After Clemson’s second drive of the game against South Carolina State on Saturday, center Jay Guillermo turned to left tackle Mitch Hyatt on the sideline and had this to say:
“Man, we are moving,” Guillermo said.
Guillermo was talking about the Tigers’ tempo, and he was right.
Clemson had just executed a 10-play, 76-yard touchdown drive that lasted less than three minutes. On the previous possession, Clemson ran 10 plays for 69 yards and a touchdown in 3:27.
For the first time this season, Clemson’s offense played at its desired pace all game, only slowing down in the second half with the score out of hand.
“We could feel it whenever we were out there. We could see how fast we were going,” Guillermo said of the tempo. “That’s definitely something we want to carry into this game (against Georgia Tech), and carry into every game, because tempo is a big part.”
Clemson’s tempo has carried over into practice this week, too, according to Guillermo.
“(Monday) night — we go five-minute periods every period — and we were getting done with a minute, minute and a half left,” Guillermo said of the offense. “We were going at it last night. (Tempo) has been a pretty big emphasis.”
Overall, Clemson put up 555 yards of total offense in the 59-0 win against S.C. State, the most since totaling 552 at Wake Forest last season. Clemson threw for a season-high 328 yards and ran for a season-high 227.
It wasn’t just the tempo and rhythm. After up-and-down play along the offensive line through the first two weeks, Clemson played 17 offensive linemen and was consistently dominant up front from start to finish.
“Obviously against Troy, we didn’t play very well. I didn’t think we had our head screwed on quite right,” Guillermo said. “But last week it was good to see us come back with a real, hard, tough, physical week of practice, and then come out and dominate like I know we can.”
The Yellow Jackets will present a much more stern test, of course, for the Tigers offensively.
Entering the game, Georgia Tech’s defense ranks 27th in the country in yards allowed (305 yards per game) and seventh in points allowed (10.3 points per game).
Georgia Tech is inexperienced in the secondary but strong in the front seven, led by senior defensive tackle Patrick Gamble and senior outside linebacker P.J. Davis.
“Gamble is a really good player,” Guillermo said. “I think he lost a little bit of weight from last year, so he looks a lot more shiftier and is a little more quick-twitch kind of a guy.
“They’re not huge, but they’re all really quick and have really good technique. You can tell they’ve been coached well. We’re going to have to have good footwork and good hands to be able to accomplish what we want.”
Georgia Tech’s ball-control, triple-option offense could limit the number of possessions for Clemson’s offense, so it will be important for the Tigers to take advantage of their opportunities, as well as get off to a fast start in order to quiet the home crowd.
There is no shortage of momentum, confidence and mojo for Clemson’s offense after its performance last weekend. Now, it simply hopes to keep it going at Bobby Dodd Stadium tomorrow night.
“Any time you can get a win, that’s great, but coming out and playing a clean game like we did, it was a lot for the morale, just to show everyone what we can do,” Guillermo said of the S.C. State game. “I think that was good momentum going into this game that we need to have in Atlanta. We were all very happy coming out of it.”