I got a chance to catch up with Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris on Monday to get his take on what’s going on with the Tigers’ subpar performances over the past three games, two of which have been losses. Morris is a good guy to talk to, very knowledgeable, honest, and has done a great job this season. It’s up to his players to execute and get back to taking care of the ball. I’ve talked to him plenty of times this season, so we joke around a bit and I’m comfortable asking him things like …
What the heck is going on down there?
Chad Morris: Well, turnovers right now. We’ve turned the football over the last three games and lost two of the three. That’s the big thing. The inability of us protecting the football right now is obviously the glaring concern.
It’s so easy to look at it and just say Sammy Watkins was out of the lineup, but all season long everyone talked about how many playmakers you have, and in the Virginia Tech game, you guys didn’t NEED him to have a big game. So just how much of a factor is he in the lineup?
CM: Obviously he’s an incredible playmaker, but Heather, that’s not it. Everybody can read into it, but it’s not a one-man team. We’ve got plenty of other guys who have made plays. Nuke Hopkins had a good game. We’ve got guys who have made plays all year long. The problem is, for whatever reason, the other night we didn’t make the plays. We laid the ball on the ground. We gave them a short field. … The next thing you know, it’s 27-3 at halftime and now you’re basically at that point trying to battle and scratch your way back in it. At that point, you don’t have that big-time playmaker that can push the field vertical. It’s twofold. You got behind and then you didn’t have that home run hitter But as far as us being Sammy Watkins, Sammy Watkins, yes he’s been integral to our success, but we put the ball on the ground and fumbled the football.
Just looking back at the past three games you have played, are you going backwards, or are you going in the right direction?
CM: No, I don’t think we’re going backwards, I don’t think we’re taking care of the football. I think by us not taking care of the football, we’ve lost confidence along the way. We’re not playing with the confidence level we had four weeks ago. We’re not doing that right now. A lot of that has to do with the fact that for the first eight games of the year we turned the ball over six times. In the last three games we turned it over 11 times. It’s not that someone has come out and done anything different against us. It’s not. We’re just not making good decisions with the football.
So going into South Carolina, how do you get that confidence back?
CM: Well, we’ve got to go back and quit pressing so hard. We’ve got to go back and execute the base offense. That’s something we were unable to do last week. That’s the main thing. We’ve got to get our confidence level back and we need a spark. We need something, someone, somebody – whether it’s Tajh [Boyd], Dwayne [Allen], Nuke [Hopkins], Sammy – somebody to give us that spark … somebody to step up and say, ‘Here it is, let’s go get this thing done.’ Unfortunately, we’re playing against one of the best defenses in the country.
That’s what I was just going to ask you – what makes them so good? That seems to be the strength of their team this year.
CM: There’s no question about that. They’re very physical. They run extremely well. It’s definitely the fastest defense we’ve seen this year. They’re very aggressive up front. Their front four is as good as anybody we’ve seen, anybody we’ve played. That’s what makes them so good, their ability to run.
So you’ve finally experienced first-hand why Clemson fans lose their minds with your team every year.
CM: (He laughed). I can understand, but my goodness, we’re 9-2 right now. We didn’t play very good football the other day. That’s going to happen. That happens to everybody in the country. This isn’t the only football team in the country that doesn’t play well at times. We’ve got to find a way to get out of a tailspin on it. It’s as simple as protecting and taking care of the football. … Those are the things we’ve got to correct. We’re by no way form or fashion in a panic mode. That’s the furthest thing this football team is in right now. But everybody experiences through the course of the season the ups and downs. You have to find what went wrong, identify it and fix it. That’s what you have to do.
Who do I pick this week?
CM: Who do you pick this week? Well you pick us.
I had you guys on the upset watch last week, but I didn’t think it was really going to happen.
CM: Uh oh. Uh oh. Well, dadgum, I’m blaming you, then.
Take a number, coach. Take a number.