Though it was their worst offensive game in quite a while, third-ranked Clemson finished the Troy game with touchdown drives of 66 and 75 yards, and then a field goal drive of 32 yards. For really the first time this season, the offense appeared to have found its rhythm.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney preached all of last week that fixing his sputtering offense was simple. They just needed to do a better job of pitching and catching with an emphasis on the catching part.
In Saturday’s shutout of S.C. State, the offense did just that as it came out and scored on six of its first seven possessions while racking up 319 total yards on those seven drives. Even the one drive they did not score they drove the ball, but Greg Huegel’s field goal attempt was blocked.
Granted all of this success came against an FCS team that is 0-3, but the offense still has to execute. It still has to make the plays, and for the first time all season the Tigers finally looked like the offensive juggernaut we all thought it could be.
Does this mean everything is fixed? I’m not sure. We will definitely find out this Thursday when the Tigers play at undefeated Georgia Tech to open the ACC part of the schedule.
However, you have to like what you saw in the S.C. State game. The offense just wasn’t moving the ball, but it picked up the tempo and resembled the offense that recorded 11 straight games of at least 500 yards of total offense to end last season.
“Offensively we picked up where we left off in the fourth quarter of the Troy game. That was one thing I wanted to see,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We had three straight drives of touchdown, touchdown, field goal to finish up the Troy game and we picked up and scored the most points ever in a (first) quarter.”
Clemson scored 31 one first-quarter points on Saturday, though six of those came off a special teams blunder by the Bulldogs.
The Tigers (3-0) had good offensive balance. The running game averaged 5.3 yards per carry as it grounded out 227 yards, while five different quarterbacks completed 27 of 35 passes for 328 yards.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson, who apologized last week for the way he has played and acted in the first two weeks, came out relaxed and dancing. On the sidelines, he was walking up and down the bench talking to his teammates, encouraging them to keep it up.
Watson, who did not play after the second quarter, finished the afternoon 12 of 15 for 152 yards and three touchdowns. He completed his first eight passes on the Tigers’ first two drives, which resulted in touchdowns.
“I am really pleased with how our guys played and started the game and the balance we had in the game,” Swinney said. “We were really able to establish the run game with the 5.3 a carry. Deshaun was 80 percent and had a really good day. Overall we played five quarterbacks and we were 27-35 so we really caught the ball like we are capable of. We only had one punt in the game, no sacks and no turnovers. We were 100 percent in the red zone and very good on third downs.”
However, is this the offense will we see on Thursday night in Atlanta? Who knows? But if it is, especially with the level of consistency the defense and special teams has been playing with the first three weeks, then truly the sky is the limit for this team.
I guess we are about to find out.
–Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports