At one point in Saturday’s win over Louisville, Clemson was just 1-for-6 on third downs.
Then Trevor Lawrence went 20 yards up the middle on a quarterback draw and the Tigers converted four of their last five to finish the afternoon with 5-for-11, which is a 45-percent success rate.
“We have been pretty good. We finished up 45 percent which is our goal,” head coach Dabo Swinney said Sunday evening. “We had a couple of issues early in the first half with plays that were there. Just making the plays that are there and taking the plays that are there leads to a little more production.”
Converting on third down seems to be the biggest issue for a Clemson offense that seems just a little off from where it finished last year. It appears to be the missing link on where this year’s offense can go.
Last year, the Tigers (7-0, 5-0 ACC) converted 46 percent of their third down attempts.
“We have been pretty good. We have been really good actually. Overall, probably ahead of where we were last year on third down,” Swinney said.
Actually, the Tigers are behind last year. This year, Clemson has converted on just 43 percent of its third down, three percentage points lower than in 2018.
Against Texas A&M, the Tigers were just 3-for-9 on third down and then 5-of-16 against Florida State. Last week, Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott admitted they are still missing Hunter Renfrow a bit, but he feels that it is just a matter of time before guys like Amari Rodgers gets better and better as the season goes along.
The Tigers’ production on third down goes hand-and-hand with how the offense got rolling in the late third and fourth quarter. Clemson scored 28 of its 45 points in the last 19 minutes of the game. It was 4-for-5 on third down during that time span.
“We just have to keep grinding. Five of eleven is pretty good,” Swinney said. “It is right at our standard. It is our standard. We will keep working and hopefully we will have one of those 7-for-11 (games) down the road. Just little things here and there. Nothing major.”
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