NCF Nation: Clemson 0808

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

 
 Brian Schneider/US Presswire
 Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper (talks with head coach Dabo Swinney during the second quarter of Clemson's 21-17 loss to Georgia Saturday.

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson interim head coach Dabo Swinney wasted no time in making this his program despite the temporary title, and his bold move of firing offensive coordinator Rob Spence was just the beginning.

Swinney started the well-received "Tiger Walk" tradition.

He re-introduced the three-point stance to the offensive linemen. He cut media access to coaches and players during the week. He even went so far as to change how the team runs down The Hill, separating himself about five yards in front of the team and running down first.

What he didn't change, though, was the end result. Clemson lost, 21-17, to Georgia Tech.

At home.

Again.

The Tigers have now lost three straight, including two in Memorial Stadium. But Swinney will tell you it's not about wins and losses, that he could "give a rat's tail what the scoreboard says."

Tell that to Tommy Bowden.

Swinney is a pretty smooth talker, but can he win football games?

"This wasn't about the game," he said. "You get put in this kind of situation, all of a sudden you're thrown in the fire, you've got coaches' livelihoods at stake, you've got all these players looking to you for leadership, fans just wanting to hang onto anything, looking for anything - shoot, I just sat down and thought about what I felt like we needed to do here. The biggest thing I wanted to accomplish was unity, embracing some things, creating some pride in doing the little things right."

Swinney took the blame for the bad calls, and gave the credit for the good ones to his assistants. He made reporters laugh in his post game news conference. He said things like "Rome wasn't built in a day," something probably more appropriate to the Duke football program than his own.

Swinney isn't just a smooth talker, this guy could sell an igloo to an Eskimo. But can he win football games?

"I know I can do the job," he said. "I don't have any doubts about that at all. That's for other people to decide."

The less they win, though, the more quickly the search for a new coach begins.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper said he was told one thing by his new coach before he took the field against Georgia Tech on Saturday -- "Go out there and lead."

Easier said than done.

In less than a week, the Tigers had lost just about all of the offensive leadership they had, and in less than a quarter on Saturday, they lost their starting quarterback. Again.

 
 Brian Schneider-US PRESSWIRE
 Willy Korn, who was injured in Saturday's loss, appears to have lost the No. 1 QB job to Harper.

Harper, who was benched in one of the final decisions former coach Tommy Bowden made for the program, took over for an injured Willy Korn and made enough plays for his team to beat Georgia Tech. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they also made enough mistakes not to.

Despite the 21-17 home loss to the Yellow Jackets, interim head coach Dabo Swinney said Harper earned the starting job back for their Nov. 1 trip to Boston College.

"He made one play that was just sheer want-to," Swinney said. "It was good to see No. 10 fight out there today. He played loose. Eh, he missed a couple of plays, but he made some plays. I thought he was a good leader for us. He's playing with a fractured shoulder. He's out there trying to help this team win, and almost got it done."

Harper completed 15 of 25 passes for 170 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Swinney said they made some adjustments in the offensive protections that helped for a more productive day on offense for the Tigers. Harper completed touchdown passes of 31 and 32 yards to receiver Aaron Kelly.

Harper said there was a wee bit of motivation for him at practice this week after his demotion.

"I was very disappointed, extremely disappointed," he said. "I feel like I'm a good player. But it came down to coach's decision and that was the decision they went with, so every day I went out there with the mindset and attitude of proving that I could be the No. 1 quarterback on this team and trying to get my job back. That's what I'm going to continue to go out and do and every day come to practice for a reason."

Korn, who will have an MRI on his shoulder Saturday evening, said he was disappointed his debut ended early, especially with so many family members in attendance, but that he was happy for Harper.

"Cullen played great," Korn said. "I was real proud of the way he played. I know it's been a real difficult week for him, having to deal with everything, but he went out there and played with a lot of guts, played with a lot of courage and gave us a great opportunity to win the football game."

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- The only people getting booed here in Memorial Stadium are the officials.

Not a bad sign for the Dabo Debut.

Nor was the 32-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Kelly. Or the 31-yard touchdown pass to Kelly.

Can you believe Kelly scored his first touchdown of the season? Either could I. Looked it up. Yep. First one for the guy who entered the game with 16 career touchdowns and 24 receptions shy of becoming the ACC's all-time leader.

Now he is tied as Clemson's all-time leader in receiving touchdowns with 18.

Clemson is finally using its playmakers in this quarter -- James Davis, Jacoby Ford and Kelly.

Cullen Harper is 5-for-5 passing for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter. The fans have woken up. The momentum has shifted.

Now this offense looks different.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson's defense was dancing. Heading-bobbing to the hip-hop played between each break.

Until Georgia Tech B-back Jonathan Dwyer stopped the music.

All it takes is one missed assignment and Georgia Tech's big-play capability can suck the life out of even the most energized defense. That's exactly what happened in the second quarter when Dwyer burst for a 31-yard run on a third-and-16.

Clemson bandit end Ricky Sapp was ready for this game. Sapp has been out there bouncing up and down, waiving his hands in the air to get the crowd into it. His enthusiasm has been contagious throughout the entire Tigers' defense, and they have made key stops on third down.

But Georgia Tech's defense has been better. Safety Morgan Burnett squashed a flash of momentum with the Yellow Jackets' third interception of the first half. Clemson has turned it over four times, and they're lucky they only lost one of three fumbles.

It hasn't mattered that Dabo Swinney is now the coach, or that Willy Korn started at quarterback, because this is still the same offensive line Tommy Bowden had to work with a week ago. And it hasn't been able to keep Georgia Tech's defensive line out of its backfield. Jacoby Ford and James Davis each has negative yards rushing.

Clemson has 79 yards of total offense, and unless Swinney goes ahead and lines up at left tackle, there's not going to be any miracles in the second half.

Meanwhile, Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt looks off. He hasn't played since the first quarter of the Mississippi State game and his timing seems off.

Clemson freshman running back Jamie Harper (you remember, the poor kid who will forever be remembered as the freshman who fumbled his first snap against Alabama?) is playing well in the absence of injured star C.J. Spiller.

The fans aren't booing like they were the last time I was here (second half against Maryland), and it's a packed house. They seem to have some patience, despite a mostly bumbling offensive performance.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- New coach, new quarterback, new offense, same result on the scoreboard here in Memorial Stadium.

Interim head coach Dabo Swinney and assistant Billy Napier are calling the plays, and it's definitely a new look. More players are involved, James Davis took a direct snap, and for the first time since 2005, somebody other than the quarterback made a passing attempt.

And it didn't turn out too well.

Receiver Tyler Grisham's lone passing attempt was intercepted by safety Dominique Reese and returned 34 yards for the Yellow Jackets' 7-0 lead. And Tech is winning the battle up front.

Derrick Morgan, who has arguably the most potential of the defensive linemen for a successful NFL career, easily pushed past right tackle Landon Walker and got a hand on quarterback Willy Korn as he was passing. The play resulted in the second interception of the first quarter.

Cullen Harper entered the game on Clemson's final possession because Korn has a shoulder injury and is being evaluated.

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