Clemson Preparing for Stingy Pitt Defense in Home Finale

Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott says the if Tigers want to be successful this weekend against Pitt, winning the one-on-one matchups on the outside will be key to softening up a stingy Panthers defense.
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In what is expected to be the final home game for players such as Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, it's kind of poetic that Pitt is the opponent. 

The Panthers are the last team to beat the Tigers in Death Valley. A loss that occurred back in November of 2016 when Chris Blewitt's 48-yard field goal with just 12 seconds left gave Pitt a 43-42 win in what was one of the biggest upsets of the season. 

On that day Pitt held the Clemson running game in check, holding the Tigers to just 50 yards on 25 carries. Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott says that is what Pat Narduzzi coached teams are known for though and expects nothing less from the Panther this time around. 

"Definitely have to make sure we do a good job of making them be honest," Elliott said. "Have to stay balanced best we can, force the run when you need to, but also understanding that the structure is built to stop the run. So you're going to have to do things to supplement your run game, and more importantly, you're going to have to throw and catch." 

The two teams also squared off in the 2018 ACC Championship Game, and on that night, Travis Etienne and the Clemson ground attack was much more effective. Etienne ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage as the Tigers racked up over 300 yards on the ground and averaged more than eight yards per carry. 

Elliott says that if the Tigers are going to be successful on offense this weekend, winning the one-on-one matchups on the outside will be key. They will need those to soften up a defense that allows opposing offenses just 2.4 yards per carry on the ground, and with a quarterback in Trevor Lawrence that hasn't taken a snap in five weeks throwing the passes.

"Even if you spread them out and have a five-man blocking service, they're going to find a way to get seven (in the box)," Elliott said. "If you have six men, they're going to find a way to get eight. They are going to force you to win the one-on-one matchups and make the contested plays and make you throw and catch vs. man coverage. They are going to force you to throw the low-percentage throws."

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