'I thought he had a heck of a plan'
On Saturday, Clemson had success against a Pittsburgh run defense that ranks in the top 20 nationally, allowing just over 109 rushing yards per game.
The Tigers ran for 164 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns on 30 carries, averaging 5.5 yards per tote. But after running the ball effectively early in the game, they seemed to get away from the run as the game wore on.
So, did Clemson (4-3, 3-2 ACC) abandon the run a little too much at certain points in Saturday’s 27-17 loss to Pittsburgh (6-1, 3-0) at Heinz Field?
Dabo Swinney was asked that question in his postgame press conference, and Clemson’s head coach backed offensive coordinator Tony Elliott’s play-calling.
“We’ll evaluate that once we go through the tape. But I thought Tony called a great game,” Swinney said. “I thought he had a good plan. Again, we just didn’t take advantage of the opportunities. You’re not going to win if you don’t make the routine plays, and we knew we were going to have to make a few more competitive plays than we did. And then taking care of the football was critical – we’re going in to score there on the first interception. So, just some critical mistakes. And some of it was some RPO (run-pass option) stuff. But I thought Tony did a good job. I thought he had a heck of a plan, and we just didn’t get it done.”
Elliott was asked during his postgame media availability whether the 30 rushing attempts Clemson recorded during the game were enough, given the 5.5 yards per carry that the Tigers averaged.
“Just coming in with the structure, the way that they attacked the run, and nobody really had been able to run the football on them,” Elliott said. “We had a lot of RPO stuff, and so some of those carries — some of those hitches and those little stop routes that we were taking, some of the quick speed outs that we were taking — were just an extension of the run when one of the overhang players was folding in. So, you could look at it that way.
“But for us, we knew that we were going to have to run it effective, and I think the 5 yards a carry is effective. But we knew we were going to have to have RPO, and then the way that you’ve got to beat these guys is if you can schematically find a matchup, you’ve got to make the play, or you’ve got to go win on the contested plays down the field.”
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