CLEMSON — Chad Morris was on his best behavior Monday morning.
“I’m going to be as nice and G-rated as I can be,” Clemson’s often-excitable offensive coordinator said.
Chance are, he wasn’t as friendly when he reviewed the film of Saturday’s 38-17 win over Virginia Tech with his players Sunday afternoon.
Clemson’s high-powered offense – which entered the game in the nation’s top 13 in passing offense, total offense and scoring offense – was less than impressive. The Tigers rolled up just 295 yards of total offense, 230 below their season average of 525. It was the second-worst effort under Morris’ watch, ahead of only the 153-yard output in last season’s 34-13 loss at South Carolina.
This week, Morris is focused on fixing the problems – and quickly. No.14 Clemson (6-1, 3-1 ACC) has its shortest game week of the season entering Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. game at Wake Forest.
“Whether it was the open week, we had a lot of rust on us, the timing was off, that’s just an excuse,” Morris said. “That’s bullcorn in my opinion. We weren’t on. And I know there’s going to be days like that. That’s not acceptable and we’re not going to accept days like that. There’s maybe days when the quarterback’s not going to be on but for us not to play at the level we’re expected to play at, and that we demand them to play at, is not acceptable.”
Clemson’s offensive line had yielded just 10 sacks all season; the Tigers gave up a season-high five Saturday, including on two of the first three plays. That, Morris said, threw junior quarterback Tajh Boyd off his rhythm: he completed just 12 of 21 passes for 160 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
“The rest of the game forward you had a hard time getting Tajh to step up in the pocket,” Morris said. “And that was causing balls to sail, he wasn’t on his game he was definitely off. You give them credit, but at the same time that’s totally unacceptable from our guys.”
That, in turn, affected the entire offense.
“(Boyd) couldn’t get in a rhythm, and therefore when he couldn’t get in a rhythm, nobody could get in a rhythm,” Morris said. “You couldn’t get in a rhythm as a play-caller. You’re trying to pick up that first down. Once you see we get that (initial) first down, everything opens up. You get a little more confidence, guys start moving. You have your three play, four-play drives, you’re able to hit a big shot over the top.”
The Tigers had just 135 yards rushing, averaging three yards per attempt.
“There wasn’t any movement, there wasn’t any knock off the ball,” Morris said. “Holy cow, we didn’t knock anybody off the ball. We didn’t do that.”
Of the five sacks, three were credited to the offensive line. One was on Boyd, and another was the joint fault of Boyd and a wide receiver, Morris said.
“Those are things we haven’t done this year. We’ve eliminated those,” Morris said. “But again that was an opportunity for us to get back and let these guys know we’ve got to move forward.”
A lack of competition could be contributing to offensive line inconsistency.
“What concerns me is the fact we don’t have a whole lot of depth behind. That’s what concerns me,” Morris said. “Sometimes when you get into that situation… nobody’s going to push me. They’re working hard but still it’s a little different when someone’s nipping at your heels and you’ve got some competition that’s really pushing you to where you’ve got to be on your game every day at practice.
“We don’t have that yet. And you can talk to me this time next week and we’re probably not going to have it either. We’ve got guys that are there, they’re young, we feel like they’re going to be really good ballplayers, but they’re not in a position to step in and push and challenge.”
Clemson’s team room, Morris said, was “in complete focus” Sunday afternoon.
“We haven’t had many days, many performances like that since I’ve been here,” he said. “It’s a great learning experience and a great opportunity for us to bounce back like this.”
This week, there’s little time for moping.
“I think a lot of it is the fact of them watching, pointing it out in film study and having them ready to go for those guys, having themselves mentally prepared, and get that taste out of their mouth of not playing well,” Morris said. “You say that and you don’t play well, you’re still able to win a ballgame, that’s a great day. There’s no such thing as an ugly win. You may not play well, you may play ugly, but a win is great. We’re extremely excited about a win, let’s not lose focus of that.”