Coach wants starts to carry team; Tigers hope to break trend of streaky losses

Swinney intent on featuring Spiller, Ford

pstrelow@thestate.comOctober 2, 2009 

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Clemson running back No. 28 C.J. Spiller evades TCU linebacker Daryl Washington No. 41 after a 60-yard reception during the second quarter as TCU defeats Clemson 14-10 Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. The play set up an eventual one-yard touchdown rush by Spiller.

RICH GLICKSTEIN/RGLICKSTEIN@THESTATE.COM

  • TIGERS VS. TERRAPINS

    WHO: Clemson (2-2) at Maryland (1-3)

    WHEN: Noon Saturday

    WHERE: Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md.

    LINE: Clemson by 13.5

    TV: ESPNU (channel 16O)

    RADIO: ESPN Radio 93.1 FM

CLEMSON - Dabo Swinney doesn't believe Clemson's offense can have too much of a good thing.

In other words, he cannot find any danger to the Tigers' heavy reliance on senior running back C.J. Spiller and senior receiver Jacoby Ford, who have accounted for 55.7 percent of the team's offensive yardage and 45.5 percent of the touches.

"If I lose, it ain't going to be because 28 (Spiller) had three touches," Swinney said.

A lack of touches for Spiller and Ford was a popular criticism of former offensive coordinator Rob Spence, and Swinney and new coordinator Billy Napier have lived up to their promise of putting the ball in the hands of Clemson's playmakers.

But such reliance is not uncommon, as evidenced by Saturday's opponent, Maryland.

Terps back Da'Rel Scott and receiver Torrey Smith have accounted for 55.3 percent of the team's offensive yardage on 36.7 percent of the touches.

Still, Swinney said the Tigers need to develop some other options to make opponents pay for zeroing in on their dynamic duo.

"It's no secret," redshirt freshman tight end Dwayne Allen said. "Every team in the conference sees it, every team we play sees it, every fan sees it. Right now it's kind of a two-man game. If the ball isn't going to C.J., it's going to Jacoby. And that's just the way it is."

They call them the streak. One area in which Swinney finds pride is that Clemson has "shown up to play" in all four games, avoiding the see-saw efforts that plague many teams.

The Tigers are aware they have been predisposed to mood swings. From 2004 through 2008, 16 of their 24 losses came in streaks between two and four games.

"Part of the problem in recent years is we've let one loss turn into two losses and three losses," senior tight end Michael Palmer said. "But as far as our confidence goes, I don't think anyone's lost any confidence."

All-purpose perspective. While Spiller is 64 yards away from setting the ACC's career all-purpose yardage record, he ranks second in the conference this season behind Maryland sophomore receiver Torrey Smith.

Smith (245.0) is averaging nearly 31 more yards per game than Spiller, due in large measure to Maryland's lack of defense. Smith has netted 543 of his 921 yards on kickoff returns, with his 23 returns almost doubling that of anyone else in the league.

Dink, or dunk? Only four of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams have allowed more sacks per game than Maryland, which has surrendered 14 in four contests.

It's a staggering number considering the Terps have relied on a quick passing game, luring the opponent in with short throws before trying to go over the top.

That being the case, Steele said he is not worried about carryover after TCU took advantage of Clemson's slot cornerbacks with quick strikes against man coverage.

"I'm going to be real frank with you, 5-yard dink routes total up a whole bunch of yardage and whole bunch of completions, but I haven't seen a whole lot of teams get beat by the 5-yard hitch," Steele said. "You tackle the catch. You can't live and die by it.

"Yeah, we could have played it better and could have done some different stuff with it - there were all kinds of things that could tie to that play at the moment. But it's not like you're going to throw the baby out with the bathwater."

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