Clemson tries to keep focused with hot start

BY foxsports • October 3, 2011

Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris has a ready reminder for any of his players who believe the eighth-ranked Tigers have arrived with their 5-0 start.

''I'll have my 10 1-2 (size) shoe up their tail if they come out dragging,'' Morris said Monday.

Morris might have to use it, especially after what Clemson's done this season.

The Tigers (5-0, 2-0 ACC) became the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to beat three straight opponents ranked in the Top 25, following wins over Auburn, Florida State and last Saturday night's 23-3 victory at Virginia Tech.

Clemson's offense is averaging 466 yards a game, second in the ACC and 20th in the country. Quarterback Tajh Boyd is the league leader in total offense and has thrown 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions, leading the Tigers into the top 10 for the first time since the 2008 preseason poll.

Then again, Morris has plenty of cold water to throw on Clemson's hot start this week as it prepares for Boston College (1-4, 0-2).

The Tigers' tempo on offense against Virginia Tech wasn't what it had been the first four games. Boyd didn't lock on to Morris after each play as the coordinator had taught him to.

Boyd ''wasn't quite as sharp as I wanted him to be,'' Morris said.

Still, it's hard to find fault with an offense that gained more than 300 yards on the Hokies' defense and had two scoring plays of more than 30 yards: Dwayne Allen's 32-yard catch and Mike Bellamy's 31-yard fourth-quarter run that put the game away.

Clemson's defense did its part, too, holding the Hokies to 258 yards of offense and without a touchdown at Lane Stadium for the first time since 1995.

Andre Branch was named the ACC's defensive lineman of the week and Jonathan Willard the league's linebacker of the week. Branch had 11 tackles, including three sacks, and forced a fumble, while Willard had nine tackles.

The Tigers hadn't won five straight since 2000 and comparisons to Clemson's 1981 national champions and the Auburn's BCS winners from last year are everywhere. After all, Morris learned his offensive chops from Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

Coach Dabo Swinney cautions of everyone to slow down, parades are for January not October.

''We go lay an egg this week and people forget about this real quick,'' he said.

Willard said he got plenty of congratulations from fellow students in his Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management course Monday morning.

Linebacker Corico Hawkins was grateful for the good feelings on campus - about 1,000 people greeted the Tigers when they arrived back at Death Valley at around 2:30 a.m. Sunday - but thinks Clemson has plenty to prove the rest of the season.

''We're still a 6-7 football team'' from 2010, Hawkins said.

''The same way we're 5-0 now, we could be 5-5 five weeks from now,'' he continued. ''We've just got to stay grounded.''

That's been a problem for Clemson when it's gotten this high in the rankings in recent years.

The Tigers were 7-1 and No. 10 in the country in 2006, but lost four of its final five games that year. Two seasons later, Clemson was ranked No. 9 in the preseason poll yet lost the opener to Alabama, 34-10, and never recovered. Swinney wound up taking over for coach Tommy Bowden, who walked away in midseason.

Morris and the Tigers don't want the same thing to happen this time.

Boston College, despite its record, has been a difficult matchup for Clemson through the years, the Tigers winning just two of the past five meetings and not scoring an offensive touchdown on the Eagles the past two seasons.

''That's a little alarming,'' Morris said.

So Morris will continue pushing his guys at practice, in film study and meetings. There'll be time for reflection when the season's complete, just not now.

''We'll watch a highlight film at the end of year, sit around eating cookies and milk together and say, `Wow, good year,''' Morris said. ''Right now, we've got to worry about winning games and Boston College is a big opponent.''

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