Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Clemson coach Tommy Bowden scratched his graying head of hair over and over, seemingly unaware he was even doing it.
"We tried everything," he said.
Obviously, none of it worked.
"I didn't think we'd be 3-3," Bowden stammered after the Tigers' 12-7 loss to Wake Forest. "I thought we'd be better than that."
The understatement of the year from the leader of the underachieving team of the year.
Yes, Clemson's No. 9 preseason ranking was too high. But this is also Bowden's most veteran team in his 10 seasons here. With so much talent on the roster, Clemson's 3-3 overall record and 1-2 ACC record are simply inexplicable for a team heavily favored to win its first ACC title since 1991. This was a must-win game for the Tigers not only because of their place in the Atlantic Division standings, but because Bowden and his staff needed to prove they could win.
The play calling has been in question. Bowden's job is in question. But nobody in Clemson's program seems to have any answers right now.
Offensive coordinator Rob Spence had the same lost look in his eyes he had after the Maryland loss. And, similarly, he had few answers, other than injuries and the young offensive line. Clemson has now scored just seven points in its past six quarters.
"I don't understand right now, OK?" Spence said, calmer than it reads. "That's something we've just got to keep working on."
Bowden, who has no involvement in the play calling, said he will not make any changes to his staff during the season, but might adjust his lineup. He said the execution -- or lack thereof -- on the offensive line is a major reason for the offensive struggles. The Tigers have had five different starting lineups on the offensive line in six games.
"It makes it extremely difficult," quarterback Cullen Harper said. "Football games are won in the trenches. For a young offensive line they're playing great and they'll continue to get better. We're frustrated. Obviously I'd like to throw for more yards, Aaron Kelly wants more balls and James Davis wants more rushing yards. ... We're all frustrated. We've just got to keep our heads up."
The most honest assessment of the Tigers' squandered potential might have come from the Wake Forest locker room.
"It's very surprising they have three losses," said linebacker Aaron Curry. "I mean, with all of the talent they have -- they have a great quarterback. They probably have the best running back tandem in the country. They've got fast guys at receiver. They've got a really good defense. They've got speed everywhere. For them to not be undefeated right now is very surprising to me."
He's not the only one.
"They have more players, they're more talented than probably any team that we'll face," said Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner.
Give Bowden credit for answering the questions about his job security following the loss. Problem is, he's answered them before.
"I've been coaching 12 years," he said. "I've been here a couple of times. That's part of the profession. If you worry about that, you have to choose another profession.
"It's a 12-game schedule -- we've played six. There's not a lot of options. ...
"Nobody quits after six games."
It only took three, though, to count the Tigers out.