Clemson sweats out another win
CLEMSON -- Wofford had not played Clemson in a decade, and after a close call Saturday, don't expect the Southern Conference team located just 60 miles away from Memorial Stadium to be invited back anytime soon.
The Clemson coaches knew Wofford's misdirection offense would present a challenge, but the Tigers were not anticipating drama carrying over to the fourth quarter in a hard-fought 35-27 victory in front of more than 73,000 fans.
Perhaps most troubling for Clemson (2-0) is that for the second straight week its young defense struggled with an opponent's running game. Wofford rushed for 272 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per run a week after Troy ran for 4.6 yards per rush.
If the Tigers cannot solve their issues against the ground game -- Clemson is allowing one yard more per carry than a season ago -- life will become difficult with Auburn, No. 5 Florida
State and a trip to No. 11 Virginia Tech up next on the schedule.
"I guess we are going to have to start scrimmaging on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to make sure we don't miss tackles," defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said.
There were issues through the air, too.
Wofford (1-1) had just two pass completions, but the catches went for 127 yards and a touchdown. Clemson's secondary was loaded with inexperience as safety Rashard Hall was held out (knee) and starting cornerback Xavier Brewer was serving a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules.
"I don't know that I've ever been in a game where I've seen two passes completed for 127 yards," Steele said, "but I don't know that I've been in a game that I've seen two guys that wide open."
On offense, freshman Sammy Watkins looks like a star in the making after scoring his second touchdown in as many weeks with a leaping 38-yard touchdown grab in the first half.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd completed 18 of 29 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. Andre Ellington rushed for 165 yards and one touchdown.
But there are concerns about the offensive line.
The Tigers failed to convert a fourth-and-1, leading to Wofford's first scoring drive. The offensive line also allowed four sacks. Mason Cloy briefly replaced a struggling Antoine McClain at right guard in the second half.
After failing to pick up a critical third down in the fourth quarter, Wofford got the ball back at its 22 with 5:24 to play.
"You hate to come to practice every day and be a rear end, but oh well," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. "The problem is sometimes we (coaches) want it more than some of the guys on the field."
The first two weeks have been shaky for Clemson. The Tigers were tied with Wofford at halftime (21-21) a week after trailing Troy at the break, but coach Dabo Swinney noted the 1981 national title team trailed Wofford at the break.
"We have to improve on some things," Swinney said, "we have to get better fast in some places."