Before their game with Louisville, no one gave Clemson’s offensive line much credit, and it was probably deserved.
Through the first month of the season, the Tigers’ front line did not resemble the same one that pushed around Alabama and Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff. Their best outing on the ground was a 222-yard effort against S.C. State.
Clemson was averaging just 4.2 yards a carry, down nearly a yard from last season. The Tigers’ coaches and players kept preaching patience and saying things were coming around. They said they just needed to gel, especially with two new starters at left guard (Taylor Hear) and right tackle (Jake Fruhmorgen).
“We went back to the basics of the main runs we usually have and the offensive line is focusing on who they have and focusing on making the best blocks that they can instead of worrying about everything else,” running back Wayne Gallman said on Monday.
Going back to the basics worked.
Clemson rushed for 202 yards against perhaps the best front seven they will see the rest of the regular season. Gallman rushed for 110 yards on 16 carries, while quarterback Deshaun Watson ran 14 times for 91 yards.
As a whole, the Tigers averaged 6.5 yards per carry. And after giving up 22 tackles for loss in the first four games, Louisville had just two. The Cardinals, who had 15 sacks coming into the game, had no sacks and no quarterback pressures.
“We are good at so many things, but you just have to do your job and we all have one job. That’s the one thing in the running game that we really picked up on,” Gallman said.
Right guard Tyrone Crowder says Saturday’s performance against Louisville can be a confidence boost as his group continues to grow and gel as a cohesive unit.
“In this game we established the run better than we had in the previous games. It is a confidence builder for us as an offensive line,” he said.
“We don’t really pay attention (to what people were saying), but you hear it obviously,” Crowder continued. “We just want to make sure they know we are not some kind of slapsticks.”
It was Clemson that did the slapping as Gallman and Watson were running through big lanes most of the night. Watson broke off a 23-yard run in the game, while Gallman was not touched on his 24-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
“We really just played physical,” Crowder said. “We knew what we were capable of. We just kind of had to bring it out.”