Offense shows balance, Ellington and Hopkins show out

by - Senior Writer -
Hopkins led the Tiger receivers with four catches for 50 yards.
Hopkins led the Tiger receivers with four catches for 50 yards.

CLEMSON – Balance.

Saturday’s win over Georgia Tech featured the kind of offensive balance that offensive coordinator Billy Napier has been striving for, and now that the receiver rotation appears settled and quarterback Kyle Parker is once again healthy, he thinks Clemson fans will see more of the same.

The Tigers had 236 yards rushing and 167 through the air, but at one point in the third quarter the number was 172 on the ground and 160 passing yards, and Napier said that is the approach the Clemson offense needs every week.

“This is what this offense has to be,” Napier said. “We were balanced and kept them off guard. We just haven’t had the continuity at receiver and the confidence level we’ve needed. Now that we’ve moved forward with the young guys, I think we can continue to be balanced and be aggressive. The longer that lineup can stay the same, the better we have a chance to be on Saturdays.”

Against the Jackets, however, Napier was quick to point out that the stellar play of the Clemson defense gave the offense plenty of opportunities.

“Those guys defensively did outstanding today,” he said. “If I could tell you how much time those guys spent on this game, you'd be amazed. They were ready. Our defensive coaches were the biggest difference. We got more possessions than most teams do when they play Georgia Tech and it was because of our defense.”

Quarterback Kyle Parker was a solid 17-for-27 through the air, and Napier said that Parker is just now feeling a certain level of comfort with his wideouts.

"I think him not being here all summer had a lot to do with it earlier,” Napier said of the inconsistency in the passing game. “Playing that position, you have to have confidence in the skill guys and he's more confident in these players. Bryce [McNeal] and Nuke [Hopkins] are freshmen. Jaron [Brown], Dwayne [Allen] and Andre [Ellington] are sophomores. As we go forward and that lineup stays the same, we'll throw and catch better."

*Hopkins led receivers with four catches for 50 yards, but it was his one-handed grab on the sideline during the second quarter that drew the most attention.

Hopkins streaked down the right sideline, stopped and went over the corner, snared the ball in one hand and then came down with one foot in bounds to keep the drive alive. It was reviewed, but video replay confirmed the catch.

“I just made an adjustment on the ball and Kyle put it on the money,” Hopkins said. “I went through with the play, and just used my ability to make those kinds of catches. I want to be the go-to guy in this offense, and now I am feeling more comfortable.”

*Ellington scored all three of Clemson’s touchdowns on Saturday, rushed for a career-high 166 yards, and two of his touchdown runs covered 40-plus yards. He also became the second-fastest player to 1,000 yards rushing in the contest.

He now has four touchdowns of 40-plus yards on offense this season, and Napier said Ellington is beginning to come into his own.

“He’s a great kid, a blue collar guy,” Napier said. “The more chances he gets to make plays, the more dynamic he will become. He can do everything, and I have to do everything I can each week to make sure he gets those chances.

“Andre is as talented a back as we’ve had around here. He’s got great vision, and he’s dense. He runs great between the tackles. He’s a great full-speed decision maker. He shows a burst. He’s got an extra gear, home-run hitting ability that’s going to be big for us as we move forward.”

Ellington caught a 10-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, the first of his career, and Ellington said he wasn’t even the primary receiver on the play.

“I was the third option,” Ellington said. “I was kind of hiding over there. He [Parker] checked it down to me. It was just me and the cornerback. I just made the play. I knew I had the momentum.”

On his first touchdown run, which covered 55 yards on the first drive of the game, Ellington said he saw daylight and ran. He also said his success is not a surprise to him.

“If the secondary doesn’t wrap up, it’s going to be six points,” Ellington said. “They didn’t wrap up. I saw daylight and took it to the sideline. I’m not surprising myself at all. I know how hard I worked in the off-season. I knew it was going to be my opportunity. I’m taking advantage of it.”

*After Tech kicker Scott Blair missed a 49-yard field goal with 11:04 remaining in the game, the Clemson offense went on a 15-play drive that effectively ended any hope of a Tech comeback.

Napier said the drive was “impressive.”

"Some of the players awhile ago were talking about the last drive and comparing it to the one we had to finish off the game against Kentucky in the bowl game last year," he said. "To me, that was impressive, how they imposed their will when they had to go run it. We were up by two scores so it was like, 'Let's go grind this clock out. It's in your hands.'"

*Eight of Clemson’s offensive players missed the pre-game meal because they were stuck in the hotel’s elevator.
The weight of the players – Chad Diehl, Dwayne Allen, Drew Traylor, Matt Sanders, Chris Hairston, Tyler Fowler, David Smith and Antoine McClain – was 2,390 pounds. The weight limit for the elevator is 1,500 pounds.

The group had to be rescued by the fire department, which had to force the door open and wait for the players to jump down to the floor.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney laughed at the incident in hindsight.

"I said, 'You gotta be kidding me. There's no way that happens. All were trapped in an elevator, in between the first and second floors. It was … every big person on our team. And they were trapped in there for almost 50 minutes.”

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