A couple of months removed from the 42-25 loss to LSU in the College Football Playoff national championship game on Jan. 13, Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott looks back on it and admits he probably should have given Travis Etienne some more carries.
After rushing for 64 yards on 10 attempts in the first half, Etienne ran just five times for 14 yards in the final two quarters. After scoring on a 3-yard rushing touchdown with 10:49 left in the third quarter, Etienne took only one more handoff and did not have a rushing attempt in the fourth quarter.
To Elliott’s defense, the number of opportunities for Etienne to tote the rock in the second half were limited as the Tigers tried to play catch-up, down by 10 points with around five minutes remaining in the third quarter and later trailing by 17 points near the 12-minute mark of the fourth frame.
Still, Elliott wishes he had gotten his star running back more involved in the final 30 minutes.
“Probably just in the second half, got the ball in Travis’s hands a little bit more, maybe stick with the run game,” Elliott said following Wednesday’s spring practice. “But they got on fire and they were scoring, and we were trying to score fast.”
Clemson managed to score only eight points after taking a 17-7 lead with 10:38 to go in the first half, and Elliott knows the complexion of the game could have been different if his offense had been able to put more points on the board and in the process, put more pressure on LSU’s offense.
“The biggest thing was not scoring,” he said. “I think if we score touchdowns on those early drives, I think that you might’ve been able to distance yourself to where now they go into panic mode. But when we were kicking field goals and not converting for touchdowns, that’s probably the biggest thing there.”
Clemson’s offense struggled on third down to the tune of a 1-for-11 clip and turned the ball over once while losing the time-of-possession battle to LSU, 25:15 to 34:45.
Elliott pointed out that the Tigers had their share of chances to find the end zone more than they did but simply failed to capitalize on those opportunities. Clemson’s 394 total yards of offense was its third-lowest output of the season.
“There were a couple of just missed plays,” he said. “We had a couple third downs that were batted. We had one screen play where I think we were down – it was a one-score game – we had a screen play out there to Travis. If we make that block, Travis is going to go score. So, the biggest thing is scoring those early touchdowns, and then in the second half, just probably keeping the ball in our hands, putting together some drives and then try to get it close in the fourth quarter.”
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