Morris: 'Point of attack' issues plague red zone offense

Clemson's Chad Morris and Tajh Boyd smile in the closing minute of a 40-27 win over Maryland.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Chad Morris and Tajh Boyd smile in the closing minute of a 40-27 win over Maryland.

Forty points and over 500 yards of offense - and Chad Morris isn't pleased. It's certainly a feeling Tiger coaches and fans alike will take as long as they're racking up double-digit road wins.

For the third-year OC, his issues came with the red zone 'O,' where the Tigers yielded three touchdowns in eight tries.

The Tigers had posted two games with a perfect TD to red zone ratio in the first four, but in the last four games, they've settled for three or less points on 8-of-17 trips.

"We were able to get some points, which is a positive thing," Morris said, referencing Chandler Catanzaro's four field goals. "Every drive should end with a kick is what we talk about, but we'd much rather it be an extra point. Very disappointed in that.

"Just getting beat at the point of attack and a couple tackles for loss putting us in a bad place."

Morris says an injury-hampered Tajh Boyd (ankle) played a role, using him with caution in the run game. In the second half, he said he had to have the senior QB involved to put the game away late.

"I told him on the sidelines, 'We have to run you,'" said Morris. "He was good with it. Early in the game he didn't look like himself. Hobbled a little bit. As the game went on he loosened up.

Boyd had five rushes for 25 yards in the fourth quarter, extending drives with two first downs and capping another off with a 5-yard touchdown rush.

Outpacing any other game this season by 10 carries (57 total), the commitment shown to the run (247 yards) should be a staple of the Tigers' attack moving forward.

"We're going to try, absolutely," Morris said. "There's no reason why we can't. We want to run the football. Coming into tonight, we said it all week long we were going to run the football. I'm going to be stubborn and ugly about it - we're going to run the football to take a little pressure off Tajh Boyd. Let's help him out a little bit.

"Now, maybe I didn't emphasize that we need to score when we get inside the 5-yard line," he said with a smile. "I was proud of how those guys responded."

More from Morris...

The run and red zone woes: We took pride in saying we were going to run the football. We were trying not to run Tajh too much coming off last week, but we had to run him in the second half, especially in the red zone. It's an area we were No. 1 in the country in a year ago scoring. We scored, but didn't come away with touchdowns that could've put the game away early. Those things we have to go back and work on and get better at.

Jordan Leggett touchdown reception provides spark: I think that was probably the play of the game offensively. He had to have something there. Something positive, we had to have something positive to spark us going into halftime and that was a huge catch for us. That was a great throw. That kind of got us going right there, but I was very disappointed in how we started the second half.

Very uncharacteristic of us to fumble back-to-back balls. It's very tough to do that and hate to put the defense in a situation like that. They able to stand strong and hold for two field goals. We put them in a bad spot and that's something you can't do. That's your best best ballplayers fumbling the football - Sammy (Watkins) on one and Hot Rod (McDowell) on the other. They're not trying to fumble - (Maryland) did a good job to strip it out. That can't happen.

Tigers shelving Boyd running game early had an effect: I think the biggest thing was we got beat at the point of attack for whatever reason. We tried not to run Tajh because he was nursing a bit of an ankle injury. The philosophy was we weren't going to run him like we usually want him to. I love running the quarterback, but coming off a tough game last week, let's take some pressure off from him. We had to go back to running him (in the second half).

Oh, there's no doubt. We were not going to run him. They were definitely loading the box up (not running him).

Fourth quarter ground success: That's good to see. There's so many things we need to get better at. But to come off an emotional loss and the magnitude of the loss last week and see these guys bounce back all week - coach Swinney called for them to bounce back. That was good to see. We just have to keep getting better and eliminate drops.

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