CLEMSON – Only two teams in the ACC have more rushing attempts than Clemson (299) – and one runs the triple option (Georgia Tech).
Eighty-nine teams nationally, however, are averaging more yards per run attempt (3.87), and that’s a problem for an imbalanced, inefficient Tigers’ attack hitting the road this week.
The issue? Well, there’s not just one. A confluence of injuries, inexperience, o-line issues, turnovers and certain game situations have worked against them – and just maybe, those factors are leaving Chad Morris and signal-caller Tajh Boyd less likely to keep it on the ground.
At least, that’s how the numbers bear out lately.
OrangeandWhite.com contributor Marty Coleman crunched the numbers this week and – taking out sacks – the Tigers have called 44 passes to 38 runs per game in the last three against Syracuse, Boston College and Florida State. They have averaged 4.3 per carry and 166 rushing yards.
That doesn’t sound like much of a shift, but in the same scenario over the course of last season, Clemson averaged 43 run calls to 39 passes per, averaging 4.8 YPC and 208 yards.
The Tigers haven’t had a 100-yard rusher since the opener, Rod McDowell (132), and as leading rusher (446), he has yet to reach the endzone this season. A clear No. 2 in carries, Boyd has been the go-to in short yardage and in the red zone (five rushing TDs), but minus sacks, he’s still one of four main ballcarriers hitting five or less yards per carry (4.2).
“How confident am I in running?” Morris inquired of himself this week. “Again, we’re doing some good things running, but we’ve improving on it. We’re not going to give up on the run game.”
On the o-line angle, Clemson right guard Tyer Shatley says there’s plenty they can do to jump-start the action.
“We got to really work on our double teams and staying on blocks,” said Shatley. “Getting off on the linebackers. We can stay on the down-linemen all we want, but if we don’t get on the linebackers, our running game isn’t going to get going. Get some movement on the front-line and give the backs room to cut and make plays to see the holes.”
The senior says they gained some confidence from the final drive versus Florida State, tallying four runs of four or more yards on a stifling ‘D’ for only their second score of the game.
“It was good to see we could still move it down the field,” he said. “I think what happened is we got down early and we couldn’t stick to the gameplan we had. It was definitely good to see that we could run the ball.”
DON’T BOO BRADLEY
Clemson sophomore Bradley Pinion has seen a little more action lately, and while that’s not ideal, ending a drive with a kick – and not a turnover – is preferable.
“We got to get back to playing smart,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney told reporters. “Field position and not putting our defense in a bad position. It’s OK to punt the ball. It’s perfectly OK. We shouldn’t boo when we punt.”
Pinion has had pinpoint accuracy this season, with no touchbacks and 16 of his 36 punts keeping opponents inside the 20.
JENKINS CAN RELATE
Clemson defensive back Martin Jenkins, as a competitor, was ready to face a Maryland pass attack at full-strength, but last week at Wake Forest, both Terrapin leading receivers, Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, went down to season-ending injuries.
“That (challenge is) definitely something as DB you look forward to. Of course I wish they could (play),” Jenkins said. “I wouldn’t wish any injuries on anybody because I sat out all last year. Sitting out games is no fun.”
Jenkins knows all about injuries, as his 2012 campaign was over before it even started (hernia), and for much of this past offseason, he had a painful arthritic condition, which wasn’t properly treated until right up to the end of August. On Oct. 5 at Syracuse, he played through both a midgame broken thumb and tooth.
Swinney says the junior, who’s slated to make his third start of the season Saturday, is exactly what you want in a player.
“It’s not just his toughness. It’s his intelligence,” he said. “He’s just a smart, conscientious, give-you-all-he-has football player. He’s one of those guys when the game is over and you turn on the film – you know that you got everything that that kid had.”