CLEMSON — No complex formula necessary for Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris to grade the Tigers’ offense, even in an age of newfangled statistics and advanced sabermetrics.
“Score. Bottom line, did you score? You can dissect it how you want to. Did you score?” Morris said Monday. “All them yards, they don’t mean anything to me. Are we putting points on the board? That’s the No. 1 thing … and No. 2, and No. 3 and all that.”
Morris has been critical of a wide range of woes throughout the season, ranging from pass protection to quarterback Tajh Boyd’s decision-making, from wide receiver blocking to red-zone conversions.
Ultimately, though, Morris wants the Tigers to play fast (84.3 snaps per game, fifth in the country) and produce points (37.4 per game, tied for 24th) without kicking too many field goals, after booting four from the red zone in Saturday’s 40-27 win at Maryland.
“If we score (touchdowns) on the first drive, the second drive and even the third one, it’s a whole different ballgame. And you’re not seeing Tajh and Sammy (Watkins) and those guys late in the game. It’s just not happening,” Morris said. “But it did happen that way, and there’s a reason for that, and it’s probably a good reason. It’ll force our guys to battle adversity.”
The Tigers have had three consecutive first-half struggles, falling out of sync after full-throttle attacks on Wake Forest and Syracuse.
“You can coach as hard as you want, but until you get into a true adverse situation with guys, you never truly find out who and what people are about,” Morris said. “So we’ve been able to see some adversity the last few weeks, and we’re finding out a lot about ourselves. You can’t help but believe it’s only going to help you as you grow through these next four weeks.”
The ninth-ranked Tigers (eighth in the BCS standings) are 7-1 and completed their ACC Atlantic tour of duty with five out of six wins. They take on Coastal opponents Virginia and Georgia Tech before non-conference affairs at home vs. The Citadel and a Nov. 30 showdown at No. 14 South Carolina, which has beaten Clemson four straight years.
“It’s not the first eight games we’re going to be remembered by. We’re setting up now as a time for a November to remember,” Morris said. “That’s where you’re going to leave your legacy. All that stuff prior to this is just getting us ready for this final stretch run.”
The subject of Boyd taking too much of the blame from Clemson’s 51-14 loss Oct. 19 to Florida State lingered into the following week, which is why Morris wanted to ease his quarterback’s mind with the loss in the rearview mirror.
“We all know Tajh: no one puts more pressure on themselves than Tajh. Tajh wants to be perfect in everything he does,” Morris said. “My big emphasis to Tajh has been, you made the choice to come back, and you need to have fun. Let it work itself out. Go have some fun, smile, let’s play and be Tajh Boyd. Relax and go play.”
In Clemson’s first four games this year, the Tigers committed just two turnovers. They’ve had 11 in their past four games.
“We talk about it every day. We chart it every day,” Morris said. “That’s just something you’ve got to keep emphasizing, and hopefully it runs its course.”
In 35 games under Morris, Clemson has had multiple turnovers 16 times.
The latest errors were compounded Saturday when tailback Roderick McDowell and wide receiver Sammy Watkins fumbled on consecutive possessions inside the Tigers’ own 25-yard-line.
“Thankfully our defense was playing well and has been playing well enough to hold them to field goals,” Morris said. “We put them in bad situations; you’re not going to win many games doing that, you get lucky in those type of situations.”
Left guard, between Kalon Davis and David Beasley, and right tackle, between Gifford Timothy and Shaq Anthony, continue to be positions of co-starters.
“You’d hope that you’re getting close (to a solid five),” Morris said. “Giff played the majority of the game. Played well. I was pleased with that … I know Shaq has gotten better the last couple of weeks, and both Kalon and David have almost split time.”
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins picked up his second ACC wide receiver of the week award, for catching a school-record 14 passes against Maryland.
Left tackle Brandon Thomas, who a week ago was singled out by Morris as the only offensive starter playing with consistency, got his first league offensive lineman weekly honor. He’s the third Tiger lineman to be named, after Davis and center Ryan Norton.