CLEMSON — Chad Morris was hard on his offense during his weekly session with Clemson beat reporters Monday. The Tigers enter this week’s game at N.C. State as ACC Atlantic Division champions, 9-1 and in the nation’s top 15 in scoring offense, total offense and pass offense. Yet Morris was more worried about what his unit wasn’t doing, saying it “turns his stomach” to see the missed yardage and opportunities on tape.
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“When they get locked in with that sense of urgency and focus about themselves, here they go. And a lot of it is youth,” he said . “A lot is understanding and continuing to grow in this system, 10 games into it. We are doing some good things. I can’t overlook that, but I can’t harp on it. If I do there won’t be a Sharpie in town because they’ll be signing autographs. We’re doing good, we’re doing well, we’ve got a long way to go. What more could we do?
Here are the highlights from Morris’ session:
On the three phases of the 31-28 win over Wake Forest: “It was a tale of three different sections of the game. First half, we had four drives, you score on two of the four. The first one we executed well, going downfield, going up 7-0 and getting the ball back. We got the ball back late in the first quarter, it tides into the second. We get down and throw an interception (at the Wake 22), and it really didn’t stop us at that point. The defensive end made a good play and Tajh threw the ball low. Those things are going to happen.
“We landmark down from the 50, when we hit a certain landmark, these are the plays we’re going to run. That was one of the landmark shots we do. We stopped ourselves. Next time we got the ball back we go down and score again. Really executing well, things are looking good. You get the ball back with a minute to go, or so until halftime, thought Tajh rushed, we were protected well, he could have sat in the pocket he was trying to escape a little early. Sammy (Watkins) had a drop, we wound up punting.
We came in at halftime, I was trying to make sure we didn’t get frustrated with the lack of possessions we were getting. We’d snapped the ball 33 times at that point, that was my big concern, the frustration level. We can’t let this go into a Georgia Tech thought process with us, press and especially a game of that magnitude.
“We made a few adjustments, nothing major, came out in the third quarter. I felt like that third quarter was as poor of energy, from the sidelines to the way we played to… it was blah. As nice a word as I can say. It was ho-hum. Very disappointed in the energy level of offense, but the whole sideline was just there. And I was spending the majority of my time on the sidelines when the offense was over there, telling them, ‘We’ve got to have some energy out there. Our tempo stinks, we’re walking, it’s just like you guys are just there.’ I kept saying, ‘We’ve got to pick our energy level up, somebody’s got to give us a spark.’
“That third quarter, you go and turn the ball over twice and give up a punt return, bang-bang, they score 21 points in five minutes and here we go again. At that point, with the 5:37 in the third quarter, a spark hit us. It was as simple as Tajh taking a zone read and throwing the ball to Adam Humphries on a spot. We call a spot on the edge for an eight-yard gain. From that point forward you saw the energy level, saw us pick it up. It was the tale of three different sections in this ballgame.”
On if the off week affected rhythm: “Every off week a coach has, you get concerned, because you get into a routine, you get into a rhythm. Every coach wants an off week, you love an off week to recharge your batteries, but you get out of a flow of things. And we were doing things from a tempo standpoint, from Tajh, to all of them, walking, standing up, we weren’t getting down, it was taking us two more seconds to get down than what we normally do and that was things we haven’t done. So credit an off-week with it, I don’t know. It’s something we haven’t done, took us out of a flow.”
On short-yardage concerns: “If you looked at it, you think you’d be more efficient on third and one to two than you would be more efficient on third five, six and seven. Right now we are not efficient on third and one to two. We’re getting several third and ones, third and twos and having to go for it on fourth and one. Those are things that are concerns to me. I’ve got to go back and reevaluate on what we are doing on third and one to two. Because going right at ‘em ain’t it. We’ve got to figure out what we’ve got to do to get the best matchup in that regard. We’ve got to stay out of… we did a good job of winning first down, our second down was efficient, where it should be this week, but our third down one to two wasn’t. We’ve got to improve in that area.”
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On Boyd’s second interception: “In this system, your quarterback is the main guy. So goes your quarterback, so goes what you’re doing. He’s got to be efficient, take care of the football, not put the ball in jeopardy.. . that one across the middle, it was a bad route, a bad throw, there wasn’t anything good about that. There was no silver lining in that, none. Wasn’t hey, the guy made a good play. It was bad from both ends. That’s what you’ve got to get rid of.
On if Boyd gets too locked into targets: “Jaron Brown had a good game, Jaron really came into it. He’s like any other quarterback, he knows who his playmakers are and he knows who he wants to throw to. We talk about that. You can’t get locked onto a guy, and there are times that he does get locked on. As a young quarterback, you can’t have that. You have to be able to go through your progressions and trust your reads.
“I think he’s made progress. It goes back to what I talked about earlier. You make progress but at the same time you’re a quarterback, you’ve had the success you had this year, you feel invincible that you can make every throw. That’s what you’ve got to dial back in on, look at and refocus on, and just go back to trusting your reads. Remember, from the Troy game forward, what got us to that point. It’s trusting your reads. You go through that progression and it’s all going to work itself out. The guy’s going to get the football that needs to get the football. You can’t force it.”
On freshman wideouts Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant, who’ve faded in the offense: “What did we have, seven (players) that caught the ball the other night? I think we’re spreading the ball around well. I think with some of the guys, it’s the fact that the type of games we’ve been in, the number of reps they’ve been getting, I don’t know if it presents itself to where they’ve been getting a ball. There’s been some drops, there’s been some overthrows. I don’t know if it’s as much that…. I thought we spread the ball around fairly well the other night. Jaron Brown definitely got the ball.”
On the offensive line’s play against Wake Forest: “From pass-blocking, I’d say I thought we did really well. Tajh got hit once or twice all night long, very pleased with the pass-blocking. From the run game standpoint, we rushed for 172 yards, should have rushed for 250 yards. That’s me, my mindset of, we want the four inches back (on the fourth and inches stopped at the Clemson 33 in the fourth quarter). We’ve got to get better play out of our guard positions, both of them. Very non-efficient in the run game. That’s calling it like it is. You can read into that whatever you want.
“This needs to be the norm. I talked it all last week, to our players. Yes you’re excited, yes you’re playing for an Atlantic Division championship, but that’s what you’re supposed to do. What do I have to do as an offensive coordinator to see the big picture, to win the ACC championship, to win this week, to win the rest of our games here. To win the bowl. To win out. What buttons do I have to push. And we’ve got to be more efficient from the two guard positions.”
With Brandon Thomas as starting left tackle and David Smith starting left guard, who moves into the guard rotation: “You’ll see (senior) Mason Cloy involved in the rotation. (Freshman) Kalon Davis, we’re going to try and get Kalon involved at the guard position. I don’t know where he’ll be with that. He has not practiced well over the last couple weeks, from any stretch of the imagination. We’re very disappointed with the way he’s practiced. We’re searching. We’ve got to be more efficient at the guard position. We’ve got to be more physical at those two positions right there. I’m not real happy, to say the least. We’re too soft. We’ve got to get more at the two guard positions.”
On Sammy Watkins’ availability this week with a sprained shoulder: “What I’m being told there’s a possibility mid-week, later in the week, we’ll check him out. He’ll be out there today. Mondays are usually a non-involved day, so we’ll probably re-evaluate the middle of the week.”
On Adam Humphries, his replacement: “Adam will be the guy. That’s who it is. Adam Humphries has definitely proven himself to be a top-tier guy. We probably need to get Adam on the field more. Not necessarily at that position.”