CLEMSON — There wasn’t much Chad Morris could do Saturday night but sit and watch.
South Carolina’s defense rendered one of the nation’s most potent offenses – in the top 10 nationally in total offense, scoring offense and passing offense – powerless after halftime. The Gamecocks held the ball for over 23 minutes in the second half, rolling to a 27-17 win over Clemson.
The Tigers’ offense had just 328 yards, second-worst this season, and their 59 plays were the lowest of 2012. Clemson had just 19 offensive plays in the second half, and three of the five drives lasted three plays or fewer.
Morris discussed what he called “the tale of two halves” and South Carolina sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s dominance, among other things, with reporters afterward.
What did their defense do: “It was a tale of two halves, to be honest with you. I think the first half we had everything like we wanted it. We had great tempo. I thought we were playing at a high level. I thought the second half we came out, and we were limited on opportunities. We had to make sure some of our plays hit that we were taking, some of the shots. We had a few drops in there, with the opportunities that were limited, we didn’t capitalize on them.
“I thought they got a little more pressure on Tajh in the second half and that’s it. That was kind of what it was.”
On Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins combining for four catches: “I think you go back, it’s a tale of two halves. You had 40 snaps in the first half and in the second half you’re limited. It wasn’t by design, we’re trying to get those guys the ball. There were several times we were rushed and had to step up and Tajh had to get out of some pressure on him.”
What did Jadeveon Clowney do to cause so much havoc: “I thought we did a pretty good job the first half with him. In the second half was when he speed-rushed. We were sliding our front into him and making him move on us. We were putting two guys on him. That’s the way he’s played all year long. It wasn’t anything we didn’t anticipate. He was going to come. I thought Brandon (Thomas) did a good job on him in the first half and he got us there at the end.”
On frustration in the second half: “They were all frustrated in the second half. You’re trying to create some opportunities. Jaron Brown caught a ball (for 38 yards) and it gave us a spark. We opened up and went three-and-out on the opening drive. We felt like we were running the ball effectively in the first half. That was our plan to come out in the second half and start running the ball. Again, it was what it was. The opportunities weren’t there and we had to keep pushing.”
Did the limited second-half chances make it hard for you to get into a rhythm: “I don’t think there was a rhythm. That’s a good point, I don’t think there was a rhythm in the second half at all.”
On regrouping the offense: “I think the one thing you’ve got to look at is, you hurt for our seniors. They’ve done some great things for this program. Those things won’t be overshadowed, some of the success they’ve achieved in the last four years here, not winning a state championship in the last four years here is something that hurts. Hurts them, hurts us all, we all feel it. We’ve all got to live with it. And we understand that.”
On double-teaming Clowney: “That was one thing you looked at, when you put two on Clowney, you single up on the other side, too. We gave up a couple, especially in a key quick-game situation to start the second half. Opening drive, we gave up a sack on Tajh in a quick-game protection, which never should have happened, by getting beat. That was something, when you try to double one, you single someone else. That was a concern going in, was our offensive line matched up with their defensive front and try to control them. I thought we did that for the first half because we were effective running the football. And you start the second half out, we open up with a run, you go to a quick game and next thing you know we’re sacked. So you get out of your game plan when that happens.”
On if USC’s ends were better than Florida State’s ends because of athleticism: “It’s hard to say. It is hard to gauge that. I thought they were very good, a very talented defensive front. There’s no doubt about that.”
Where does Clowney rank among the ends you’ve faced at Clemson: “I think he’s one of the best players in the country. I said that from when I met with (reporters) Monday. I still think that. He makes his mind up, that’s what he wants to do and you get him in a passing situation, there’s not too many guys that can block him on-on-one.”