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Tony Elliott: Clemson Offense Still 'Shooting Ourselves in the Foot'

Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott thought a breakout game was coming for his unit, but after it didn't materialize, it's back to the drawing board for the Tigers, he said.

Tony Elliott "felt good" about the Clemson offense coming out of the team's week off.

Despite ranking last in the ACC in points per game and yards per contest, there was a sense from the Tigers' offensive coordinator that a "breakout" was coming at Syracuse on Friday after they made progress against Boston College. 

However, it just didn't quite happen. Clemson won the game, 17-14, but it had 314 total yards on 73 plays and averaged just 3.1 yards per rush on 37 tries. 

"I knew there would be some challenges, but I thought the guys progressed well throughout the course of the week," Elliott said. "I think they were confident that this would be the game where we would break out. 

"But we’re still continuing to shoot ourselves in the foot. Costly penalty here, costly missed blocked there, miscommunication, we were starting to get drives and then get out of rhythm."

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It was constantly one step forward and two steps back for the Tigers on Friday night. They did produce six plays that went for 15 yards or more, but there was a bad snap that thwarted a drive in the second half, and there were still too many plays that went nowhere or passes dropped. That forced difficult third-down conversion tries. 

"I thought we did a couple of good things," Elliott said. "Remember we had some long, long drives that we put together. Syracuse plays a lot more coverage than they have in the past. They’re going to make us earn it. We put the ball in the air a couple of times down the field and we didn’t come down with it."

One uncontrollable issue was offensive line depth. Center Hunter Rayburn was placed in COVID-19 protocol on Friday morning. It could be one reason why things didn't flow well at times and those missed assignments occurred. 

"I wanted to put up more points. Every kid in that locker room wanted to score more points," Elliott said. "They want to have the production and the output that we’re accustomed to over here at Clemson. For a lot of reasons, some things we can control and some things we can’t control, it’s just not happening."

The Tigers now turn their attention to Pittsburgh, which hosts Clemson next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Panthers have the highest-scoring offense in the ACC, so Elliott could need his unit to get into the end zone a lot more than the two times it did at Syracuse.

"It’s back to the drawing board," Elliott said. "One thing is that the guys still have the will to win. They’re working their butts off. At some point we’re very optimistic that it will turn, we just don’t know when it is." 

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