CLEMSON -- The last time the Clemson Tigers took the field at home against Boston College, the offense struggled to find a rhythm, scoring only seven points before a 27-point fourth quarter leading to a comfortable victory over the Eagles.
The mission Saturday against Wake Forest was simple: Get out to a fast start. And that is exactly what the Tigers did, scoring 14 points on the two of the first three possessions.
“One of the big focuses this week was getting off to a fast start,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “We really started talking about it. On the road -- Louisville and Virginia Tech -- we really came out with a fast start and really set the tempo for the day. But against Boston College, last time we were at home, we really didn’t get off to the start we wanted.”
After the fast start, the Tigers appeared to have a lull as they were scoreless until midway through the third quarter, when the Tigers found the end zone.
Clemson scored again in the fourth quarter, providing the final point tally of 28.
Now the task for the Tigers becomes to combine the fast start with the furious finish for a complete game.
“The things we’ve got to clean up is just staying consistent throughout the course of the game,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “Just because we get up by 14 points, the game is not over. We’ve got to finish, have that killer instinct and we come out in the second half and have a turnover there.
“Obviously, something that we want to clean up, because there is nothing less important than the score at halftime. So you come out and it’s zero-to-zero and you want to get off to a fast start again to start the second half.”
But for Elliott and Scott, credit must be given to a Wake Forest team that entered Saturday’s matchup with the Tigers ranked inside the top 5 in the ACC in nearly every major defensive category -- including being tied for second in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense.
“They really challenged us. We got off to a good start and then kind of got into a lull,” Elliott said. “They did some things good up front, got to our quarterback a little bit -- definitely hats off to those guys. They are very well coached, very disciplined, they play hard and it was a scrappy game.
“They made some adjustments and weren’t giving us the big plays in the running game, and then obviously we didn’t convert on some balls down the field and that got us into some longer yardage situations. Anytime you’re trying to convert second-and-long, third-and-long, the defense is going to have the advantage.”
With a short week ahead of a Friday night (7 p.m., ESPN) game at Syracuse, there will be plenty of positives and negatives for the coaching staff to use to get the players' attention before making the trip to upstate New York.
“I’ll start with what I didn’t like: We got the quarterback hit a couple of times. We got stopped on a couple of third-and-1s that we wanted to convert,” Elliott said.
“Things I did like: We were very good on fourth down, converted all of our fourth downs. We were very good in the red zone. I think we were three-of-three in the red zone. We got off to a fast start. Those were the positives."
In a game that featured as good of a start as a team could ask for, a lull, some sloppy play and ultimately a 14-point victory, one thing may be lost -- the fact that the Tigers played three quarterbacks, four running backs and had 11 different players catch a pass.
And that is something that will pay dividends later in the season.
“I just like how we got ready throughout the week’s preparations, and we were locked in today and got off to good start,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We got control of the game early. I didn’t like how we finished, but we’re playing a lot of guys, and we’re committed to doing that. You have to let them experience the growing pains. But I’m really proud of how we played today.”