CLEMSON — Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris hasn’t seen much of the high-flying juggernaut he and many others expected the third-ranked Tigers to be this fall.
But Morris believes things will sync soon, both for the Tigers (3-0, 1-0 ACC) and for Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Morris was happy to leave North Carolina State with a 26-14 victory on Thursday night. Still, it was tied for the third fewest points the Tigers have scored in a victory since Morris took over the attack after the 2010 season.
It wasn’t until Boyd’s two second-half TD passes to Martavis Bryant that Clemson was able to secure the victory.
“We’ve done some good things,” Morris said Monday. “But we haven’t played our best.”
Neither has Boyd, the senior who passed up the NFL draft for a final season of college ball. He was the biggest reason Clemson topped then fifth-ranked Georgia 38-35 in the season opener – Boyd passed for three TDs and rushed for two others – yet has been highly inconsistent in two games since.
Boyd played less than a half in a 52-13 victory over S.C. State and didn’t throw a scoring pass, ending his run of 17 straight games with at least one TD throw. Boyd appeared like he wanted to get it all back early on against the Wolfpack, missing open receivers and failing to capitalize on two long first-quarter drives that both finished in field goals.
Morris said Clemson’s herky-jerky schedule threw the players off kilter. After the backups played most of the way against South Carolina State, the Tigers were off for 12 days until facing the Wolfpack and that led to some inconsistencies early on. Plus, Boyd spent too much time trying to place balls in a perfect spot instead of trusting his technique, Morris said.
It wasn’t until Clemson’s 59th snap – a 20-yard pass to Bryant on 2nd-and-22 midway through the third quarter – that Boyd showed poise and confidence that he carried through the rest of the game.
“It was if he wasn’t thinking, he was playing,” Morris said of the difference.
The offense will have to find rhythm over the next few weeks to stay out front in the ACC. The Tigers face Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1) on Saturday at Death Valley before traveling to Syracuse. Two weeks after that comes No. 8 Florida State in an expected showdown for the ACC Atlantic Division and a spot in the league’s title game.
Clemson set school records for points and yards gained in each of Morris’ first two seasons. Much of that was due to receiver DeAndre Hopkins and tailback Andre Ellington, both playing in the NFL.
Offensive lineman Brandon Thomas said the attack isn’t yet what it had been in recent seasons.
“We need to get consistent, I can tell you that,” he said. “We sputter here and there, we get big plays here and there. We need to get consistent as a whole.”
Clemson finished with just 415 yards of offense against N.C. State, it’s poorest showing of the young season.
Morris is itching to return to the practice field and find the missing flow. He believes this upcoming stretch of six consecutive Saturday games will get the Tigers back on the high-flying page they figured to be at when the season began.
Wake Forest is also searching for offensive consistency after early defeats to Boston College and Louisiana-Monroe, but got a big boost last Saturday with a 25-11 victory at Army.
“You can beat around the bush all you want, but we needed to win,” Demon Deacons coach Jim Grobe said.
Morris spoke with Boyd the past few days about settling down and enjoying his final season. Boyd has said he didn’t return to learn an offense or pad his stats, but to win football games. Morris thinks that’s an awfully big burden for one player to carry around on his shoulders and will do what he can to lessen it as the season goes on.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney acknowledged the inconsistencies on offense, yet is confident big things are ahead.
“I believe before the year’s over this will be one of the best offenses this school has seen,” Swinney said.