CLEMSON — Chad Morris was a far happier man in his weekly meeting with Clemson beat reporters Monday. His offense rolled up 624 yards of total offense against Auburn Saturday, the third-highest single-game total in school history.
Still, Morris knows his offense has plenty of work left, especially with a much tougher Florida State defense coming to town Saturday for a 3:30 p.m., ESPN nationally-televised game.
Here are some highlights from the 26-minute session:
On Florida State: “This is the first conference game, and they came out started the season in the top five, and I think they’re a top-five football team without a doubt. They’re very talented, and there’s no questioning how physical they played against Oklahoma. This is going to be our biggest task, without a doubt.
“Those guys do a great job and we’ll have our hands full with them. But what we keep talking about, going over and over again, is that we’ve got to worry about ourselves and get better.”
More on FSU: “They’re very talented, very athletic, they’re physical up front. Their secondary runs really well. I think their linebacking corps is one of the best that we’ve seen. Without a doubt. They’re very active, move to the ball very well. Just in what I’ve seen in Sunday and Monday, that’s what I’ve seen. They’re very well-coached. Coming off a loss, they’re going to be ready to go., coming into Death Valley. It’ll be a great atmosphere. Our guys will be ready for them, we’ll have a great plan for them, great plan for us, and here we go.”
On the offensive line: “They had a better week. A lot better week, after looking at them. We still had missed assignments up front, sometimes we needed to be a little more physical and we weren’t. But overall I thought we were showing, as the game wore on, we got a little stronger, that was a plus to be able to run the ball late in the game, run effectively and run 9:30 off the clock, I thought that was huge.
“That was good to see. Was it better than last week? Absolutely. Are we excited, happy, oh this is the next group of Hogs, from back in the old days? They’re not there yet, but they’re working hard, taking great pride in it, taking pride in holding each other accountable.”
On the tempo and running 92 plays: “I thought our tempo was good. A few series I was little disappointed in, thought we could have gotten three, four more snaps out of it. We snapped the ball 92 times, had 3 penalties, and two three-and-outs to start the game. You don’t have those two three-and-outs you’re looking at excess of 100 snaps. I was glad to see that. I thought our tempo was good, and they’re starting to grasp what I’m asking from them.”
On beating mentor Gus Malzahn, Auburn’s offensive coordinator: “Every win is special, every win, it’s always great to win. It wasn’t like I was playing against Gus and Gus was playing against me. So many things that were so common, the paths, how everybody got to where they were, and to come away with a win that was great. I said it before, last week, for four, five hours Saturday, I was his enemy, he was my enemy. It was a great win, great to get a win against the defending national champions, regardless who’s on the other side.”
On LG Brandon Thomas, who stepped in and played well in reserve:
“I’m proud of Brandon Thomas, he stepped up and played because he had to. And when he stepped on the field, my words to him were, ‘It’s time for you to grow up now. We’re forcing you to grow up in practice, it’s time to grow up right now, and you’ve got a lot of people counting on you.’” And he did a better job. He still missed a few things, as we all did, but I think he’s definitely proven himself in a live situation, what he’s capable of doing.”
On Tajh Boyd’s progression: “I think you look at Tajh, you see it as well as I do. He’s maturing. I keep going back and saying the same thing. It’s an honor to be quarterback for the Clemson Tigers. We talk about it daily. And I tell him never forget that, he’s got to continue to grow up, make good decisions with the football, play within your athletic ability. That’s one thing I always talk to him about, is just playing within your means. I think you’ve seen him do that.
“I thought he was definitely feeling it Saturday, and making some really good decisions with the football. I’m proud to see that, you always want to see that for guys that really work hard. He’s really worked hard and taken a lot of pride this summer, and you just hope those things work themselves out and they have. …. He’s managing the game and moving the chains. Getting the ball to our playmakers. That’s all he has to do, doesn’t have to win game for us, just put the ball in the hands of guys who need to win for us… and he’s done that.”
On Andre Ellington and D.J. Howard: “tweaked his hamstring, think he’ll be ready to go Saturday. He’ll be ready to work out Tuesday, we’ll hold him today (Monday) but he’ll be ready to roll. He felt really
good today, it was more precautionary than anything, and I’m proud to see the way DJ stepped in and took over some, made some really good runs. As far as carrying the football, protecting the football, carrying it too loose, that’s something we’re really harping on, and hold him accountable for it.”
On Mike Bellamy and his fumble Saturday at Auburn’s 18:
“We’re trying to grow Mike along, bring him along. He’s a phenomenal athlete, but a young man who’s got to dive into the playbook, understand what we’re asking of him, expand on being more than a role player. I was proud to see the way he did step up, and he fumbled the football. The one fumble we had last week, thought we were going to at least get a field goal out of that. We’re stressing to these guys how important ball security is.”
On Tajh Boyd’s sideline nature: “I’ve seen him commit time and I’m pleased with the way he’s progressed and taken on leadership. A couple times Saturday I couldn’t find him, because he was down there trying to cheer on the defense and rah-rah those guys. That’s what you like to see. At times he comes off the field, works his way from receivers, to O-line to running backs and then he comes and finds me. That’s what you want. We asked him to take on more ownership and he did.”
On LT Phillip Price, who has been solid the first three games: “Phillip, he’s an extremely tough player. He comes out there last week, and dings his left shoulder up a little bit… and you’d have never known it. He sat out the rest of practice, jumped back in there and away he went the next day. Played through some pain. That’s who he is. I appreciate his toughness. His ruggedness.
“Did he make some mistakes? Absolutely he made some mistakes. But that happens to young players. He’s got to continue to get better as they all do. But I was pleased with Phillip.”
On Dwayne Allen, who had seven catches for 80 yards and a score Saturday: “You look at Dwayne, he’s big body, big hands, physical, you move him all over the field. And the thing that Dwayne brings to us is leadership. His demand for accountability for everyone. As a playcaller, you feel like he’s a guy you want to get the ball in his hands. . There’s still other things we can do offensively with him in that position. It’s, when are we ready to start growing into that. I think we’re getting there. We’re pleased with what he showed for us. Saturday was one of his best games since he’s been here, and there’s no doubt you can sense he and Tajh were on the same page.”