It seems like each week, Clemson’s offensive line has to go up against an elite pass rusher. The Tigers have already faced Auburn’s Carl Lawson, Louisville’s James Hearns, Boston College’s Harold Landry, NC State’s Bradley Chubb and Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker.
And Saturday’s game against Pitt will not different, either. The Panthers, who will play No. 2 Clemson at 3:30 p.m. in Death Valley, bring defensive end Ejuan Price and his nine sacks to town.
“They have a really good defensive end. I know he is one of the best in the country at getting sacks,” Clemson right guard Tyrone Crowder said. “Obviously, he is something we have to pay attention to.”
The Panthers rank ninth nationally and third in the ACC behind Clemson and Florida State with an average of 3.22 sacks per game (29 total). Pitt’s sack yardage of 233 leads the ACC and is tied for the fourth most in the country.
For the second consecutive season, Price is pacing Pitt’s pass rush. He had a team-high 11.5 last year.
“He is an elite player on the edge,” Clemson center Jay Guillermo said. “Then they have big guys in the middle. That No. 6 (Tyrique Jarrett) is a big guy in the middle. He weighs like 330 pounds or something, and he moves well for how big he is. That’s the crazy thing to me. When I saw how big he was, I thought he would be a slug, but he actually moves pretty well for his size.”
Jarrett and Price have helped the Panthers, who have been hit hard by injuries on the defensive side of the ball, stay relatively good at stopping the run. Pitt ranks third in the ACC and 13th nationally against the run, allowing 111.6 yards per game on the ground.
“They are pretty challenging up front,” Guillermo said. “The things they do with their linebacker can be challenging so we have to be very disciplined in our footwork and with our assignments. We just have to play technically sound football.
“The good thing is we did that last week. Syracuse threw a bunch at us that can really hurt you and can really confuse you and for us to pick it up the way we did, it was really, really good to see, especially from some of the younger guys that got in. They did not miss a beat.”
Clemson has not missed many things this year when it comes to keeping quarterback Deshaun Watson upright. They did not allow a sack in the Syracuse win, and Watson has been tackled behind the line of scrimmage just 11 times all year – 14th best in the nation. Just half of those sacks have been charged to the offensive line.
“They are a very good football team, defensively. They stop the run, and that is something, obviously, we want to get going because that is what makes us a better football team whenever we can run the football,” Guillermo said. “It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Though Clemson (9-0, 6-0 ACC) wants to run the football, throwing the football might be the better option.
The Panthers (5-4, 2-3 ACC) have had a hard time stopping the pass, allowing a league worst 317 yards a game through the air. That ranks 126th out of 128 FBS schools.
That has allowed them to give up 428.7 yards and 34.4 points per game, which ranks last in the ACC. It’s pretty obvious where the Tigers’ plan of attack will be on Saturday.