By Will Vandervort
Warning to The Citadel, South Carolina and to whomever sixth-ranked Clemson plays in its bowl game, the Tigers offense still has not played its best game of the season, yet ranks 11th nationally in scoring offense, ninth in passing offense and ninth in total offense.
“We are still looking for that game where we can just break every record we can as an offense,” quarterback Tajh Boyd said Tuesday. “We still have opportunities this season so we want to make the most of every opportunity we have.”
In the last three games, Clemson (9-1) has come close to having that breakout game. The Tigers racked up 540 yards and 40 points in a win at Maryland, but settled for four Chandler Catanzaro field goals in the process, which left them wanting more.
In a victory at Virginia the following week, Clemson totaled a season-high 610 yards and scored 59 points, yet it struggled on three straight possessions near the end of the first quarter and on into the second quarter where it went three-and-out despite getting the ball near midfield each time.
In last week’s win over Georgia Tech, the Tigers scored 55 points and had 551 yards of total offense, but left some points out on the field, especially early in the game when two promising drives bogged down and Catanzaro made field goals of 40 and 51 yards.
“I think we are playing really confident, comfortable and are really having a lot of fun,” Boyd said. “Guys are out there and we are focused on each play at hand. There is no thing about the last drive or the next drive or anything of that nature.
“We are only trying to accomplish what we can at that particular moment and I think you see that with some of the guys.”
During its current three-game win streak, Clemson is averaging 51.3 points and 567 total yards a game. Boyd suggests that the reason things are starting to click is because the offensive line is coming together and is opening up holes in the running game. Martavis Bryant has come on and has become the big-play threat they knew he could be and freshman wide receiver Mike Williams is also showing what he can do.
There is also the increase in production in running back Rod McDowell.
“All of these guys are just coming together at the right time and are playing their best football,” Boyd said. “Anytime you have a football program, you envision playing your best ball at the end of the year and I think that is what we are doing right now.”
Boyd said the loss to Florida State kind of put things in perspective for them. It showed them, truly, that if they don’t play to their absolute best and give great effort, then they are not going to put themselves in position to win the game.
“You have to do everything in your power to make sure you are in a position to win that game,” Boyd said. “When you don’t put yourself in position to be successful that is the most disappointing thing about it.”
Every once in a while, Boyd and his teammates think back to what it might have been like had they played better against the Seminoles, a game in which they turned the ball over a season-high four times and had just 326 yards of offense.
“We wish we could play those guys again, but for whatever the reason the championship is not set up that way,” he said. “But at the same time we are solely focused on being the best team that we can possibly be and right now that is 11-1.”
And that means the Tigers are not looking past The Citadel and at next week’s game against archrival South Carolina, a team that has beaten Clemson four years in a row. Boyd says Clemson’s focus is squarely on the Bulldogs, not the Gamecocks.
“I don’t think it is something we have to talk about too much,” he said. “Maybe in the past it would be something we would have to talk about and make sure the focus is there and where it needs to be.
“This is a pretty focused team. We are always dialed in and always engaged in what we are trying to accomplish and what we are trying to do.”