When the first half of yesterday's game ended, I didn't think I'd have much to write about, except for the amazing play of Woodrow Danzler. Clemson routed us 35-0 in the first 30 minutes, and I'd be hard pressed to pull any kind of positives from those two quarters. Clemson dominated every aspect of play by a wide margin, and clearly showed why they have the number one offense and number two defense in the country. Danzler was especially exciting; breaking off some amazing runs, eluding and bouncing off of linebackers like a pinball. I daresay that they rely on his option game a bit too much though, using him almost as their running back in certain situations. I think that will come back to hurt them in a game against a defense as quick as FSU's. It's not as if they don't have a talented backfield either - it'll be interesting to see how Bowden plays things when he gets into a tight contest.
Thankfully for our Devils, the second half was a very different story. It all began with a big defensive stop deep in Clemson territory, which forced them to punt from about their two-yard line. Our special teams managed to block the punt, sending it rolling out of the endzone, and thereby earning their second safety of the year.
Our next great play came on a fourth and three in Clemson territory, when Franks decided to go for it, really having nothing to lose. Chris Douglas took the ball on a pitch wide to the sidelines, and turned on the jets to go over forty yards for the touchdown. Douglas's speed is by far his greatest asset, and I was glad to see us feature it a bit more with a few less runs up the middle.
Our second touchdown came courtesy of a solid drive by the offense featuring a combination of long pass plays and strong runs, finishing again with a Chris Douglas dash for a touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, our special teams came through with a gem one more time, knocking a fumble loose from the Clemson return man. That set up the offense with the chance to punch the ball into the endzone again, and they did just that, with Ben Erdeljac getting credit for our final touchdown of the day on a rushing play. The students and band started up a rousing cheer of "on-sides kick, on-sides kick" following this play, but Franks elected to kick the ball deep, and the game ended with Clemson taking a knee.
Overall, the biggest positive was that our team never gave up. The defense, despite being the victim of Clemson's quick-strike offense in the first half, managed to pull things together in the second half, and come up with a few stops of the Clemson offense. There's a lot of heart in that defense, and as they gel together and acquire more talent, they definitely have the potential to develop into a relatively formidable unit. Even the secondary is finally showing some signs of improvement, as they made a number of plays on the ball to break up passes.
On the offensive side of the ball, D. and Chris Douglas are definitely our bright spots for the day. Despite clearly having a lot to learn about the offensive scheme (countless delay of game penalties, not remembering what the receiver's pattern is on a given play, etc.), D. clearly has the most natural talent of our quarterbacks. He fired off some great passes in the fourth quarter, and many more were just a step or two away from completions. He also has a lot of mobility, despite what the eight sacks might seem to indicate. I'd like to see us continue to start D. for the rest of the season. Even though we continue to see improvements in each game, our Blue Devils are only going to be in a position to win one or two games for the rest of the year, no matter who is at the helm of the offense. I'd prefer it was D. Bryant, so that he can gain the experience and learn our offense, and hopefully be prepared to lead us to higher ground next year.
The visitors unfortunately, yet again dominated the crowd, as the Clemson fans came en masse to support their team. As I've said before, it's embarrassing to see opposing defenses gesture for noise from the crowd on crucial plays - and get it. Our defense doesn't even bother asking for noise. The majority of the stadium went unfilled, and I'd say that the student section was reasonably represented for a noon start, with about four or five hundred showing up.
Lastly, a comment on the field - it is horrible. It literally falls apart as the game progresses - by the time we arrive at halftime, it looks as if they let a thousand amateur golfers loose on the field to practice their irons. I don't know what needs to be done about it, but I don't remember it being quite this bad when I started here four years ago, so something must have changed. Here's hoping we can at least figure out how to grow some nice grass.