Clemson offense on a roll


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RALEIGH, N.C. – The Clemson offense has been on a roll of late, and Saturday’s 43-23 win over the N.C. State Wolfpack in Raleigh was no exception.

The Clemson offense amassed 454 yards of total offense and 43 points as Clemson won its fifth consecutive game, and the Tigers have scored at least 38 points in all five of those wins. In that span, the offense has averaged 42 points per game and 426 yards per contest, and Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier said it all comes down to execution.

“Obviously, our execution level was high out there today,” Napier said. “We got some breaks; there is no doubt about that. But that was also our kids staying focused on each possession. They were focusing on each play, one play at a time. The game is played by the players, and they played well.

“But I also have to mention the leadership show by some of our seniors, in particular Thomas Austin, Jacoby Ford, Michael Palmer and C.J. Spiller. Those four guys, in part, were critical in getting everybody back down to earth after last week, getting them to stay humble, and realizing that we still have steps to take in order to get where we want to be.”

Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker said Saturday’s 254 rushing yards, many of those in the fourth quarter, are indicative of why the offense has been able to roll of late.

“There are a lot of things that stick out right now, but the thing that really sticks out to me is that we’ve been able to run the ball, especially in the fourth quarter,” Parker said. “That just tears the heart out of a defense. I think we scored 19 points against Florida St. in the fourth quarter, and today we got some big scores here in the fourth quarter. It all starts in being able to run the football.”

In the early part of Saturday’s win, Parker completed three third down passes that kept drives alive and allowed the drives to end in points. The first was a drag route that Xavier Dye took for 21 yards, and then there was tight end Michael Palmer’s catch of a Parker rocket for 22 yards.

Later in the first half, receiver Jacoby Ford broke open for a 47-yard gain that head coach Dabo Swinney said was part Parker, part coaching.

“We felt like on that third down play that they would have two safeties,” Napier said. “We felt like Jacoby, if we lined him up in the slot, could maybe split them and he did. He got behind them, and Kyle got hit on the play, then bought some time with his feet, and got the ball to Jacoby down the field.”

It was plays like that on third down [Clemson converted 6-of-10] that had Napier smiling outside of the locker room after the game.

“That was probably the biggest difference for us today, especially in the early part of the first half,” Napier said. “Third down was big for us, not only throwing the ball but running the ball in those situations. We continue to try and get better on third down, and that has been a big emphasis for us as the season has gone on. The guys realize the value of third down and we were able to keep them on the field today.”

Parker also said that after the Tigers’ last loss, at Maryland in early October, the Clemson offense used the bye week to learn to focus and pay attention to detail.

“We protected well, and I thought we just executed at a high level out there today,” Parker said. “That has been the biggest thing during this streak – we are just executing really, really well. Today, we didn’t turn it over, and we helped out our defense. We were just really good and efficient.

“Every down we were executing, and we did a good job of staying on schedule, and there were really not many negative plays. It seemed like we were always moving forward. And early in the game, we had some guys step up and make some big catches.”

Clemson tight end Michael Palmer said that Parker is playing well beyond his years during the current hot streak. Parker now has 16 touchdown passes on the season, and completed 12-of-18 passes on Saturday for 182 yards.

“He is playing like a senior right now,” Palmer said. “There are things he is doing right now that show he is playing beyond his years, and our team needs that right now.”

OTHER NOTES AND QUOTES:

There were four bowl representatives in the hallway outside of the locker room after the game: The Sugar Bowl, the Aloha Bowl, the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl. Swinney shook each of their hands, then gave them his best smile and said “I hope you don't take this the wrong way, and you've all got great bowl games, but I hope we don't play in any of your bowl games.” All the bowl reps shared a huge laugh with the Clemson head coach, who obviously wants his Tigers to get the Orange Bowl berth the ACC Champion receives.

Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said he was happy with Clemson’s two sacks on N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson, but was displeased with how many times Wilson got away. “I am really happy with the pressure, but I am not at all happy with our containment and getting him on the ground,” Steele said. “He is very athletic, and we had him running around, but we could not get him on the ground. We caused to throw it away some, but we have got to get him on the ground. We had him on the run a good bit. He never got his feet settled, and we matched their routes pretty good, especially when we had the older guys out there. When he did get his feet set, we matched up well on their receivers and just kept pushing forward.”

The Pack also gained six first downs on Clemson penalties, but Steele said as a coach, it is less feeling frustrated and more of a coaching aspect. “Coaching on defense is not an emotional thing, it is a technical thing,” Steele said. “You can tell a guy what he did, and you can correct what he did, but a facemask [penalty] is still a facemask. In that aspect, it is more of a technical thing than an emotional thing.”

Clemson running back C.J. Spiller was asked if he would raise his hand if Swinney asked for volunteers to kick extra points. “I would raise my hand. I did that some in high school. But that probably wouldn’t be a good idea with my [turf] toe.”

Swinney said that guard Thomas Austin, who had Spiller roll up on his ankle, should be fine. X-Rays were negative, and Swinney said the Tigers should also get defensive end Da’Quan Bowers back for the Virginia game. “I am sure that if he had his pads here, he would have tried to play today,” Swinney said of Bowers.. “He sure thought he could play today, so we had to leave his pads back in Clemson.”

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