CLEMSON - The running game isn't dead at Clemson.
You just have to know where to look.
You might find it hiding in a swing pass to a running back. Maybe in a trick play, although Kyle Young would argue with you there. You just have to look harder to find it, according to Clemson coach Tommy Bowden.
"I don't understand how they figure the stats," said Young. "A reverse -- that counts against our running stats. You look at those as running plays - that's fine. But that's not a running game."
According to Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, neither is lining up in the I - for now at least. With a line that averages closer to 250 than 300, he's finding ways other than taking the ball between the tackles to run the ball.
If Young is looking for the stats to back it up, though, he will have keep his own set of numbers. So far this season Clemson has averaged 75 yards a game rushing. Against
Virginia Tech, the Tigers gained just 17 yards after they ran for 104 yards against both Marshall and Virginia Tech.
Bowden has said his offense isn't designed to take away the run. In fact, he's all for running the ball. "I know I've said in the past that at Tulane we rushed for over 2000
yards and when we do that here we'll win some games," Bowden said. "We won't until we're more productive."
The problem is the line. Bowden doesn't want to play smash-mouth football with his fragile line, which doesn't weigh much in the first place and isn't that deep. Instead he's trying to get the football to the corners. That strategy has gone well enough. Clemson had 19 first downs against
Virginia Tech, one of the top defenses in the country. But the offense is plodding along like its running the ball out of the I formation.
"Somebody's not making big plays," Bowden said. "Somebody's got to break one. Either we've got to find a person on campus to do that, or we've got to recruit one."
Clemson's 19 first downs produced 221 total yards against Virginia Tech. The offense, although it's efficient, isn't producing enough yardage, according to Bowden. Just wait, he said. Bowden isn't tossing this season aside, but
he can see some potential.
"Overall in the three games we've played, they've played pretty good," he said. "The think is that there is a different level that we can get to on offense."
Bowden does have the I formation in his offensive playbook. He plans to turn to that page when his linemen are more experienced and bigger.
"I've bee trying to get these old boys to take like dry oatmeal and water and gain 20 to 30 pounds," he jokes. "They're not going to gain that kind of
weight this season. They're not going to get bigger this year. We've got to find ways to line up and play without mashing people."