No. 9 Clemson back to work after week off
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris doesn't like waking up angry. He hopes he won't have to do it again this season.
The ninth-ranked Tigers first-year coordinator was disappointed and annoyed at his team's careless play and lack of physicality in a 31-17 loss at Georgia Tech two weeks ago. Clemson committed four turnovers - the most in any game this season - and was pounded by the Yellow Jackets for most of the opening half in its first defeat of the year.
''For the fourth time in the last four years I woke up the day after a game with a loss,'' Morris said. ''I don't like that feeling. Neither do the players.''
Morris has gotten much of the credit for Clemson's revitalized offense, which had led the ACC with more than 40 points a game until falling to Georgia Tech. He followed two 16-0 state championship season at Lake Travis High School in Texas with a 10-3 mark in his lone season as Tulsa's offensive coordinator.
But Morris didn't like what he saw against Georgia Tech and knows that can't happen again when the Tigers (8-1, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) meet Wake Forest (5-4, 4-2) with a chance to clinch the ACC's Atlantic Division.
Clemson spent most of its off week honing in on technique and fundamentals, tightening up things that may have gone sideways during the first two months of the season. The Tigers also quickly turned their focus to Wake Forest and their chance to reach the ACC title game for the second time in three seasons.
Tackle Philip Price shrugged off the sentimental aspect of playing his final game at Death Valley because of what's at stake with a win over Wake Forest.
''That means a lot more to me,'' Price said of an ACC title. ''We've got to focus on playing our game, doing what we can do and not beating ourselves.''
Wake Forest has won three of its past eight meetings with Clemson, none of those coming at Death Valley. The Demon Deacons come off a 24-17 nonconference loss to Notre Dame and also say they'll be better prepared for their opportunity to grab control of the Atlantic Division.
''I think we are going to have a great week of practice,'' Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price said. ''There is still a lot to play for this season. Next week is a really big game and we are still in it.''
A Wake Forest win would put it in the driver's seat for the ACC title game since it would have beaten both Florida State and Clemson and hold the edge in any two-way tiebreak. The Seminoles also have a remote chance to return to the title game, but only if they win out, Clemson loses out and Wake follow a big win over the Tigers with a loss at home to Maryland.
Clemson punter Dawson Zimmerman thinks the Tigers are prepared to take the guesswork completely out with a solid effort this week. ''We aren't looking past this game,'' he said. ''We basically have to execute, play our game and everything is going to take care of itself as long as we focus.''
That did not happen against Georgia Tech.
Sammy Watkins had nine catches for 153 yards and a touchdown. But he said he and his teammates took the Yellow Jackets lightly and it cost them their undefeated season. ''We learned we can't do that to anyone,'' Watkins said.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd threw two interceptions in that loss after having three through his first eight games. Morris was particularily miffed about the first which came about because of miscommunication between Boyd and star wideout Sammy Watkins. Morris was also bothered by fumbles by each of Clemson's freshmen tailbacks in D.J. Howard and Mike Bellamy, who played because of an injury to starter Andre Ellington.
''You can't beat a good middle school team with three or four turnovers,'' Morris said.
Ellington didn't work out much during the off week to heal a nagging ankle injury. Morris expects Ellington, fifth in the ACC with 745 yards, to be back full-go at practice and against Wake Forest.
Morris said his players flushed the Georgia Tech defeat early last week. Just to be sure, Morris will drive the Tigers as hard as he has all year to avoid another horrible day after.
''Losing is not an option,'' he said. ''We don't lose, period.''