I could spend a couple hours dissecting this game and explaining why I think Virginia Tech is likely to win (home field, night game, apparently solid defense, impressive running backs against an iffy Clemson run defense, Clemson’s first road game), but on the other hand I could come up with just as many reasons why Clemson is likely to win (Sammy Watkins, a dynamic offense with multiple playmakers, a weak Tech schedule). I could make a case, and a good one, for either team
But for me it comes down to this: I don’t trust Chandler Catanzaro to make a field goal. The yardage is irrelevant because Catanzaro can easily make a 47 yarder (see Troy game) and then miss a 35 yarder (see Florida State). You just never know what you’re going to get. At some point I fully believe that Swinney’s stubbornness on this issue is going to cost the Tigers a game (or more).
That said, I understand that a night game at Lane Stadium is not the place you want to experiment with a new kicker so I’m all for going for it on fourth down in almost every scenario imaginable. Seriously. If Catanzaro lines up for a field goal on Saturday I’m going to consider it a punt until it goes through the uprights. With all due respect to Coach Swinney and the job he has done thus far in 2011 Clemson is not “all right” at kicker and explaining the situation by saying “we are 4 for 6” is weak at best and borders on condescending. What he left out is Catanzaro is 1 for 3 since the Troy game, missing from 35 and 43, while making one from 38. If Clemson is “all right” at kicker why fake a field goal against Wofford when an “easy” field goal makes it a two score game? Why go for it on fourth down against Florida State when an “easy” field goal puts Clemson ahead by 8? Someone once said actions speak louder than words.
And it’s not just field goals either. Dawson Zimmerman is injured for a reason. That reason being that no one blocked a Florida State punt rusher (twice) who somehow managed to miss the ball, but drill Zimmerman last week. Punt blocking issues headed into Lane Stadium spells disaster waiting to happen, not to mention what may happen if Spencer Benton is forced into punting duty.
Compounding this is Clemson’s issues in short yardage. If you fail consistently in short yardage you need an excellent kicker to give yourself points and an opportunity to win close games. Unfortunately the Tigers don’t have that.
Virginia Tech 36 Clemson 33