Though Clemson’s offense struggled in the second quarter of Friday’s 49-28 loss to Ohio State, head coach Dabo Swinney felt it had nothing to do with the fact the Tigers were missing their offensive coordinator.
Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was unable to call the game after testing positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, so Swinney turned to passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter, who was an offensive coordinator for six seasons at the FCS level, to get the job done.
“Streeter did a great job. He really did,” Swinney said. “He did a nice job. We just got in a hole.”
The hole was dug by the Clemson defense. Normally reliable and strong, the defense had no answer for the Buckeyes or quarterback Justin Fields.
After posting a three-and-out on their first possession, Ohio State scored a touchdown on the next five, building a 35-14 lead at halftime.
“The biggest thing was we couldn’t really get consistency in rhythm as far as like ‑‑ like I said, they had five straight touchdown drives,” Swinney said. “Normally we’d get stops, and there was just ‑‑ We got out of the gate pretty good. We had one drive we missed a screen throw that was really a good play. And we missed Davis Allen. Ended up punting there.”
The Clemson offense did get off to a good start, totaling 167 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. But when the defense started to struggle the offense lost its rhythm.
“Again, we got off to a good start,” Swinney said. “Defensively we were really out of rhythm and too many busted big plays, big chunks, posts over the top, guys open, not stopping the run. And it put a lot of pressure [on us].
“Again, five straight touchdowns and we weren’t able to respond like we needed to offensively. In games like this, that’s not the position you want to be in. I thought we would be a little better balanced there, but it just got away.
“Momentum in games like this is huge. It’s huge. It’s like our national championship game a couple years ago out there in California. We weren’t that much better than Alabama. We just ‑‑ the momentum, the big plays, the next thing you know, it just ‑‑ it gets rolling. And it’s a similar situation. Been on both sides of it. Tonight, we were on the wrong side. But, again, our guys kept competing. We kept battling. We did better in the seconds half, but just too little too late. But Street did a great job.”
Clemson (10-2) finished the game with 444 yards, with 400 coming from quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He completed 33-of-48 passes, including two that went for touchdowns.
With Streeter moving from the field to the press box to call plays, he said it was a little strange not having Streeter on the field to talk to after a series.
“I mean, it was a little different, just being on the headset as opposed to him being right there, just us communicating. But the difference it made, I really don’t know,” Lawrence said. “We still, I think, communicated well. But, yeah, obviously it’s different with him not on the sideline, Coach E not being there. All of those things are different. Communication‑wise we were fine, but it was definitely a little bit different.”