CLEMSON -- When Dabo Swinney says Clemson needs to learn how to win, C.J. Spiller translates the message to mean better fourth-quarter production.
The last time Clemson came off a performance that included a fourth-quarter touchdown, Slumdog Millionaire was opening in theaters and Barack Obama was president-elect.
Clemson has not scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter this season and hasn't since a Spiller run at Florida State on Nov. 8 last season.
The statistic has become relevant as the Tigers held fourth quarter leads in two of their three losses (at Georgia Tech, Texas Christian).
"You've just got to go out and finish teams off when you have them," Spiller said. "In a couple losses we've had the game won in fourth quarter … it's up to the individual. You have to have that mentality, that will, you are not going to let up and stop playing.
"The offensive side didn't have that (at Maryland). Hopefully guys really had a chance to go home and focus on the second part of season and realize what is at stake."
Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker said placing all the focus on the fourth quarter miscues is misguided, since errors during the first three quarters have placed games in doubt during the final moments.
"The biggest thing is placing ourselves in a situation where we don't have to make up for all the mistakes we made during the game," Parker said. "When you look at our losses, there are these little things that occurred throughout the game to get us in that situation."
To spread or to lump?
While Swinney said there will be no sweeping changes to the formations or personnel of the nation's 102nd ranked offense, the staff did indicate there could be more two tight-end sets and tighter formations going forward. For a team that has struggled moving defenders off the line of scrimmage, the concern is a more condensed field would make it more difficult for Clemson to run.
Clemson guard Thomas Austin said that is not the case.
"We like to run it out of two tight end sets," Austin said, "having those (tight ends) in to block, tying runs and passes into same formations, that helps us out."
Spiller prefers to run out of Clemson's base spread set.
"It's always tough to run with eight, nine men in the box," said Spiller.
The purpose of more two tight-end sets appears to be getting Dwayne Allen on the field to spark the passing game.
Swinney said moving Austin back to center is an option, but not a consideration at this point. The veteran would figure to be more proficient in making protection calls, and communication and blitz pickups have been issues … Swinney joked the team was having a saddle fitted for Spiller, related to how often the team has leaned on their star.
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