Just when the Tigers show signs of life, they give it right back.
Clemson (3-2, 1-1 ACC) squandered an 11-point halftime lead to lose to the Maryland Terrapins (4-1, 1-0 ACC) 20-17 on Saturday afternoon.
I will be the first to tell you that I was expecting it all from this team this year. Many people were. Even after the loss to Alabama, the team finally seemed to be putting it together against the Citadel, NC State, and SC State.
Clemson played a fantastic first half today. Despite a muffed punt and lost fumble that twice gave Maryland the ball in Clemson territory, Clemson's defense tightened up and only allowed two field goals on those two Maryland possessions. James Davis and CJ Spiller combined to rush for almost 200 yards.
After the half, Maryland's defense shut down James Davis and CJ Spiller. Their offense rallied with two touchdowns to go ahead and stay ahead with 10:25 left in the game.
One reason for the loss was Clemson's quarterback Cullen Harper. Expected by some to be a sleeper in the Heisman Race before the season, Harper has shown inconsistencies all year, throwing five interceptions against three touchdowns. Although he was 15 for 22, he looked uncomfortable in the pocket, missing receivers on several occasions.
But all things considered, despite Harper's inefficiencies and the defense allowing two touchdowns in the second half, I can't help but place this loss on Tommy Bowden.
In fact, both losses have been the fault of Bowden. And while I'm on the subject, Bowden has shown terrible coaching all season.
I'll come right out with it. I hate Bowden. In my opinion, he's done a terrible job, especially of late. So far this year, Bowden has not been able to lead Clemson to wins in games that they should win.
Now, historically, Bowden is a good coach. He has never had a losing season as a head coach, he has consistently high recruiting classes, and through the end of 2007, he has only four less wins than his father, legendary coach Bobby Bowden, did after 133 games.
But that's not enough. This is Bowden's tenth year at Clemson, and he is 3-5 in bowl games. For the last three years, he has had talent with the likes of names like Gaines Adams, Aaron Kelly, CJ Spiller, James Davis, and Jacoby Ford. He has had numerous chances to win the big games. But the fact of the matter is when it counts, he chokes.
Now, a lot of people will tell me that Bowden is not the one taking the snaps, catching the ball, or defending the rush. This may be true, but Bowden, along with offensive coordinator Rob Spence, call the offensive plays.
The screen pass seems to be the backbone of Bowden's offensive scheme. And screens are good, every once in a while. However, screen passing on consecutive plays (which has happened on numerous occasions this season already) will greatly dilute its effectiveness.
Bowden rarely uses play-action passes. He does not throw long either. It seems all he knows how to do are screen passes, mid-range passes, and running. But even with good running backs, the defense has an easier time defending because they know the ball will not be thrown downfield.
He also cannot adjust his offense. In Clemson's opener against Alabama, when the running game faltered, he went to the pass and stayed with the pass the rest of the game. When the passing game wasn't working, he continued with the pass.
In today's game against Maryland, the running game slowed in the second half. Instead of mixing plays, he went exclusively to a pass offense.
But possibly the worst thing about Bowden's coaching is that he does not show any passion for the game and for his players. Throughout the Alabama game, Bowden did not try to talk to or inspire his players. He just stood on the sideline without any facial expression while Alabama bowled over his Tigers.
Clemson has way too much talent to lose to a Maryland team. I will give Maryland credit; they outplayed Clemson in the second half. But Clemson lost the game because they were out-coached by a Maryland coaching staff that adjusted their offense and exposed weaknesses in Clemson's defense.
Tommy Bowden's inability to coach has already cost the Tigers two games this year. If this continues, Clemson will be lucky to reach a bowl game.