SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The scary thing for opposing defenses that are still to face the No.1 Clemson Tigers is that their offense, which was supposed to be one of the best in the nation, has yet to hit its stride — even coming off a second 600-plus-yard performance in their first three games.
After those performances, the Tigers are still having to answer questions about what is wrong with the offense? What is wrong with quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who has thrown five interceptions in the first three games? What has happened to the play-calling?
But the Tigers are not focused on the outside noise because they believe that when they finally hit their stride, opposing teams better look out.
"We don't pay attention to what's going on in the outside. But we have our own expectation and that's to be the best offense in the country," co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. "And so right now we feel like we're just not quite in the rhythm where we need to be. But we aren't far off. It's small things. You make a couple of those plays, convert a couple of those third downs, and we're rocking and rolling.
"So the biggest thing for us is managing these guys, continuing to push them, and challenging them: Don't grow weary. Don't grow weary. It's just the third game in the season and it's still early, and it's a new offense. A lot of those expectations are in reference to last year's offense. And we have to identify ourselves and figure who we are."
That sentiment was echoed by Lawrence, who finished the Tigers' 41-6 victory with a career-high 395 yards passing, three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown.
"Big picture, a lot of yards, a lot of big plays, scored a lot of points and did a lot of good things. But we know that we can be a lot better. And that’s a good thing. If you think after that that’s the best we can do, that’s not. We can play so much better than that. It’s really a positive thing. ... We’re not a finished product yet."
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After the Tigers' win, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was asked if there was any reason to be concerned with Lawrence's play through the first three games, in which he has thrown five interceptions — as opposed to throwing four all of last season.
Swinney was having none of the question, "Other teams have good players and good coaches. ... We're not going to score every time out there."
"I'm kind of glad everything just hasn't been perfect," Swinney added. "It keeps us humble. Because we have a lot we got to improve on. Now it's back to the drawing board, keep learning, man. Eventually, hopefully we'll be a little bit more polished team as we go through the season."
While many of the country is left wondering if Lawrence is over-confident at times, attempting passes that most quarterbacks would not attempt — the "Brett Favre" effect — Lawrence believes that has not been the case. In fact, to many people's surprise, opposing teams have really good players on their team as well.
"I think some of them have just been defense making good plays," Lawrence said. "That’s been probably half of them. And then the other ones just whether it’s me trying to do too much like the one today when I was rolling out, or I underthrew one against Texas A&M. Not all of them have been bad decisions I don’t think, but just clean that up for sure and not put our defense in bad situations.
"Facing some adversity is good for you as long as you learn from it. It’s like coach always says, just trying to get better every week. I’ve said before, I’m not going to be perfect and definitely have made some decisions that I’m not happy with.”
The key for Lawrence moving forward is to "trust the system" and avoid the tendency to do too much.
If he does that, opposing defenses had better look out because they will be facing an offensive juggernaut.
"... Just trusting the system is going to be a big thing for me. Just keep doing my job every play," Lawrence said. "Don’t try to take too much and just do my job. That's something I’ve been trying to do this season that I think I did well last season for sure. Something I’m still trying to do every week. Just do my job. Big plays are going to come. We have so many playmakers it’s going to happen and don’t try to force stuff and just let it happen."