It’s been a while since Clemson has shown this kind of vulnerability.
After losing just three games the previous three seasons combined, the Tigers have already lost two through the first four games of this one. The latest came in double-overtime fashion Saturday at North Carolina State.
No. 19 Clemson (2-2, 1-1 ACC) took a tumble in the AP and coaches polls Sunday, marking the first time since 2015 the Tigers have fallen outside the top 10 in the rankings. Given the fact no two-loss team has ever reached the College Football Playoff, Clemson’s chances of making it back for a seventh straight season are closer to none than slim even if they win a seventh straight ACC championship. Even that is far from a guarantee with the way the offense is playing and all the injuries on the other side of the ball that are mounting.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said all he’s concerned about is helping the Tigers find a way to beat their next opponent, Boston College, on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
“(Our program) is built the right way, and we’ll respond,” Swinney said. “We’re not immune to having bad moments. We’re not entitled to win the league. We’re not entitled to go to the playoff and all of those type of things. We’ve got a talented team, and we’re not where we thought we would be right now. And there’s not anything we can do about that other than just keep grinding and keep working. That’s what we’re going to do. That’s what I’ve always done.”
The defense is dealing with another blow to the interior of its defensive line. After losing defensive tackle Tyler Davis for the foreseeable future to a bicep injury, Swinney revealed Bryan Bresee tore his ACL in the second half against the Wolfpack and will undergo season-ending surgery, leaving the Tigers without one of the ACC’s top defensive tackle duos for the time being. Linebacker James Skalski (shoulder) also left the game in the first half and didn’t return, though Swinney said Sunday the sixth-year senior will be “fine.”
Yet Clemson still held N.C. State to 14 points in regulation before attrition and fatigue caught up to the defense in overtime. The Tigers’ biggest issue continues to be an offense that’s struggling to find any consistent footing as they go through life without Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne.
The group mustered just 103 rushing yards (37 of which came on one play), 214 total yards (second-fewest of the season) and went three quarters in between first downs. The offense hasn’t scored more than 14 points in regulation so far this season and is dealing with a personnel loss of its own for the time being. Freshman Will Shipley, the Tigers’ leading rusher, injured his lower leg in the first overtime Saturday and will likely miss the next three to four weeks, Swinney said.
How does the offense gets things turned around at this point? Swinney turned the focus on him with his answer.
“We’ve got good people that care, and it’s important to them. And when you’ve got talented people, then you can get it turned around,” Swinney said. “They’re just a bunch right now that’s not playing with a lot of confidence. Fundamentals are not anywhere near what they need to be, and that’s nobody’s fault but mine. It’s all my responsibility.
“I understand everybody is disappointed. You best believe nobody’s more disappointed than the people on this team and on this staff.”
Football season has finally arrived. Time to represent your Tigers and show your stripes!