CLEMSON — The Clemson offense struggled the last time it took the field before Saturday night’s game against Georgia Tech.
Against Syracuse two weeks prior, the Tigers amassed only 17 points and had only 317 yards of offense. After the performance, which saw the Tigers lose their starting quarterback Kelly Bryant to a concussion, many around the nation were watching Saturday night to see how the Tigers would respond.
And respond they did, as they outgained the Yellow Jackets 428 yards to 230 — while gathering 21 first downs and converting on 7-of-17 third downs.
"Obviously, I'm proud of the way our guys responded. It had been a tough two weeks. We're not used to losing around here,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “So any time that happens, there's a lot of soul-searching and really challenging our staff and our players on how we're going to respond. You think you know how you're going to respond, but each year it's a new team and that's really what we challenged our offense.
"I said, 'I know about the offenses in the past, I know how they would respond. We're going to find out how this offense is going to respond.' And I was really proud of how our guys went out and embraced it."
The big key for the Tigers getting momentum back on offense was the fact that for the first time since the Wake Forest game, Clemson eclipsed the 75-play mark, finishing the game with 78.
While that is still two away from the goal of 80 plays, the Tiger coaching staff was pleased with the tempo on a wet, sloppy night.
"Something that we've talked about is that we're at our best when we get off to a fast start, especially against a team like Georgia Tech,” Scott said. "I really liked our tempo. I felt like our guys were playing fast, getting lined up and really pressing the tempo - -which is something that we've continued to talk about during the off week. So I like where we are offensively right now. I feel like we got our momentum back after the Syracuse game and then having to kind of sit on the sidelines for two weeks.”
This week the challenge shifts to the N.C. State Wolfpack (6-2, 4-0 ACC) and their talented defensive front seven, led by defensive end Bradley Chubb — who ranks seventh in the nation in sacks (7.5) and second in the nation in tackles for loss (16).
However, it is not only Chubb that has caused problems for opposing offenses.
"Obviously a big challenge this week against N.C. State. I can't remember a time that a team had all seven of the front seven were either seniors or redshirt seniors,” Scott said. “This is a talented group that has a lot of experience. They have really been building toward this year since Coach (Dave) Doeren's got there. Those guys are really impressive on video. I know Chubb has 7.5 sacks already, very disruptive up front and they just have a combination of talent and experience. That's one reason that they're having the success they're having.
"They're not super complicated. The better you are defensively, the less you have to do. They line up and play ball and make you have to earn everything that you get."
Saturday’s game (3:30 p.m., ABC) will be the Tigers’ third top-20 road game of the season. Clemson already has faced Louisville (14th at the time of the game) and No. 13 Virginia Tech (12th at the time of the game).
It is the fact that the Tigers have already been on the road, played ranked opponents and been victorious which has Clemson embracing yet another opportunity to take the show on the road.
"It's kind of become the norm for us - -it's a great spot to be in,” Scott said. “We've had to go on the road and play some talented teams already and I think it really goes back to the mindset that Coach Swinney and our staff have really worked hard to get these guys to buy into, that it really is not about the opponent, it's about ourselves.
So our message this week is no different than it has been any week; our guys know what's at stake. They know it's a game that's going to have a major impact on our next goal, which is to win the division, but I think there's a lot of confidence by our guys because that we've been in these kinds of games before and I think our guys know the formula. If we take care of the ball and control the things that we can control, then we'll have a great opportunity."
Six-day hold for Florida State
The ACC announced a six-day hold on the league’s Nov. 11 slate of games. The times and networks will be announced following the Nov. 4 games.
The only games that were unaffected by the announcement were North Carolina at Pittsburgh on Thursday night (7:30, ESPN) and Duke at Army on Nov. 11 (noon, CBSSN).
O’Daniel semifinalist for Butkus Award
Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel has been named one of 15 semifinalists for the Dick Butkus Award. The Butkus Award is presented each year to the top linebacker in college football.