Prior to this season, Clemson was 27-2 in true road games since the start of the 2015 season.
During that stretch, the Tigers were a team that controlled the game, especially on offense, seizing every opportunity that came their way, taking away any hope the home team had.
But that has not been the case in 2021. The Tigers have struggled away from Death Valley this year. They are 1-2 in true road games, with losses at NC State and Pittsburgh, while barely surviving at Syracuse.
“If we want to finish the season the way we want to, then we need to go find a way to win on the road,” head coach Dabo Swinney said.
Clemson’s issues in road games have been a big reason why the Tigers are not the dominant team they have been in years past. What makes a good program a great program is its ability to go on the road and dominate.
How did they do it? How did they win 27 of 29 games in their opposition’s backyard?
They were opportunistic.
In both of their road losses this year, the Tigers had an opportunity to win the game. But in both cases, they failed to take advantage of those opportunities.
Despite playing awful on offense at NC State, the moment to win the game came in the second overtime, but Justyn Ross dropped what would have been a touchdown on one play and then got turned around on a second and missed the opportunity to score.
At Pittsburgh, D.J. Uiagalelei threw a bad pass in the red zone that sealed Clemson’s fate on one drive and then running back Will Shipley dropped a potential touchdown pass on another.
“It probably should have been 17-0 in the first half, but we turn it over in the red zone on a bad play. We are in field goal range, and we miss a touchdown on the same drive, we can at least get a field goal there. We drop a touchdown,” Swinney said. “The next thing you know, when you are on the road, you miss those opportunities and you let that home team get going, it is tough.”
Pitt eventually got going with two late second-quarter touchdowns, as the Panthers took advantage of their opportunities and built a 17-point lead.
“We were in position, but we were not opportunistic, and I think that was the biggest thing,” Swinney said. “That is something we just can’t do.”
As Swinney said, if Clemson wants to finish the season strong and at least put itself in position to stay in the ACC’s Atlantic Division race, it has to find ways to win football games on the road, instead of finding ways to lose them.
That has to start Saturday night at Louisville.
“For us, we have to stand on our foundation,” Swinney said. “Our effort has to be amazing, and we have to win the physical matchup. We have to take care of the ball. We can’t have stupid penalties and don’t help them. The main thing, offensively, we just have to be opportunistic. We did not do that the last time we were on the road. The opportunity was there, but we just did not seize the moment.
“When you are on the road and you get those opportunities, you have to seize the moment.”
Clemson Variety & Frame is doing their part to help bring you some classic new barware and help one of the local businesses that helps make Clemson special.
Order your Nick’s barware and do your part to help. #SaveNicks