most or all of those issues, we're going to keep getting more of the same from this program, and that's the grim reality of our situation right now.
Where does this rank in your "worst Fridays ever" list, Tech fans? Where does this team fall on your confidence meter? How do you fix the problems? Where do you start?