CLEMSON – There’s usually at least one play – or misplay – that you can focus on as the turning point of a game.
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris is convinced there was a play at N.C. State last week that he’ll be able to look back to as the turning point for the season.
Holding a 13-7 lead in the third quarter, senior Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd was having a rather forgettable performance.
He had 12 incompletions in Clemson first’s eight drives, averaging a paltry 5.2 yards a pass attempt and missing on throws both short and deep.
Morris wants to Boyd to have fun, relax
“Talking to him, there wasn’t any concern or being upset with him,” Morris said. “It was, ‘Tell me what you need me to do. Is there anything, Tajh, I can go to so we can settle things in?’ He said, ‘Coach, I’ve got it.’ After watching film, he said it was just one of those nights.”
The third-year starter’s opening throw of drive No. 9 wasn’t any more promising, bringing the average even lower on a 12-yard loss.
The next call, which Morris vividly remembered as the Tigers’ 59th offensive snap Monday, was the game-changer he was looking for all night.
“We threw a deep out to our sidelines to Martavis (Bryant),” Morris said of the 20-yard connection. “The way he dropped, the way he set his feet – and it was as if he wasn’t thinking and he was just playing.
“He put it on the money and then from that point we go to back-to-back scoring drives.”
Boyd hit Bryant again for touchdowns on both possessions, from 30 and 15 yards out respectively. From the first Bryant connection to game’s end, he completed passes at 15 yards per attempt.
“I think we’ll look back at this and circle play 59, say, ‘He got it going that day,’” Morris said.
What was holding Boyd back?
“He is just putting so much on himself that the little things are slipping,” said the Tigers’ third-year offensive coordinator. “He’s a great competitor and he wants to be perfect. He wants to do it all.
“At some point, you have to relax and go play and have fun. He feels like he’s got so much on him that he’s not having fun.”
Last season, Boyd led the ACC in pass efficiency (165.59), yards per attempt (9.12) and touchdown passes (36).
In those same categories after three games, he sits in fourth (148), fifth (7.6) and fifth again (6).
“He just presses. He’s a pleaser,” Morris said. “He’s as good as you’ve got in the country, but if you watched football this past Saturday – there were other guys that pressed too.
“I just said, ‘Hey, look it’s going to come with time. Just relax and operate the system.’ I think he’s wanting it and wanting it today and not understanding it’s a process.”
Adjusting to the process has been unit-wide offensively with, at times, frustrating inconsistency.
“We sputter here and there. We have big plays here and there,” senior lineman Brandon Thomas said. “South Carolina State week we just threw guys in there and had to mix and match. This last week was the first week we had the group together since the Georgia game and we just need to get consistent as a whole.”
Morris says the emphasis on seeing younger players in action against S.C. State then a long layoff were the prime culprits in a sluggish night in Raleigh.
“You can practice for 22 straight days,” he said, “but until you get into a live game situation where you’re on a consistent pattern and routine – it’s not going to happen.
“The great thing about this now is now for the next six weeks you’re into a routine. That’s what’s good to see. It will come.”
Morris says he’s keeping positive with his players – stressing the 3-0 record thus far, but he also relishes having a group that knows it’s not performing the standard set last season.
“I love every bit of (adversity),” said Morris. “I love to win, but I’m a competitor and I want our offense to play well. I want to score every drive. That’s me. That’s what we want, but bottom-line we won. It give us an opportunity to coach them hard and challenge them.”