Clemson still has to figure out how to get the offense going in the fourth quarter

Tigers try to close the deal

pstrelow@thestate.comOctober 14, 2009 

CLEMSON - Quarterback Kyle Parker suggested Clemson could solve a lot of its close-call if players were more efficient and did not have to make up for their mistakes at game's end.

Perhaps so, but it's hard to overlook the Tigers' fourth-quarter shortcomings. Clemson has failed to register a touchdown in the fourth quarter of its past eight games, four of which it has lost by five points or less.

The team last notched a fourth-quarter touchdown when C.J. Spiller's 2-yard run with 2 minutes left pulled Clemson within seven points of last year's 41-27 defeat at Florida State, the season's ninth game. That was one of only three touchdowns the Tigers recorded in the fourth quarter in 11 games against FBS opponents last season.

"You always want to win the fourth quarter, and I think every game except Maryland we had the lead in the fourth quarter," Spiller said. "You have to have that killer instinct, and on the offensive side, we didn't have that."

. Five of Clemson's 10 fourth-quarter drives in losses this season have gone 3 yards or fewer.

Sound off. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was referring to the style of his former boss, Alabama coach Nick Saban. But his message also seemed to address his feelings toward the stir Swinney caused by lighting into his coaches during practice last Wednesday.

"That's part of the deal," Steele said. "We're in a little bit more sensitive nation than we once were. Everybody wants to hug and love, and that's great, but in 1950s, if you'd have said a coach didn't do that, they'd probably have fired him.

"It's really kind of what we do. You have to take people farther than they want to go so they know how to get there themselves."

Following the script. Arguably the most impressive drive of Clemson's season was its opening 16-play, 72-yard series to open the TCU game, where the Tigers executed a series of predetermined plays the staff scripted beforehand.

With that in mind, offensive coordinator Billy Napier acknowledged the Tigers are looking at expanding how much of the game they script, especially to begin the second half.

"We're trying to do our job, and that's improve and put our guys in position to be productive," Napier said.

Extra points. Napier said the team still practices the "Wildcat" package with Spiller as quarterback, but it has not been used the past couple of games because of Spiller's turf toe, combined with desire to avoid putting a running back in charge of the snap cadence in Clemson's two road games. ... Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of Swinney's elevation to head coach. "What a crazy year it has been," he said. "It frustrates me because I'm not a very patient guy. I want to win right now and I want to be 5-0. But I also look at it and, we've accomplished a lot of things. I don't have any doubt about it at all."

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