Clemson Falls to Miami in Death Valley: What Happens Next for the Tigers?

Colby LanhamCorrespondent IOctober 2, 2010

Clemson DB Marcus Gilchrist
Clemson DB Marcus GilchristKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

On Saturday, at high noon in Clemson, SC, the Clemson Tigers hosted the ranked Miami Hurricanes in Death Valley. Coming off a bye week, the Tigers hoped to redeem themselves with a win and start their path towards the ACC Championship on the right track.

However, the Tigers took a wrong turn Saturday when they fell to the Hurricane’s aerial attack in a 30-21 loss. The Clemson Tigers now fall to a 2-2 record, with a 0-1 record in the ACC Atlantic division.

Clemson struggled in effective pass coverage against Miami, allowing Leonard Hankerson to score three touchdowns and over 100 yards receiving. None of the Clemson secondary could cover him, which is normally one of the strong points of the Clemson defense. Jacory Harris was able to toss four touchdowns, with three going to Hankerson.

Kyle Parker played poorly the entire game, fumbling and throwing three interceptions and no touchdowns; all 21 points were further scored by an electrified Andre Ellington, who added 107 yards on the ground and 39 receiving yards through the the passing game was only able to muster 149 yards, and the receivers and Parker were unable to get into any kind of rhythm or chemistry.

What happens now? First, Parker MUST better his performance and return to top form. The running game has been exceptional the past four weeks, augmented by a more experienced and physical offensive line.

Parker did not show any signs of injury from the Auburn game, but seemed as though he didn’t know how to run the offense, and failed to hit open receivers all afternoon. Parker must find his footing soon, lest the Tigers fall yet again.

Clemson must address the critical question on offense: a playmaker at wide receiver. Not necessarily a tight end, but a true outside threat at wide receiver. There has not been enough production by the current rotation of wide receivers to determine the true number one. The receivers will appear now and then for a catch, but no one truly appears as a play maker.

Parts of Parker’s struggles against Miami were drops by the receivers, and the failure of the receiver’s ability to separate themselves from Miami’s secondary was a liability in Clemson’s passing game. Miami was able to take away the underneath routes Clemson commonly used against Auburn, and the lack of downfield threats hindered the Clemson offense.

As a result, defenses have the greater advantage in that they can key in more on Ellington and Harper, and blanket tight end Dwayne Allen. The threat of a No. 1 receiver gives defenses more to plan for, and allows more flexibility and an extra man to rely on in the passing game. After the Miami game’s struggles, it is evident that Clemson is still looking for that receiver.

The defense’s biggest concern was the secondary, which was beaten by one man in Leonard Hankerson. Harris and Hankerson shredded the Clemson secondary, capitalizing on blown assignments by the defense; the defense struggled yet again against the run, especially the zone read. The defense must stay disciplined in their assignments if they are to better stop the run.

Clemson now heads into Chapel Hill against a replenished UNC team containing a balanced offense and a ferocious defense. Sitting at a 2-2 record, Clemson hopes to take the right turn in the ACC Atlantic.