Clemson's offensive coaches were in for quite the surprise Saturday against Georgia Tech.
According to offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, the Yellow Jackets came out in a defensive scheme the Tigers weren't remotely suspecting, and it forced them to make changes that limited Clemson's sputtering scoring attack to 284 yards in the Tigers' 14-8 win.
"Really, really proud of our guys because we prepared for who we thought they were going to be and they came out in a structure that was completely different than what we thought we were going to see," Elliott said. "We've really only seen them do that one other time and that was last year against UCF.
"But we're still leaving too many points on the field."
Elliott's squad was held under 300 yards for the second time this season and the second time against a team from the Peach State. He said the Yellow Jackets used a three-man front and dropped eight defenders into coverage in order to take away big plays and force Clemson to be patient, and it took adjustments to the game plan.
"They were trying to bait us," Elliott said. "They were trying to get us to do a lot of different things. They were showing press, they were bailing, they were trapping, they were squatting. They were doing a lot of things to confuse a young quarterback in the passing game."
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Clemson's downfield passing attack has yet to surface in 2021, and the Yellow Jackets made sure it continued to be a question mark. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who was 18-of-25 passing, and Elliott didn't bite and force vertical throws. Instead, though, it made the Tigers look disjointed on offense.
Facing a lighter box, Clemson was supposed to counter with a pounding run game, but the Tigers only averaged 3.9 yards per carry. Will Shipley did produce 88 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, and Uiagalelei added 46 yards on eight rushes, but it should've been more.
"Obviously, you'd love to have a ton of rushing yards," Elliott said. "If it's four yards and a cloud of dust, let's figure out how to target these guys and just keep moving the chains. Proud of the guys for buying into that coming out at the half. But at the same time, when we get in the red zone we need to come away with points."
That's an area the Tigers struggled. Clemson had eight possessions before the wild final drive when a Shipley fumble turned into a late safety. Elliott said it felt like they played an option team because of the limited number of drives.
When Clemson did have the ball, it was a solid 9-of-15 on third downs and didn't allow a sack, but the Tigers turned the ball over twice in the red zone.
"There are some positives," Elliott said, "but also some things we can learn and grow from."
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