No. 4 Clemson’s struggles up front offensively continued in South Bend last weekend when the then-top-ranked Tigers rushed for only 34 yards and averaged just 1 yard per carry in Saturday’s 47-40 double overtime loss to now-No. 2 Notre Dame.
Star running back Travis Etienne carried the ball 18 times for 28 yards, the fewest rushing yards he has had in a game since his freshman season in 2017 when he recorded 22 yards on four attempts in the College Football Playoff semifinal against Alabama.
Clemson’s ineffectiveness in the ground game against the Fighting Irish, according to starting right guard Will Putnam, came down to the offensive line’s inability to push the stout Notre Dame defensive front off the ball in the trenches.
The Irish defense ranks fourth in college football in rushing defense, allowing slightly more than 85 yards per game.
“I mean, they’re another top-five team, really good team,” Putnam said this week. “They play with great effort and they were flying to the ball pretty good. Up front, I don’t think we were able to move people as well as we wanted to. But like any game, I think we did some really good things, and I think we also did things that we need to work on. And that’s good going into this bye week, we’ve got extra time to kind of reflect and work on those things that we didn’t do so well.”
Although the Tigers have the fourth most rushing touchdowns in the country with 21, they head into Week 11 of the season ranked 78th nationally in rushing offense (150.0 yards per game) and tied for 72nd in average yards per attempt (4.08).
A week prior to the Notre Dame game, Clemson was held to 106 yards rushing and 3.4 yards per carry in its 34-28 win over Boston College.
From Putnam’s perspective, the issues Clemson’s offensive line has had generating push up front can be chalked up to a lack of technique, something the unit will try to clean up during the bye week as the Tigers get ready to play Florida State in Tallahassee next Saturday, Nov. 21.
“I think a lot of that stuff, it really comes down to technique is a lot of it – hand placement, pad level, driving your feet and then also having some knowledge, being able to kind of anticipate movement and stuff like that,” Putnam said. “But I would say those are probably the biggest things to help improve those things.”
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