It does not matter if it runs for 492 yards or throws for 404, whatever it chooses to do on that particular day, second-ranked Clemson is making it look easy.
In Saturday’s 77-16 victory over Louisville, the Tigers ran for 492 yards, the fourth best rushing performance in the program’s history and the second time this year they have rushed for 450-plus yards in a game this season.
Clemson ran for 471 yards at Wake Forest on Oct. 6. In the Tigers win over NC State on Oct. 20, they threw for 380 yards. Last week, against Florida State, they threw for 404 yards. It was obvious the last two weeks the Wolfpack and Seminoles wanted to shut down the running game.
On Saturday, Louisville was trying to prevent the big plays in the Clemson passing game, which it did for the most part. However, the Cardinals gave up runs of 70, 55, 41, 30 and 25 yards.
“It shows how balanced we can be,” Clemson co-offensive Tony Elliott said. “Really, it has kind of been lopsided at times like last week. We did go over 100 yards rushing, but we had to throw it for 400. Obviously, today, with the running game we did not have to throw it quite as much so it gives you confidence going into games when you are going to have to do both, so you are going to have to stay balanced.
“Also, I think it puts pressure on defensive coordinators. ‘What are we going to try and take away because if we take this away, then we know they are good at this as well.’ So, it gives an opportunity to stay balanced, get a lot of guys involved and be aggressive and attacking on all cylinders.”
It also helped that Louisville came into Saturday’s game ranked last in the ACC in rushing yards allowed, yielding more than 250 yards a game.
Nonetheless, the Tigers (9-0, 6-0 ACC) took advantage as Travis Etienne (153), Lyn-J Dixon (116) and Tavien Feaster (101) all went over 100 yards, the second time this year the Tigers have had three running backs run for 100 yards in the same game. They also did it at Wake Forest. Prior to the Wake Forest game, it was 12 years.
“The biggest thing for us, is we want to be able to do what we want to do at times and what we have to do at times,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “There are going to be times in the year when we are going to have to lean on both of those.
“I think it also sends a message that however you want to play us, we have answers. That is really the big thing. It is our job as coaches to give our players answers.”
And Clemson had plenty of answers with its running game on Saturday.