Wake Forest-Clemson Preview
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris hasn't seen much of the high-flying juggernaut he and many others expected the third-ranked Tigers to be this fall.
Morris believes things will sync soon, both for the Tigers and for Boyd as they get set to host the Demon Deacons on Saturday.
Morris was happy to leave North Carolina State with a 26-14 victory on Sept. 19. Still, it was tied for the third-fewest points the Tigers (3-0, 1-0 ACC) have scored in a victory since Morris took over the offense after the 2010 season.
It wasn't until Boyd's two second-half touchdown passes to Martavis Bryant that Clemson was able to secure the victory.
"We've done some good things," Morris said Monday. "But we haven't played our best."
Neither has Boyd, the senior who passed up the NFL draft for a final season of college ball. He was the biggest reason Clemson topped then-No. 5 Georgia 38-35 in the season opener - Boyd passed for three TDs and rushed for two others - yet has been highly inconsistent in two games since.
Boyd played less than a half in a 52-13 victory over South Carolina State and didn't throw a scoring pass, ending his run of 17 straight games with at least one. He appeared like he wanted to get it all back early on against the Wolfpack, missing open receivers and failing to capitalize on two long first-quarter drives that both finished in field goals.
Boyd, though, could get back on track Saturday after going 27 of 38 for a career-best 428 yards and career high-tying five touchdown passes in a 42-13 victory at Wake Forest last season.
However, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Bryant will have his playing time reduced for making unacceptable throat-slashing gestures following one of his TD catches against North Carolina State.
Morris said Clemson's herky-jerky schedule threw the players off kilter. After the backups played most of the way against South Carolina State, the Tigers were off for 12 days until facing the Wolfpack and that led to some inconsistencies early on. Plus, Boyd spent too much time trying to place balls in a perfect spot instead of trusting his technique, Morris said.
It wasn't until Clemson's 59th snap - a 20-yard pass to Bryant on 2nd-and-22 midway through the third quarter - that Boyd showed poise and confidence that he carried through the rest of the game.
"It was if he wasn't thinking, he was playing," Morris said of the difference.
The offense will have to find some rhythm over the next few weeks to stay out front in the ACC. After facing Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1), the Tigers travel to Syracuse. Two weeks after that comes No. 8 Florida State in an expected showdown for the ACC Atlantic Division and a spot in the league's title game.
Clemson set school records for points and yards gained in each of Morris' first two seasons, but offensive lineman Brandon Thomas said the attack isn't yet what it had been in recent seasons.
"We need to get consistent, I can tell you that," he said. "We sputter here and there, we get big plays here and there. We need to get consistent as a whole."
Clemson finished with 415 yards of offense against North Carolina State, it's poorest showing of the season.
Morris is itching to return to the practice field and find the missing flow. He believes this upcoming stretch of six consecutive Saturday games - plus some hard, hard drilling - will get the Tigers back on the high-flying page they figured to be at when the season began.
Morris spoke with Boyd the past few days about settling down and enjoying his final season. Boyd has said he didn't return to learn an offense or pad his stats, but to win football games. Morris thinks that's an awfully big burden for one player to carry around on his shoulders and will do what he can to lessen it as the season goes on.
Swinney acknowledged the inconsistencies on offense, yet is confident big things are ahead.
"I believe before the year's over this will be one of the best offenses this school has seen," Swinney said.
Wake Forest is also searching for offensive consistency after early defeats to Boston College and Louisiana-Monroe, but got a big boost last Saturday with a 25-11 victory at Army.
Michael Campanaro, who tied an ACC record with 16 catches for a career-high 177 yards against Louisiana-Monroe, finished with four catches for 91 yards, including a 66-yard TD. Tanner Price was 6 of 17 for 132 yards with one interception and gained 66 yards on 11 carries, and Josh Harris rushed for two second-half touchdowns.
"You can beat around the bush all you want, but we needed to win," coach Jim Grobe said.
Wake Forest hasn't done much winning against Clemson, dropping four straight and six of seven meetings. Boyd has passed for 771 yards in the last two and the Tigers have averaged 35.3 points during the four-game win streak in the series.