The Tigers (6-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have struggled to run even their most basic plays the past two games, Morris said Monday, managing just 38 points combined against Boston College and Florida State. That’s much lower than the 44 points a game they averaged the first five weeks of the season.
“We’re not playing well. We’re not playing well at key positions,” he said. “We’re consistently inconsistent and that’s the biggest thing I see over the past two weeks. We’ve got to get it fixed and we’ve got to get it right. And we will.”
That starts Saturday at Maryland (5-2, 1-2), where the Tigers have had problems in the past. Clemson rallied from 18 points down in the second half for a 56-45 win at College Park two years ago and have split the previous four visits to Maryland.
Unless things get turned around on offense, Morris said, it could be another long day against the Terps.
Morris said Clemson left tackle Brandon Thomas is the only one on offense playing at a consistently high level. As for the rest, including quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins, he said it’s been a challenge to make plays.
“We’re about as simple as we can be on offense right now. We’re unable to really push the envelope forward,” Morris said.
Morris, Boyd and the Tigers have been one of the country’s offensive leaders the past three seasons with a quick-moving, fast-strike attack that often overwhelms opponents.
But it was the Tigers who were overwhelmed Saturday night in a 51-14 defeat to the third-ranked Seminoles, who scored the most points ever by an opponent in Death Valley.
The critical moments came early, Morris said, both with Clemson’s mistakes and its failure to respond when given the chance to get back in the game.
Tight end Stanton Seckinger fumbled on Clemson’s first play, turning a first-down catch into a short field that Florida State quickly jumped on with a touchdown. Trailing 10-0 later in the quarter, Boyd was sacked by Lamarcus Joyner and Mario Edwards Jr. scooped up the fumble for an easy TD.
“Florida State is certainly not a team you need to help,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
Still, the Tigers were down just 17-7 and twice moved the ball into Florida State territory with a chance to get their home crowd back into the game, yet came away with no points.
“It’s just hard to explain,” Morris said.
“We’ve got one guy playing well and 10 not,” he said. “We’re what seven games into it? That’s what’s disheartening right now.”
Boyd, the Heisman Trophy contender, is sure to take much of the flak after getting held to 156 yards passing and throwing two interceptions. While acknowledging Boyd’s bad performance, Morris spread the blame around and included himself.
“I could’ve called a lot better plays,” he said. “It’s not just on Tajh. We could’ve blocked better up front. We could’ve run harder. We had six drops.”
Clemson faces a Maryland team hurting from the loss of receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, both who broke their right legs in a loss at Wake Forest
“We got to make sure we move forward,” Terps coach Randy Edsall said. “What has to happen is we have to have guys step up and guys go out there and play with the kind of intensity that you have to play with for 60 minutes.”
Thomas, Clemson’s fifth-year senior, said his teammates were upset with the Florida State loss, but confident they’ll rebound against Maryland. Thomas said he and other upperclassmen told Clemson’s younger players in the locker room Saturday night not to hang their heads because the season was far from over.
“We can go to a BCS game. Who knows?” he said. “We’ve got finish strong. We’ve got five, six weeks left. Anything can happen.”
That means getting Clemson’s offense back clicking on all cylinders.
Swinney is confident the Tigers will respond well.
“When you get knocked down, you’re not going to lay down,” the coach said. “I guess you could, but that’s not the way we think.”