The Clemson football program fell 42-25 against the LSU Tigers Monday night in the National Championship, and some play-calling had Tiger fans confused.
The Clemson football program saw its impressive 29-game winning streak come to an end Monday night when the Tigers fell 42-25 to the LSU Tigers in New Orleans.
Clemson was unable to come up with big plays when it needed to, especially on third down. The Tiger defense allowed LSU to convert on several 3rd-down-and-long situations and the Clemson offense was unable to convert at all on third down, going just 1-for-11.
Of those 11 third down attempts, more than half were less than five yards.
Throughout the night, Clemson football fans questioned the offensive play-calling and it’s clear that was a major issue in the outcome of the game Monday.
In particular, Tiger fans pondered why Clemson wouldn’t rush the ball with RB Travis Etienne on a consistent basis.
Etienne carried the ball just 15 times for 78 yards (5.2 YPC) and a touchdown on the night. Though they aren’t eye-popping statistics, Etienne was still effective at moving the chains and getting positive yardage early on when Clemson used him. Unfortunately, Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott didn’t commit to Etienne.
Take the beginning of the second half as an example. Clemson’s defense got a stop and the Tigers used Etienne on the ground to establish a running attack and eventually pounded the ball into the end zone with him, cutting the lead to three points. Unfortunately, that touchdown run would be the last designed run of the game for Etienne. It was the 10:49 mark of the third quarter.
Etienne was slowly wearing down that LSU defense. Now, would that have changed the outcome of the game? Who knows? But it certainly was a major issue for the Tigers.
Elliott and Scott got away from the running game and elected to make the offense one-dimensional, despite the fact that Trevor Lawrence was having a rough night and was missing his targets- mostly on overthrows.
Had the offensive play-callers elected to use Etienne more, that may have built up Lawrence’s confidence and allowed him to settle into the game.
Was play-calling the reason that Clemson lost the game? No. There were a plethora of reasons the Tigers weren’t able to pull it out in New Orleans Monday night, but play-calling was certainly one of them.
These guys are extremely talented and smart individuals, but they abandoned the run and got too cute offensively, and it cost them.
As Clemson moves forward with Tony Elliott and Brandon Streeter as Co-Offensive Coordinators, we need to see a much crisper and aggressive attack. It’s tiresome seeing an offense with so much talent spend an entire quarter trying to ‘feel out’ a defense.
Honestly, if there’s anything Clemson can learn from LSU, it’s the fact that the offense needs to attack and play with confidence.