Clemson’s offense came into the film room on Monday morning a motivated and humble bunch.
After an offseason of hype and sky-high expectations, the unit disappointed at Auburn on Saturday night, when it scored only 19 points and turned the ball over twice among other mistakes and missed opportunities.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson and company know they didn’t play up to Clemson’s standard. So, heading into practice this week, they’re eager to learn and correct the miscues and issues in order to perform like they’re capable of moving forward.
“This is a humbling experience for our guys,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said on Monday. “Our guys are definitely excited about the win, but we also knew that we didn’t feel like we played to our standard. It was a good learning and teaching opportunity for us, and any time you win a game, you have an opportunity to coach hard off of it.”
Clemson’s offense may have been subpar by its standards, but Clemson still totaled nearly 400 yards of total offense and picked up 150 of those yards in the running game.
What plagued Clemson, though, was its inability to capitalize on the chances it had to take control of the game.
Clemson had several opportunities, following forced turnovers by the defense, to take command. But Watson threw an interception after Jadar Johnson’s interception in the third quarter, and Clemson went three-and-out after both Jeremy Johnson’s fumble in the third quarter and Ben Boulware’s interception in the fourth.
Clemson also could have seized momentum of the game early in the second quarter. However, after Clemson scored the first touchdown of the game and the defense forced a three-and-out, Mike Williams fumbled in Auburn territory.
“It’s a lot better as you go back and watch the tape,” Elliott said. “400 yards — that’s a good performance on the road against an SEC opponent, but not up to our expectations.
“We just have to understand we have to get off to a fast start like we always do. We cannot have self-inflicting wounds. We had some critical errors at critical times that, from a rhythm standpoint, threw us off.”
The three-and-outs and giveaways prevented Clemson from playing with the tempo it desires. Clemson’s goal each game is to reach 80-plus plays, and the offense ran 78 against Auburn.
“If we continue to stay consistent and don’t turn the ball over, we’re going to hit that 80-plus plays,” Elliott said. “I was pleased with the tempo, but there were a couple of times when we wanted to speed it up and weren’t quite as fast as we wanted to be.”
Despite the negatives offensively, Clemson’s offense rose to the occasion in a couple of critical situations, as the Tigers responded to Auburn’s first two scoring drives — two field goals — with two touchdowns.
“That’s one thing that we had last year, and I think this offense is going to have as well, that we don’t panic and have the ability to answer,” Elliott said. “I think it’s a combination of those guys have confidence that we’re going to find the answers, we’re going to be able to counter as coaches and we just have to stick to it, don’t give up and just play football.”
Elliott compared Clemson’s win at Auburn to Clemson’s win at Louisville early last season — it wasn’t pretty, and there were missteps along the way, but the Tigers got the win at the end of the day.
“There are a lot of eerie comparisons to this game and the Louisville game last year,” Elliott said. “We were able to see that going on the road is not an easy thing to do, but there are also a lot of things that we have to work on.”