Clemson has struggled to run the football this year.
The numbers are quite the contrast compared to the last two years when the Tigers tallied nine games total with at least 300 yards on the ground. They have not even sniffed the 300-yard plateau in a game this year and just once have they rushed for more than 200 yards, which was 258 yards against Miami on Oct. 10.
“We have been in some situations where people are just trying to stop Travis (Etienne). I think they are trying to just pick one element of our offense to take away,” Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said.
But it is not all about what defenses are doing. Elliott admitted there have been some technique and fundamental issues that they have not been executing cleanly.
“You have even heard guys say to the media that we have to get back to the basics,” Elliott said.
How big of a drop off has Clemson had when it comes to running the football this year?
In 2018, the Tigers averaged 248.2 yards per game and 6.6 yards per carry. They rushed for more than 200 yards 10 times, including 492 against Louisville and 472 against Wake Forest.
Last year, Clemson took a slight dip, averaging 240.4 yards per game and 6.4 per carry. The Tigers again had 10 games in which it ran for 200-plus yards, including 419 against Wofford and 411 against Georgia Tech.
This year, Clemson’s production is down almost 100 yards per game from where it was in 2018, 149.4 yards. It is also averaging less than two yards per carry than it has the last two years. The Tigers are averaging just 4.1 yards per carry this season.
Against Notre Dame on Nov. 7, Clemson ran for just 34 yards, it’s lowest total single-game total in nine seasons.
“Teams are attacking the line of scrimmage a lot more and are not letting us get on double teams, which in the past some teams would do,” Elliott said. “You expected it out of a Boston College, but a lot more people are doing that.
“We played some structures where they got an extra hat where we can’t get going before there is that contact on Travis. So, it is just a combination of things.”
However, Elliott saw some improvement against Pittsburgh. The Tigers rushed for 145 yards against Pitt, a Pitt defense that was allowing just 88 yards per game on the ground coming in. They also had a season-high four rushing touchdowns in the 52-17 victory.
“I thought we got back to the basics,” Elliott said. “I thought our execution on the double teams was much improved from the week before. Guys were ready to snap off on linebackers, so they were anticipating those guys fitting the run quicker to create single blocks.
“There were a couple of things that I have noticed, and people have dared us to pass the ball with guys out. We have (Joseph) Ngata out. You have (Frank) Ladson out. You have some young guys that had to step up and you have Cornell (Powell), who really has not shown what his true capability was on tape. I just think it was a combination of things.”
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