Sunday, December 4, 2011

The football principle that got Clemson back

Former Carolina Panthers general manager Bill Polian used to say there's a strikingly high correlation between which of two teams has fewer passing attempts and which of those teams wins their football matchup.

I can't imagine a better illustration of that than Saturday's ACC championship game.

The best thing Clemson does this season -- offensively or defensively -- is throw the ball. Tajh Boyd is the best quarterback in the ACC (despite some recent down games). Sammy Watkins is the ACC's best wide receiver and Dwayne Allen is the ACC's best tight end. DeAndre Hopkins is a big-time No. 2 receiver.

So in beating Virginia Tech Saturday 38-10, Clemson threw the ball 14 fewer times than the Hokies.

You run the ball because you can. You throw the ball because you must. Saturday, after scoring 21 points in 4 1/2 minutes of the third quarter, the Tigers had the luxury of running the ball.

You run with a lead to consume time. You throw with a deficit to conserve time. Running lowers your risk of a turnover. Throwing increases it.

So Clemson tailback Andre Ellington gained 125 yards, a 6.2 yards-per-carry average. Virginia Tech tailback David Wilson -- among the nation's best this season -- gained 32 yards and averaged 2.9 yards.

Wilson wasn't bad, he just never to got a chance. Clemson bunched up in the middle early (the football term is "in the box''), daring the Hokies to throw. Then Clemson had that third quarter explosion, and Virginia Tech running the ball became moot. Wilson got just 11 carries. As Hokies coach Frank Beamer said, the Tigers took his team out of what they do best.

That's good football, and somewhat unexpected the way the Tigers played of late. And that's a big reason why this team righted itself to go to the Orange Bowl.

--- Nobody asked me, but....

I'll be going back to the NBA beat now. I've enjoyed covering the unexpectedly successful Clemson football season.

I particularly enjoyed the coordinators. Chad Morris and Kevin Steele are different, yet similar. Chad is hyper. Kevin is reserved and intellectual. And when I parachuted into the Clemson beat, each one was helpful, articulate and sharp. I greatly enjoyed my chats with both.

Here's the contrast to all that: While Clemson was winning a conference title for the first time in whenever, freshman tailback Mike Bellamy was suspended for some unreported violation of team rules.

Not a single head in the press box jerked when it was announced that Bellamy wouldn't play. That's because he's consistently been high-maintenance.

I've seen these guys (the Panthers' Steve Smith comes to mind). They have just enough talent to believe they live by different rules.

I don't know whether Bellamy has run out of chances. It's no longer particularly on my radar, since I'm going back to covering the NBA.

But no matter how much talent he has, the coaches have to assess the damage Bellamy does to team chemistry. At some point, anyone is more trouble than he's worth.

-- Rick Bonnell


Anonymous said...

The 'principle' that brought Clemson back? Play a weak opponent. Va Tech showed they were nothing special...rode a soft schedule to a lot of wins. This is a team that a season ago lost to James Madison for heavens sake. Had the Tigers been up against the Gamecocks (mid-level SEC) they would have looked about like they did a week ago. Nothing magic about it. OK. This win makes the Gamecocks look even better. Kiss your sister hard Tiger fans. You won the 'mighty' ACC.

Anonymous said...

Well lets see about this. We beat Aurburn a mid level SEC team, and last time I checked They beat the Gamecocks.

Anonymous said...

Looks like there's an excellent chance you'll be playing that "weak opponent" in your bowl game. Decide it on the field!!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your Clemson coverage this year. You were often carried in the paper I subscribe to, The State.

sports bookmakers said...

that is a quite interesting principle you exposed on here and I think that from your point of view, Clemson's decision does make sense

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