Clemson’s first-team offense moved the ball up and down the field at will against The Citadel on Saturday when the top-ranked Tigers piled up 49 first-half points in the 49-0 victory – their most points in the first two quarters of play since scoring 49 against Temple in a 63-9 win on Oct. 12, 2006.
As good as Clemson’s attack was before the break, the offense stalled out in the second half after the backups entered the game. After totaling 298 yards and scoring touchdowns on its first seven possessions in the first two quarters, the Tigers managed only 107 yards and three first downs while being held scoreless in the second half.
Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was of course pleased with the performance of the starting offense but disappointed the second team didn’t execute the way he had hoped.
“Really proud of the first unit,” he said. “But coming out at halftime, the challenge was protect the quarterback, make sure we take care of the ball, make sure we score points, and unfortunately we weren’t able to hit on those goals in that second half, which will give us a great opportunity over the open week to develop our team by being able to coach the details off the tape.”
In the second half, Clemson’s offense converted only 2-of-7 third-down attempts, went 0-of-2 on fourth down and committed a turnover on a fumble by running back Michel Dukes.
With a lot of young players on the second-team offense still learning to gel together early in the season, the unit struggled to get in sync and on the same page.
“It’s just one guy here, one guy there, but it’s all 11 at the same time executing in order to be successful,” Elliott said. “So, biggest thing is, in my opinion, that we didn’t convert on third down and then we had the turnovers there that really stalled us, and then we weren’t able to get into a true rhythm.
“There’s a lot of guys playing in a lot of different spots, and it’s tough to maybe get some continuity going. But still, the expectation is, in this game right here, make sure that you go out and execute and put yourself in position to score points.”
It was the second straight week Clemson’s offense saw a steep drop-off in production once the starters left the game. In the season opener against Wake Forest, the Tigers failed to score and picked up only three first downs after Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and company scored 37 points in a little less than three quarters.
One of Clemson’s goals on offense is to end every drive with a kick, and preferably not a punt, and Elliott made it clear there is a high standard for the group that is expected to be met regardless of who is in the game.
“The expectation is it doesn’t matter if we’re down an offensive lineman, if we’re down a running back – people are still going to expect Clemson to be Clemson,” Elliott said. “That’s just the mindset we’re trying to create with all these guys, especially in that second half, is that we want to come out and we want to put together drives, we want to go score points. It’s a great opportunity for us to teach, especially these young guys. That’s two games in a row where a lot of the younger guys got an opportunity to play and we still haven’t been able to finish off drives and put it in the end zone.”
With no opponent on the schedule next weekend, the Tigers hope to take advantage of the bye week to really coach up the reserves.
“The biggest thing offensively is just developing our depth, especially in that offensive line, and not turning the ball over, continuing to developing our quarterbacks, because we’ve got to have everybody ready to go,” Swinney said. “We’re very fortunate that we’ve had the opportunity in these first two games to get a lot of guys on tape. Now we have an open date and a chance to really teach and grow our team.”
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