If you were not sure before, you definitely know after last week’s win over NC State why No. 3 Clemson needs Wayne Gallman in its backfield.
Without its best running threat back there, the Tigers struggled to run the football with any consistency against an NC State defensive front that was already playing well.
The Wolfpack, who gave Clemson its biggest scare of the season to this point, knocked the Tigers’ star running back out of the game on the game’s opening drive. It was obvious, Gallman’s absence created a big void in the offense.
C.J. Fuller, Adam Choice and Tyshon Dye combined to carry the ball 22 times for 67 yards or 3.04 yards per carry. Fuller carried the majority of the load, rushing 16 times for 56 yards in what was a pedestrian like effort.
“All of our other guys, we don’t have a lot of experience there, and you know, here is a guy that’s played in a lot of big games and has been our workhorse. So definitely that was a loss for us,” Swinney said.
Gallman, who is being held out of practice this week as a precaution after suffering a concussion in the NC State game, does more than just run the football for the Tigers. He is also very good in pass protection and he has become an effective pass catcher in the screen game.
How much of an affect does Gallman have in a game? In the three plays he was in there before taking a vicious hit that left him concussed, Gallman had two rushes for 14 yards and one reception for 18. That’s 10.7 yards per play.
Clemson threw just one screen pass after Gallman left the game, and it went to Fuller for minus-five yards. As for the pressures, NC State was constantly bringing pressure, getting in quarterback Deshaun Watson’s face and sometimes even hitting him.
“(Gallman) is just a great football player. He’s the guy. He’s clearly our leader at that position, and you know, we really like our other players,” Swinney said.
Following Wednesday’s practice, Swinney updated Gallman’s condition and said he is doing well and is not suffering any symptoms. He expects his star running back to be back at practice next week and playing against No. 15 Florida State on Oct. 29.
Gallman leads the team with 489 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. He is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, while also catching eight passes for 73 yards or 9.1 yards per catch. Also, ask any opposing linebacker or defensive end about Gallman’s ability to block.
“We just miss his energy and his presence and that leadership,” Swinney said.
Probably no one missed Gallman more than Watson. With the running game basically non-existent, the Tigers had to throw the ball 52 times. And though Watson completed a record 39 of those passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns, he also took a beating as the ‘Pack hit him several times with pressure coming off the edge.
It was obvious NC State had no respect for Clemson’s running game after Gallman left.
“It was more a game where we threw for almost 400 yards,” Swinney said. “(NC State is) very good up front and we took what was there. We really moved the ball effectively the whole game. We just couldn’t finish some drives.
“We had four turnovers in the red zone, three opportunities inside the five, we didn’t get points. That part of it was the most disappointing thing.”
It makes you wonder how different all that might have been had Gallman not been knocked out of the game.