Tech's offense won't be anything new to Clemson, but 'we've just got to be disciplined'

Tech's offense won't be anything new to Clemson, but 'we've just got to be disciplined'


Tech's offense won't be anything new to Clemson, but 'we've just got to be disciplined'


When Louisiana Tech brings its air-raid offense into Memorial Stadium on Saturday night, it won’t be a new look for Clemson and its coaching staff.

Head coach Dabo Swinney distinctly remembers Troy, then under the direction of second-year coach Neal Brown, challenging the Tigers with a similar offense in 2016. The Trojans scored 24 points and averaged nearly 10 yards per completion in the second game of that season for both teams, a scare that Clemson won by six before eventually catching its stride en route to winning the national championship that season.

“Troy is one of them that comes to mind,” Swinney said. “We’ve seen a lot of these teams that spread the ball around and throw the ball all over the place.”

Tech will be another one. To an extent, at least.

In their first season under Mike Leach disciple Sonny Cumbie, the Bulldogs rank in the top 45 nationally in passing yards (276 per game). Tech is also averaging the third-longest yards per completion in Conference USA at more than 13 yards a reception.

Tech goes about it the way many air-raid offenses do, mixing in shots down the field with a quick-hit passing game. And Swinney and defensive coordinator Wesley Goodwin are expecting plenty of screen passes as part of the Bulldogs’ attack, particularly after Furman had so much success with them against the Tigers a week ago.

“Everybody’s got different nuances to it,” Swinney said. “It’s tempo and certainly a lot of screens. A lot of controlled passing. A lot of horizontal stuff and then, boom, mix in some vertical shots. We’ve just got to be disciplined.”

But Swinney said Clemson can’t forget about the Bulldogs’ running game. As Cumbie adjusts his offense to his personnel in Year One, Tech isn’t solely moving the ball through the air. In fact, their 74 pass attempts through two games rank in the middle of the pack in Conference USA.

In a lopsided win over Stephen F. Austin last week, Tech ran for 300 yards, averaging more than 7 yards a pop on the ground. Redshirt freshman Marquis Crosby, who’s already rushed for 220 yards this season, is the Bulldogs’ featured back, but Charvis Thornton is another capable back who’s averaging nearly 6 yards per carry. 

“They’ll lull you to sleep and then pop a long run on you,” Swinney said. “Louisiana Tech’s got two good backs, two downhill guys that can eat up some yards on you in a heartbeat.”

Clemson’s defense is looking for a bounceback performance after Furman outgained the Tigers and went a whopping 10 of 18 on third down a week ago. Exactly which personnel Clemson will have available, particularly along the defensive line, is still up in the air with Bryan Bresee (death in the family), Tyler Davis (undisclosed injury) and Xavier Thomas (foot injury) all questionable for Saturday’s game.

Regardless of who’s on the field for the Tigers, Swinney said better execution and effort will be required against Tech, particularly when it comes to slowing down the quick passing game that gave the Tigers so much trouble a week ago.

“At the end of the day, it’s just knowing your job, eyes on the right things, lining up appropriately and then executing with great effort,” Swinney said. “There’s only so many things you do. At the end of the day, it’s still 2×3, 3×1 or empty (sets). Spread or some type of tight formation. Your rules apply to all of those things. Just understanding your job and applying it to what they do.”

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