Run the Ball: Elliott focused on giving Tigers best chance to win


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Gallman fights for yards against Oklahoma last December
Gallman fights for yards against Oklahoma last December

CLEMSON – Winning football teams run the football. It’s been that way since the game was invented, and it will always be that way.

That’s why co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott sticks with the running game – even when it isn’t working – and he told the media last week that the Tigers will have to run the ball with some level of success if they want to knock off Oklahoma next week.

The Tigers and Sooners face off on New Year’s Eve in the Capital One Orange Bowl with the winner advancing to play for the national championship. The team that runs the ball the best might just be the winner.

The Tigers have averaged 4.96 yards per carry this season and have rushed for 2888 yards and 30 touchdowns. Those numbers equal out to 222.15 yards per game on the ground, eclipsing the goal set by Elliott prior to the season.

“Everybody looks at stats, but it's really been a confidence builder for our guys up front. Early in the season, we talked about averaging 200 yards rushing,” Elliott said. “But when we started to do it, there was an expectation. So then it went from wanting 200 to wanting 215 and then 225. We want to be one of the top rushing offenses in the league, and ultimately the next stop is to be one of the top rushing offenses in the country. Overall, it's helped us in the passing game because we can run it and control the clock but we can also set up the play-action. Then we can throw it and be balanced, and throughout the course of the game people have to figure out what they want to stop. So we have to be able to commit running the ball.”

The Sooners are 27th nationally in giving up just 3.62 yards per carry this season and are giving just under 150 yards per game on the ground. Against Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl last December Clemson rushed 42 times for just 68 yards. Those numbers will have to improve if Clemson wants to win next week.

“We are going to win it in the trenches. They are built to stop the run with their scheme,” Elliott said. “They give you opportunities to throw it, but we have to help our guys schematically and figure out what we have to do. They are built to stop the run and they are not going to give you the inside run. They are going to rally to the ball on the outside run. We have to help them, but more importantly we have to be ready to play and be physical up front.”

Prior to this season, the Clemson offense would abandon the running game and put games on the shoulders of its quarterbacks. With a quarterback like Deshaun Watson, it would be easy to lapse into old habits, but Elliott said the Tigers have to stay committed to the running game.

“It's proven that when Deshaun takes off we are hard to stop. We have to throw the ball to loosen up the defense, however,” he said. “And we have to stay committed to the run. We can't give up easily. This is Oklahoma. They are a Top 30 defense and they are built to stop the run but we are going to have to challenge them.”


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