While Clemson’s offense didn’t light the world on fire in its previous matchup against Boston College, there were encouraging signs of things to come as the Tigers headed into their open date.
It couldn’t have come at a better time for a team that’s been reeling with injuries. Though, Clemson had 14 scholarship players unavailable during Friday night’s 17-14 win over Syracuse.
“The biggest thing for us was trying to get healthy,” Tony Elliott said postgame. “We had a lot of guys out and we lost E.J. [Williams] this week, Frank [Lasdon, Jr.] was available. So, we had to get healthy more than anything. And, really focus on us and the details. Thought we had momentum coming out of Boston College, man you go watch the offensive line play, I thought we took a step forward.”
If Clemson’s offensive performance against Boston College was a step forward, then the unit’s display against Syracuse may have been two steps back.
Elliott was excited to get the ball rolling come Friday. Clemson’s offensive coordinator/tight end coach indicated that there were some new wrinkles in the team’s offense, as D.J. Uiagalelei went under center for the first time this season.
It wasn’t all different, though, as the same mistakes that have plagued Clemson’s offense all season, reared their ugly head again Friday.
“In the run game, just a little bit of a change-up, get those backs, you look at Kobe [Pace], you look at [Phil] Mafah, they’re bigger guys and get them going downhill, let’s the offensive line fire off the ball,” he said. “So, that was something we worked on. D.J.’s comfortable under center, [which] gives us an opportunity down the road to increase that plan there.”
It was to no avail, even if Uiagalelei had his best game of the season. A telling stat of where the Tigers’ offense is at the moment: Will Spiers had more punting yards (349) than the Clemson offense had total yards (314).
The offensive production was supposed to be different.
The open date gave Clemson a chance to re-group and get the offense on the right track. It was an opportunity for the Tigers to tune out the noise and start putting up the offensive production that is associated with the program.
“I felt good coming out of the open week,” Elliott said. “I thought we had a great week of practice. We really created adversity with the noise in the Indoor Facility. I thought the guys did a good job of handling that…I thought the guys progressed throughout the course of the week and I think they were confident that this was going to be the game that we broke out.”
The Tigers offense has now failed to score 20+ points in regulation against FBS teams in five straight games. Clemson has scored 67 points in regulation through those hames, which is among the worst in the College Football Playoff era.
“I was really, really excited about tonight, and I’m sure when you watch the tape, it’s never as bad as you think, it’s never as good as you think,” Elliott added. “There will probably be a lot of positive things that we can build off of, but just an opportunity as well for us to continue to grow and teach and improve, especially when we’re facing odd structures.”