Clemson entered Saturday night’s top-10 matchup against Miami with an aggressive game plan on offense and an eye toward throwing the first punches at the Hurricanes on that side of the ball.
The top-ranked Tigers succeeded in doing just that, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions and never looking back in their eventual 42-17 victory over No. 7 Miami at Death Valley.
“I think for us, part of our plan was we’ve been in these games before, so we wanted to take the fight to them,” Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said, “and I felt like the first couple of drives, we took it to them.”
Clemson started fast offensively against a Miami defense that had allowed 14 points or less in two of its first three games, scoring 14 points in the first 15 minutes and six seconds of Saturday’s game. The Tigers got on the board with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Lawrence to tight end Braden Galloway early in the first quarter and then found the end zone again on a 2-yard run from Travis Etienne to make the score 14-0 at the 14:54 mark of the second frame.
Overall, the Tigers racked up 34 first downs and 550 yards of total offense, its second-highest mark this season behind the 561 yards they amassed in the season opener at Wake Forest on Sept. 12. Clemson produced 292 passing yards and 258 rushing yards, improving to 102-0-1 all-time when gaining at least 200 yards in each category.
Elliott credited his assistant coaches, analysts and other support staff for helping the Tigers put together a balanced and aggressive game plan that the players believed in.
“I think it trickled into the players on the field,” he said. “They felt confident in the plan, they felt like we had a good plan to attack them. If we needed to throw the ball, we were going to throw the ball. If we needed to run it … Once we got into the game, we were kind of able to figure out. They had two weeks to get ready for us, so we were expecting possibly some new stuff. But once we got dialed in on what they were doing, guys went out and executed.”
One of the keys to Clemson’s success offensively was its effectiveness in neutralizing Miami’s defensive line. The Canes came into Saturday’s contest having recorded 10 sacks in three games but managed to notch just one sack against the Tigers.
Thanks to a well-rounded game plan, the Tigers were able to manipulate Miami’s front four and use the unit’s aggressiveness in rushing up the field to their advantage. Clemson wore down the Hurricanes up front in the second half, especially through the ground game as the Tigers rushed for 200 yards on 25 carries in the final two quarters.
“They are very aggressive, very talented up front, do a great job of creating interior penetration and they can box you in with the speed off the edges,” Elliott said. “So, we had to have a plan for both aspects. We had to control the inside guys and not give up penetration so we could run the football inside, and we had to slow those ends down with some tempo, some misdirection, some eye candy, different things to slow those guys down. I thought our guys executed it well.”
As well as Clemson performed again on offense, scoring more than 40 points for the third consecutive game, the Tigers know they still have plenty of room for improvement offensively and could have put up even more points had it not been for mistakes such as a dropped third-down pass by a wide open Frank Ladson that likely would have resulted in a touchdown if he had caught it, and a holding penalty on a second-quarter drive that put them behind the chains and forced them to settle for a field goal attempt which was ultimately blocked.
“The beautiful thing is, we left some stuff out there on the field,” Elliott said. “We left a couple of scoring drives on the field, which is going to be awesome to be able to show these guys and keep them hungry as we move forward.”
Another championship season is underway for the Tigers. It’s time to gear up for another year of Clemson football.
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