By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- After Clemson’s victory over Wake Forest this past weekend which helped the Tigers clinched the Atlantic Division, Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris was told that the Tigers had 522 yards of total offense and his stomach turned, knowing that if his offense would have started clicking sooner, they could have had over 600 yards and the game may not have been such a dog fight.
“I think it’s the tale of three sections of the game,” Morris said. “The first half I thought that we were from an offensive unit you have four drives and score on two, the first one being executed well and then on the next throw an interception. You have to live with those things, the defensive end made a very good play on a ball Tajh threw low. When we got the ball back we went and scored again, for the first half, I was trying to make sure we didn’t get frustrated on the lack of possessions we were getting.”
The third quarter was when the game became interesting, as the Demon Deacons were able to take advantage of the Tigers’ lack of energy and two turnovers and put up 21 points in less than five minutes.
“I felt like that third quarter was as poor of energy from our sidelines to the way we played, it was blah and that’s the nicest word I could say about it,” Morris said. “I was very disappointed in the energy level of obviously the offense, but in general. The whole sidelines were just there and spent the majority of my time on the sidelines telling the offense to start playing with energy. Our tempo stunk, we were walking, and somebody had to give us a spark.”
With 5:37 left in the third quarter, a simple 8 yard completion to freshman Adam Humphries provided that much needed spark and then some.
“From that point forward, you saw the energy level pick up,” Morris said. “It was the tale of three sections, with that being the third. I mentioned it after the ball game that us coaches get concerned after off weeks, because you get out of a flow of things. From a tempo standpoint, we were doing things like walking and standing up, things we’ve never done.”
Besides the two interceptions Wake Forest had on Tajh Boyd, Morris counted six other times that the Demon Deacons could have come up with one of Boyd’s passes.
“I think there are a couple of things you can tie into this,” Morris said. “We’re 9-1 and we wouldn’t be 9-1 without the play of Tajh Boyd, we all know that. But his confidence has grown three fold over the course of the season. You want a quarterback with confidence, with a little bit of swagger, and because of that confidence he’s taken additional chances, he feels like he can make every throw, throw a ball into a Dixie cup when they’re rushing 3 and dropping 8 and that’s something you learn as a quarterback that you can’t do. He forced some across the middle when he had an open receiver on the outside. He has learned his lesson in that, but that’s the youth in him and something he has to improve on.”
The Tigers were forced to play the second half without star receiver Sammy Watkins who suffered an AC Spain and was forced to leave the game for the locker room; however Morris is pleased with how his offense responded to losing their top receiver.
“Sammy has been the spark for us,” Morris said. “We know how valuable Adam Humphries has been to us, and he’s been that way all year long. I’m pleased to see how they responded once they caught that spark. The thing that concerns me is not being efficient on 3rd and 1 to 2. We’re getting several 3rd and 1’s and having to go for it on 4th and 1. I have to go back and reevaluate what we’re doing on 3rd and 1 because going right at them isn’t working.”
Ball security continues to be the problem for the Tigers’. They’ve turned the ball over 13 times offensively all season long, with 7 of those turnovers coming in the last two games.
“That’s a huge concern,” Morris said. “We’ve got our goals and it has championship goals on it. A championship caliber team is still going to throw an interception or fumble the ball but from a passing standpoint it’s 1 out of 33 attempts, running it’s 1 out of 66 attempts. We’ve got to protect the football better, last two weeks we haven’t done it and have had to get into dog fights because of it.”
Some may think that Boyd has become too reliant on his main targets, Sammy Watkins, Nuke Hopkins, and Dwayne Allen and it looked that way Saturday however seven out of Clemson’s nine receivers caught passes.
“I don’t think so because Jaron had a good game and really came into it,” Morris said. “Like any quarterback he knows who his playmakers are and wants to give them the ball and we talk about that. You can’t get locked onto a guy, and he’s done that sometimes but he’s got to go through his reads and trust them as a young quarterback.”
As for the offensive line, from a pass blocking standpoint Morris thinks his big men did very well. From a run game standpoint, Morris believes they could have done more.
“Tajh only got hit once or twice all day today, so I’m very pleased with our pass blocking,” Morris said. “We rushed the ball for 172 yards and I feel like we should have rushed for 250, that’s just my mindset. We want the fourth and four inches back, we’ve got to get better play out of both of our guard positions. They’ve been non efficient in the run game. This needs to be the norm. Yes we’re excited about playing for the ACC Championship, but this is what we’re supposed to do.”
Morris wonders what buttons he has to push for Clemson to win this week against a tough NC State opponent in Raleigh and to win out the remainder of the season.
“We need to be more efficient in the two guard positions,” Morris said. “Without Philip Price this week we’ll have David Smith at guard and Brandon Thomas at left tackle. We’ll also try to get Kalon Davis involved in the rotation at guard. I don’t know where he’ll be for that, I’m very disappointed in how Kalon has practiced over the past few weeks, I’m just not real happy with our guard positions we’re too soft up there.”
Morris has seen Watkins today and he seems to be fine, just a little sore. He’ll be limited today at practice and will be reevaluated at midweek.
“What I’m being told is that there’s a possibility for him to be back with us later on this week or mid week,” Morris said. “He’ll be out there today but Monday’s are a not so involved day. If Sammy is limited against NC State, Adam Humphries will be the guy. He’s proven himself to be a top tier guy, we probably need to get Adam on the field more, and not necessarily at the position he shares with Sammy.”
Morris continues to be pleased with how efficient the Tigers have been on their first drives over the past few weeks; however he doesn’t understand why they seem to flow better offensively when trailing.
“On our first drives we’ve been efficient and have done a good job of taking the ball down the field and scoring,” Morris said. “But then it’s like they feel it’s done or over and they can go eat a hotdog or something. A lot of it is youth and learning a new system. They tried to tell me yesterday about how we had 522 yards of offense and are ranked nationally, but it turns my stomach to know what each game we leave out on the field. Yes we had 522 yards, but we could have had 622 yards and scored more points, we’re not getting that yet but we will. We are doing some good things, I can’t overlook that but I also can’t harp on that. We’re doing well, have a long way to go but I ask the question, what more can we do, how good could we be?”