By William Qualkinbush.
Since Chad Morris arrived at Clemson in 2011, the Tigers have been the type of team that extends leads early and coasts at the end.
Those days seemed like ancient history to the fans who witnessed a tense 16-6 win over Syracuse on Homecoming Saturday. Clemson found itself in a four-quarter game and had to figure out how to win it.
For Morris, there was only one way to cement a tough win after trudging through the muck for three quarters: Run the ball.
“When we had to run the football right there at the end—when we wanted to run the football—we put it on them to run the football,” Morris said. “I wasn’t going to throw the football. We were going to run the football.”
Even given his sense of clarity, Morris’ options were limited. C.J. Davidson ran hard in the first half, but he fumbled a pitch in the red zone and was neither seen nor heard from again. D.J. Howard had been ineffective, and Adam Choice was on the sidelines injured.
Whether by choice or by default, there was no mistaking Morris’ decision. It was Gallman who would put the finishing touches on the victory.
The redshirt freshman delivered, becoming the first 100-yard rusher for the Tigers this season as the featured back down the stretch. For the game, Gallman totaled 101 yards on 28 carries—both season highs for Clemson.
Gallman never asked to be the man down the stretch. He did not have to. He knew what was coming.
“I didn’t say anything,” Gallman said. “They just kept feeding me, and I just took whatever I had.”
Perhaps the most impressive drive of the game for the Tigers was the last one. They started on their own 24 and managed to matriculate the ball all the way inside the Syracuse 10 before taking a knee and ending the game.
That drive ate up the final 8:17 of game time, much of which the Clemson faithful spent watching Gallman run. He toted the rock nine times for 24 yards and was the decoy for two chunk runs by Cole Stoudt and a pair of playaction passes.
“We were very simple,” Morris said. “We just felt like if we could be simple and play fast, that would work to our advantage in the end.”
Morris knew simplicity was his best shot to hold the ball because of the way injuries have wrecked his running game. No fewer than three tailbacks and two offensive linemen missed Saturday’s game for a variety of reasons. That does not include in-game injuries to Ryan Norton and Kalon Davis that limited the exposure for both players.
“We’re asking a lot of guys to do a lot of things right now,” Morris said. “We’re asking guys to step out of their comfort zone and do some things.”
“It makes it hard, but it also gets me in the mindset that I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to get that extra yard,” Gallman said of the uncertainty up front. “It’s all about effort.”
The effort Gallman gave carrying the football more than 20 times after the half—including the nine-carry barrage on the final drive—came at a critical time for Clemson. It was unconventional and unappealing, but it was the way it had to be done to preserve the season’s sixth win.