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Dabo Swinney

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney encourages the defense during Saturday's one-point win at North Carolina.

CLEMSON – The Clemson Tigers have seemingly struggled to start the 2019 season – with "seemingly" being the operative word.

The Tigers are averaging 38 points per game, 486 yards per game, 68.6 plays per game and 7.08 yards per play. When you look back on the 2016 and 2018 seasons — both ending in national championships — 2019 is better than one and nearly as good as the other.

In 2016 the Tigers averaged 35.2 points and 463.4 yards per through the first five games, and in 2018 the Tigers averaged 38 points per game and 500 yards per through their first five games.

"We can't just look at stats and make assumptions," head coach Dabo Swinney said. "Every game is a season of its own. That game (against North Carolina) those throws weren't over the middle because the safeties were down low. We had (J.C.) Chalk and No. 8 (Justyn Ross) wide open for a touchdown and missed that throw.

"We hit Ross down the middle and again and those were big plays. One was a crossing route. They tried to play press man outside, which is why Tee had a big game. We had the right plays. We just didn't execute very well and we couldn't get into rhythm. We didn't make the layups. It was like a comedy of errors, to be honest with you. They also kept the ball."

The biggest complaint of the Tigers' offense through the first five games has been the Tigers lack of passing in the middle of the field. Drags, digs, slants and posts have been almost non-existent this season. Instead the Tigers have relied on the 50-50 ball down the sidelines to provide the majority of their offensive explosiveness.

But according to Swinney, the lack of production in the middle of the field passing game is not for a lack of trying — it is a result of the way defenses are playing them.

"There wasn't anything intermediate with (North Carolina). They were taking that away. The throws were outside," Swinney said. "We missed an opportunity on the slant, the ball got batted down. That was a poor protection call on us as coaches. We had Tee open on another play but our protection wasn't good at running back. We've been pretty good. And Trevor hasn't played in all those games. The Georgia Tech game ... we just ran the ball for 400 yards because that's what the game dictated."

Swinney reiterated the fact that the Tigers' perceived offensive issues are simply due to small issues that he believes can and will be corrected.

"We had poor fundamentals. We had good drives going," Swinney said. "We had third-and-1 twice and we didn't get either one of them. Amari (Rodgers) just has to go get the first down ,,, He was just trying to do too much right there.

"There are a lot of little things we can coach off of from this game. We just missed some plays that were there. Their style of play and how they milked the clock and us not playing as good a defense as we've been playing ... we didn't complement each other very well. Next thing you know, we're in a dogfight."

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Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia. He is editor of www.ClemsonMaven.io

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