It was certainly not a pretty performance by Clemson’s offense against Georgia on Saturday night in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
The third-ranked Tigers, in their 10-3 loss to the fifth-ranked Bulldogs, were held without a touchdown in a game for just the third time during Dabo Swinney’s tenure.
Clemson had just 2 yards rushing, its fewest in a game under Swinney and the fourth-fewest in school history, and the team’s longest rush went for 10 yards.
Meanwhile, the Tigers allowed seven sacks, the most in a game under Swinney.
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit made an appearance on SportsCenter and reacted to Clemson’s offensive struggles against Georgia, pointing to the running game — or lack thereof — as a reason why the Bulldogs were able to pin their ears back and get after D.J. Uiagalelei all night long.
“Travis Etienne’s not in that backfield,” Herbstreit said. “Trevor Lawrence, we’ve talked all about. But without Travis Etienne, without a great offensive line, you’re susceptible. You can’t run the ball — I don’t care who you are as a quarterback — you become one-dimensional, you become predictable against a great defense, and then they just key off on your offensive line.”
Herbstreit tipped his cap to Clemson’s defense, which did not allow an offensive touchdown to Georgia and kept the Tigers in the game despite their issues on the other side of the ball.
Even with just three points on the board, Clemson had an opportunity to tie the game late when the offense took possession with around seven and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, before ultimately turning the ball over on downs at the UGA 45-yard line following an incomplete pass from Uiagalelei intended for E.J. Williams.
UGA regained possession with about five minutes remaining and proceeded to run out the clock and seal the win.
“It was a tough night for Clemson’s offense,” Herbstreit said. “Now, give them credit because the defense kind of kept them in there. They made it a one-possession game and it looked like they may have a shot to maybe tie it late, and Georgia of course showed that they’re one of the top teams in the country for a reason.”
ESPN play-by-play man Chris Fowler asked Herbstreit on SportsCenter how concerned the Tigers should be about their College Football Playoff chances following the season-opening defeat at the paws of the Bulldogs.
“I’m concerned,” Herbstreit said. “I know they’re in the ACC and they’re going to be a lot better than most teams they play. But their offense has got to find an identity. They’re going to have to find an ability to run the football. They’re going to have to find a way to get that offensive line to play with more continuity, and it’ll take a lot of pressure off of D.J. and the receivers.
“So, right now, I don’t care who they play — it’s more about me, it’s about us, if I’m Clemson, trying to kind of get things going. Remember, Ohio State game didn’t go well for their offense, and now with a lot of new faces, they get off to a slow start offensively. So, they’ve just got to go back and fix things, get their confidence back.”
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