By Gray Gardner.
Landon Walker met with the media Monday morning, answering questions about the team’s win against NC State, the offense’s inability to run the ball, and the schematics of Clemson’s offensive game-plan.
Q: Were the three worst of plays of the season for the offensive line the last two plays of the first half and the first play of the second half? (Each resulted in a sack.)
LW: Yeah that’s probably a good assumption. Sometimes that kind of stuff happens, and it doesn’t really happen out of us a lot, so when something bad happens people notice it I guess. You know, we’re running 2-minute drill at the end of the first half trying to get a touchdown and you get that holding call on me – which was holding, by the way, I happened to check it out on film. It was pretty obvious when I watched it. And then you know, that sack by me and then I think someone else gave up a sack. Anytime you run 2-minute drill – you know that situation – people in the stands don’t really understand how easy it is for them to get a sack when they know 100% that you’re passing the ball. As bad as it looked, it wasn’t really as bad.
Q: Just in general terms – first half and second half – what was the difference?
LW: Things just weren’t going our way at all. The defense was stepping up and stopping Russell Wilson, doing everything they could do. We just kept knocking at that tree and it finally came down and we got that touchdown towards the end of the fourth quarter. It was just crazy how we actually ended up winning that game. I think that we were honestly outplayed by the defense. We were just meant to win.
Q: You guys have been real good in the red-zone all season but have struggled the last two games. What’s going on when you get inside the 20?
LW: I don’t know. I was actually thinking about that this morning. I just can’t figure it out. It seems like we get these 15 play, 9 play drives, 12 play drives, then we get to the red-zone and it’s just like, “What’s going on?” It’s not like we haven’t face some good defenses but at the same time, we’ve got to make plays when we got to make them. Whether it was a fumble, or a dropped ball, or a holding call, those are just the things you can’t do to win a ballgame. We just have to be more disciplined than that this week if we want to win in Tallahassee.
Q: Was it anything that NC State was doing or was it more of just your own mistakes?
LW: No I think more just mistakes. I don’t think they really affected us that much. More of it was just us. But just as many plays that didn’t go our way on offense did go our way on defense and special teams, so you just have to go away with that kind of stuff.
Q: What do you make of the running game?
LW: I don’t know. We didn’t get that many yards a rush. We were kind of struggling a little bit. It wasn’t nothing we haven’t seen this year. Jamie Harper ran really well. But you got to look at it this way too – we did have our best rusher out of the game. But I think up front we could have played better too. Watching film, there’s some little things we can do to work on, you know, hands inside, get on this guy, things that would help just a little bit.
Q: What do you make of the rushing numbers being down from this time last year despite returning four starters up front, having Ellington and Harper back, having Chad Diehl back?
LW: Tough breaks, probably. You can’t always compare and contrast to the past. There have been some key games where things haven’t gone our way and we just haven’t performed as well as we should. I feel like up front we’ve played good almost every game. I think Saturday was all right for us, we didn’t play good we didn’t play bad.
Q: But people look at the fact that rushing numbers are down despite all these returning players and they say, “Well, the o-line isn’t as good as it was last year,” or, “They’re not better like they were supposed to be” – you don’t think that necessarily is the case?
LW: Well I don’t think that wouldn’t make any sense, for one. But no, I don’t think that reflects what’s happening. No I don’t. Obviously things don’t go our way sometimes like at Boston College. You’re not gonna have a 100-yard rushing game every game and if you do you do, if you don’t you don’t. But I think being a balanced offense is huge too and being able to protect Kyle (Parker) is important. And we had some issues Saturday, but it wasn’t bad enough where every time he was back there he couldn’t get the ball off.
Q: You think the o-line has been better this year?
LW: I think so. I think so. I mean we lost T.A. (Thomas Austin) obviously, and T.A. was a great player, but David Smith is a great player too. I don’t think the offensive line has been ineffective at all.
Q: Is pass protection the biggest thing you guys are concerned with this week against Florida State?
LW: Yeah I mean they’re a great rushing team. Obviously. But like I said, being balanced, we’ll see what we have to do. If we get in there and can run the ball really well then we won’t have to throw a lot. If the run game is slow a little bit at first then we’ll have to throw the ball. We’re going to do what we have to do. It’s going to take a lot of focus and a lot of attention from every body.
Q: The past two weeks, not having success running the ball, have adjustments been made to the blocking scheme before the run game is abandoned or does the game-plan shift to, “Okay we’re going to pass the ball because we can’t run it?”
LW: Schematically, Coach Napier, what he’s doing in the box, I really don’t know what his thinking is when the running is not there. I honestly think that he doesn’t ever throw the running game completely out the window when it’s not working that well. He’ll pass the ball some I guess and then we’ll still try to give it a chance throughout the game. Obviously some times, like Saturday, it just wasn’t there all the time. I don’t like to think we ever throw the running game out when it’s not working at the first of the game. It’s just something we gotta be able to work on – coming out and being able to run the ball hard.
Q: Have you seen any offensive tendencies – like throwing out of the shotgun – that you need to work on this week?
LW: Being predictable? I don’t know. It’s hard to say if we are or not. Every team, when you’re running the ball, you’re gonna know. If we have tendencies, that may be. If so, well that’s not something I can deal with. I just have line up and do my job. That shouldn’t affect us. If they know we’re running the ball that just means we have to come off the ball even harder and do our jobs.