CLEMSON – Chad Morris and his Clemson offense faced a tall task last season headed into the lion’s den of Tallahassee, Fla., and a No. 1-ranked FSU defense.
He knew he had to switch up his plan to catch the Seminoles off-guard.
“Going back and watching last year’s video, we had to do some things to keep them off-balance,” Morris said. “That the gameplan going in. That’s kind of our gameplan going into every week. We have to take advantage of what they give us.”
And did they ever find some holes.
Tiger o-line competing to start this week
Five plays in, Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd hit DeAndre Hopkins in stride for a 60-yard score. As FSU countered, Clemson hit right back with a 10-play, 79-yard scoring drive.
Holding a touchdown advantage at the half, Morris went into the bag of tricks for the second session – calling a double-pass where his receiver Sammy Watkins connected with running back Andre Ellington for a 52-yard touchdown and a two-score lead.
But with another Seminoles’ response and a loud crowd energizing the FSU ‘D,’ the game slipped away. Just how they found their way into the 49-37 loss clearly still sticks with the third-year Clemson coordinator.
“I felt like year they physically whipped us at the wide receiver position,” he said. “They embarrassed us. That’s been a point of emphasis and will continue to be a continue to be a point of emphasis.”
The defensive coordinators have changed, but not the mindset, says Morris, as the Seminoles will play physical, press coverage at the line with its bevy of talented defensive backs.
“I thought our wide receivers spent more time on the ground (last season) then the ball did,” he said. “It has to start on the ground every play. That’s something that we’re definitely stressing to our guys. We got out-physicaled last year.”
FSU effectively took away Hopkins after that first touchdown and Watkins the whole game. The Florida native had a career-low four yards per on his six catches.
As the clear focal point of the Tigers’ passing game, the challenge is on Watkins to step up to the challenge Saturday.
“You want to be an All-ACC player,” Morris said. “You want to be an All-American. You want to be all this and more – well those guys show up every day. Those type of guys show up every day and in the big games. This is a big game and we’ll see.”
The Tigers put up what now is a pedestrian 496 offensive yards Saturday in the 24-14 win over Boston College this past Saturday, recovering from a three-point and 280-yard first half with a pair of second-half scores.
They had their worst third-down percentage (23.5) of the season, but did manage their best combined yards per carry of the year (4.4). Boyd completed 30-of-44 throws for 334 yards and accounted for two scores.
Clemson meets its match offensively this weekend in the ‘Noles, but nationally, the unit is in the top-25 in passes intercepted (4), pass efficiency (8), passing offense (10), turnovers lost (11), total offense (13), completion percentage (14), scoring offense (17) and first downs (25).
FSU v. Clemson: Tigers' offense v. Seminoles' defense (ACC play)
|Yards per play - allowed||6.6||5|
|Yards per pass - allowed||9.7||5.8|
|Yards per carry - allowed||3.9||3.4|
|3rd down % - allowed||40||19.4|
|RZ scoring (TD %) - allowed||14-17 (71)||7-9 (44)|
|Explosive plays (ACC) - allowed (season)||10||5.2|
|Total Turnovers (margin) - forced (margin)||6 (1.5)||5 (1.33)|
Morris, ever relentless, is pushing for much more – and calling on their sense of pride to get there.
“A lot of guys had to go through some blood, sweat and tears and some down years to where we are today,” he said. “They’re just as much a part of what we’re doing today and you also remind your players that there are players who are going to wear the Paw after you leave. You’re holding a place in a seat right now and you have to take advantage of every opportunity you get.
“That’s the biggest thing stressing to our guys after last Saturday’s game. This is not our style. When we’re on the field, we’re on the field to score points. I don’t care if we get 100 yards or 700 yards. We have to put the ball in the endzone. Talking about the players who played before them and after them is about pride.”
While the usual routine is a “nameless, faceless opponent,” Morris isn’t shy to show his enthusiasm for the showdown.
“It’s on. This is what it’s about,” he said. “It’s what you coach for. Told our (players) this morning, this is what you grow up dreaming as a kid, being in a top-five matchup. There’s not many opportunities as a coach for these. Heck yeah it’s a big deal. It is the biggest game of the year.
“I think it’s going to be a great matchup and for yards and points it’s going to be an all-out war.”