By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- Although they came away with a 56-45 win over Maryland on Saturday, the Tigers had to come back from an 18 point deficit twice in order to bury the Terrapins. It didn’t look good for the Tigers at several points throughout the game, but between quarterback Tajh Boyd making good plays in the second half, and freshman Sammy Watkins having a career day, the Tigers were able to come away with the win.
“I think we’ve all gotten pretty accustomed to Tajh and what he looked like versus Auburn, Florida State and we expect that every week,” Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris said on Monday. “He came out against Maryland very off his game and maybe I didn’t throw the ball enough in that opening drive to give him something simple to hit, but he definitely wasn’t the Tajh we normally see. He was frustrated a little bit, the first time I’ve seen him out of his element, he knew that with us being behind, some of it was on him. Sometimes you have those games though and you have to try to pull through it and Tajh did that. I told him, in order for us to win this ball game you’ve got to make big plays, I told him that if I needed to get Cole Stoudt ready I would but he promised that he would go out there and be fine. I was very proud of him and the way he came back from that disappointing start to the game.”
At no point in time throughout the Maryland game did Boyd or Morris believe that they were going to lose the game.
“At one point in the fourth quarter when we were really rolling I looked at Tajh and told him, this is just an average night in Conference USA.”
Morris knew that things were changing on the sidelines when he heard Dwayne Allen quote something that Coach Morris had said during an offensive meeting earlier in the season.
“I started really seeing our team come on when Dwayne made a comment, he called the players up and said if we’ve got to go score 50 to win this game, let’s go score 50. When Maryland scored again, Dwayne called them back up and said if we’ve got to score 70 lets go out there and do it. They believe that there’s no deficit too big, there’s no one that these guys don’t believe that they could line up and beat. That’s what you saw this weekend, maybe not the way our fans would’ve liked to see it come together, but you’ve got to have games in which you battle through adversity.”
One of the ways the Tigers found a way to win against the Terrapins was through the play of freshman phenom Sammy Watkins, who although started the game off making a few mistakes, came back to have a career night.
“That says a lot about his maturity level,” Morris said. “He’s far more mature than his age shows, he had a couple of mental mistakes but it wasn’t panic, he overcomes mistakes very quickly. I just told him after the mistake to hang in there, I had to flip on my counselor button and tell him to relax, and that we needed him in order to win.”
When asked what he may do differently next time the Tigers take the road against GA Tech to keep Boyd from coming out shaky in the first quarter like he’s done against Maryland and Virginia Tech, Morris kidded,
“I may have him stay in my room; you just have to deal with it though. You have to remind yourself that this is a young man who’s only played 7 ball games, he’s had an unbelievable start and we wouldn’t be in this position that we’re in if Tajh Boyd wasn’t playing the way he’s playing.”
After a full week of practice, Andre Ellington showed that he was back to his healthy self; however Coach Morris believes that he may have left 50 or 60 yards on the field.
“You sensed his temperament, his excitement level, the fire in his belly,” Morris said. “I was definitely pleased to see him work out all last week and perform so well in a game situation. Anytime you can run the football the way he did, it opens your playbook up in that regard.”
As for his offensive line, Morris couldn’t be more pleased with the way the big guys up front performed and helped Clemson to over 570 yards of total offense.
“Dalton Freeman, Philip Price and Landon Walker all graded out really well,” Morris said. “Both guys on the edge and Dalton in the center just really played well.”
Price, a former walk-on tight end for the Tigers earned the starting left tackle position in spring practice, however has continued to play like he’s played the position for several years.
“Well one thing I see out of Philip is he’s mean, tough, rugged,” Morris said. “People have told him that he can’t and he won’t and he keeps proving people wrong. People tell him, you’re a walk on you can’t start at Clemson, you’re a walk on you can’t do this, that’s all he’s heard and he continues to prove everyone wrong. He’s playing as well as anybody, and again he gets his ankle rolled up or his shoulder hurts and he’s right back in there the next play. He’s a gritty performer, a guy that you want on your team.”
Another player that continues to play a pivotal role in the Tigers success this season according to Morris is wide receiver Jaron Brown.
“When I saw Jaron in the spring, I didn’t know what to think because of our lack of speed, didn’t know what kind of gamer he was.” Morris said. “But I tell him now after he continues to make big play after big play he’s such an integral part of this offense; he’s the unsung hero right now. DA is getting a lot of notoriety and credit, so is Tajh, Sammy and Nuk, and then here’s Jaron Brown and he continues to make 3rd down catch after 3rd down catch and he loves his role. He’s a gamer and I’m excited about Jaron and his future.”
It looked like it might have gotten a little dangerous on the sidelines on Saturday after Ellington’s touchdown run that sealed the win for the Tigers, with Coach Swinney embracing Coach Morris and almost knocking him off of his feet.
“He almost knocked me off balance there, luckily I had my cleats on,” Morris said. “It’s just excitement and we’ve seen that from Coach Swinney and the players feed off of it. He loves his players which we all do, there’s something going on you’ve just have to take it one day at a time, and I think that was when I told him though that it was just an average night in Conference USA.”
Although Morris hasn’t had time to sit and think about the success Clemson’s had this season, one thing he does know is that it’s a snowball effect.
“There are high profile recruits all over the country watching our games and seeing the offense we run at Clemson,” Morris said. “The notoriety that we’re getting is attracting these recruits and it’s a snowball it gets a little bigger and a little bigger, and as a coach and offensive coordinator, I talk to Coach Swinney about it all of the time, we can’t overcomplicate what we’re doing, just add some window dressing.”