Turnovers doom Tigers against Miami
Coming into the team's matchup with Miami, the last thing Clemson fans thought could cost them the game was turnovers. But that's what they got.
Six of them, to be exact.
The Tigers had just two turnovers in their first three games combined, but they came in bunches against the Hurricanes on Saturday. While interception-prone Jacory Harris threw only two, the normally accurate Kyle Parker threw a career-high three interceptions.
The most costly may have been when Parker overthrew tight end Dwayne Allen over the middle with under a minute to go in the first half. Ray Ray Armstrong returned the ball deep into Clemson territory to set up one of Leonard Hankerson's three touchdown catches.
Clemson's decision to throw the ball instead of running the clock out gave Miami a 13-point halftime lead instead of six.
Parker had perhaps his worst game in a Clemson uniform. He fumbled once to go along with the three picks and didn't manage a touchdown on just 14-of-33 passing.
Parker didn't look like himself, often throwing balls behind his receivers or sailing passes too high. It's possible that the injury he sustained in the Auburn game was still lingering.
The Clemson receivers weren't exactly helpful, as they continue to have issues catching the football.
The offense still hasn't identified any reliable passing targets other than tight end Dwayne Allen and the running backs. Defenses are able to focus their attention on the running game because Clemson is not a threat to throw the ball down the field.
DeAndre Hopkins caught three balls and is probably on the cusp of becoming a starter, but he fumbled after a catch in the fourth quarter to set Miami up in Clemson territory.
Andre Ellington accounted for the Tigers' third fumble when he lost the ball after taking a mid-air hit on a sweep play.
All of Clemson's turnovers left Miami with the ball on Clemson's side of the field.
Ellington was the only bright spot on offense for the Tigers, rushing 17 times for 107 yards and three touchdowns, including a 71-yarder. But it was probably the run he couldn't make that was the game's most impactive play.
Trailing 27-21 with 8:20 to go, Clemson faced a fourth-and-one on the Miami 20-yard line. They ran a fake-dive pitch to Ellington, a play that is usually good for a substantial gain. This time, however, Miami cornerback Brandon Harris snuffed out the play, stopping Ellington short of the first down marker.
Miami drove the ball down the field and kicked a field goal to put the game out of reach. Clemson never got back across midfield.
Ill-timed penalties and busted coverages continue to play a role in Clemson's struggles.
A holding call negated a long run by Ellington in the fourth quarter, and an offsides penalty gave Miami another shot on a third down, which they converted.
Leonard Hankerson was the best player on the field, but you wouldn't know it based on Clemson's lazy coverage of the six-foot-three wide receiver. He beat Clemson over the top twice for touchdowns of 22 and 65 yards, taking the wind out of the Clemson defense's collective sails.
Next up for Clemson is a trip to Chapel Hill to face a tough North Carolina team. The Tigers need to shore up their issues quickly in order to avoid a disappointing season.