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UL ’18 Bottom Line (Pt. 1): Expected Chainsaw Massacre

Clemson 77 Louisville 16

I know we all had a wonderful Halloween encore on Saturday afternoon, but I hope everybody also had a wonderful Halloween week and got to sneak a few pieces of candy in. Louisville fans have an upset stomach whether they ate too much candy or not. It was a horror show for UL and Clemson was playing the role of “Leatherface.” Any anxiety we had about an upset ended within 5 minutes. Tiger fans were able to rest in peace when we ran the ball at will against their 7 man front and went up 14 zip. UL never came back from the dead to punish their killer as the body count continued to grow throughout the 2nd half. Even the spawn of Swinney was able to contribute to the nightmare for UL.

I was surprised though, that down in Charleston a big post-game topic for debate on the radio was how “The Fridge Package” and Dexter Lawrence’s TD was either unsportsmanlike or somehow a recruiting gimmick. It’s neither. You can find that out for yourself in two ways. First, go find a guy that out-weighs you by 100+ pounds. Mark off 5 feet of width to run through, let him get a running start, and try to tackle him up high to stop his momentum. Do not try this unless you have a 24-hour physician nearby.

We saw Georgia Southern do this same thing to us earlier in the year and we couldn’t stop it. Their most consistent play was to put their DT #94 into the backfield and watch guys like Kendall Joseph and Tanner Muse bounce off him. Maybe that’s where Dabo got the idea to put them in the I. We do run previous opponents’ plays a good bit (ie. outside zone play this week).

Wait Kraken, if it works then why doesn’t everybody do that then?

First off, a lot of teams do have a jumbo package with a linemen in the backfield. They just don’t get the ball and you saw why in the GS game too. Ball security. Eventually we punched the ball out on #94 and that was the end of him carrying the rock. Also, even if everybody up front on offense does their job, there is no chance for a big gainer. It’s too much risk for too little reward.

There is a happy medium for this strategy and we have seen it in the NFL for 50 years (it’s going away now with the new rules though). It takes a real freak of nature to have both the speed and agility to get big gainers and at the same time have the bulk to run over NFL DL and LBs in a phone booth (Earl Campbell, Christian Okoye, Jerome Bettis, Brandon Jacobs). Dex and Christian are freakish NFL level athletes in their own right which is what makes this idea something potentially viable.

Second, look at the reactions from the people in the picture to the left. Smiles. On. Faces. This isn’t for recruiting. This is for us. It’s a moment of joy for us and the team. Did you hear the crowd response when Dex and Christian ran out on the field? This is fun. It’s a lighthearted story we’ll still be telling a decade from now and probably with the same reaction in this picture. Calculated recruiting tool? Get outta here.

10 years in, one thing you can say about Dabo is that “he gets it.” He understands the kids and he understands the fans. One of the first decisions he made when he got hired was to get rid of the unpopular mix and match uniforms of Tommy Bowden and restore orange pants as a reward like Danny. Again, that was for us, not the recruits that wanted 43 different combos of uniforms or the seniors who lost privileges to pick the combination every week. Dabo understands what makes us happy, and he uses that to connect with us. We’re the ones being recruited. The vast majority of people keep coming back year after year because Clemson football brings them joy. I think all he was just trying to do was add to that. 

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