Last season, Clemson’s offense was one of the best in the country, but it wasn’t especially efficient in the red zone.
Despite ranking in the top 15 in score percentage, the Tigers’ 60 percent touchdown rate ranked in a tie for 70th.
Scoring a few more touchdowns, and less field goals, was a “point of emphasis” in the offseason, co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said in April.
Six months later, the numbers for No. 5 Clemson (9-1, 6-1 ACC), who play at Wake Forest on Saturday at 7 p.m., aren’t showing improvement.
Through 10 games, Clemson has scored 32 touchdowns and nine field goals in 51 attempts to rank 94th nationally with a red-zone scoring rate of 80.4 percent. The Tigers’ 62.8 percent touchdown rate is 62nd in the country.
“Do we want to be more efficient down there? Absolutely. There’s no question about it,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “Can we? Absolutely, and that’s our goal. It’ll continue to be a point of emphasis for us.”
The opportunities have been there. The Tigers are ranked eighth in attempts, 18th in scores inside the 20 and 14th in number of TDs scored in the red zone.
So what gives? Well, it’s the same issue that’s held Clemson back all season.
“We’ve had six turnovers in the red zone,” Scott said. “When you go back and look at, you study as a coach, are we being too aggressive? When you look at it, it’s really just fundamentals of holding onto the ball, protecting the ball.”
The Tigers are 114th in the country with 21 turnovers lost.
“Not finishing in the red zone, that’s kind of been an Achilles heel for us and it kind of bit us in the butt (Saturday),” coach Dabo Swinney said.
Last year, Clemson had just one red-zone turnover in 54 possessions.
“This year we’ve got a bunch. We’ve just had a bunch of turnovers in that area,” Swinney said. “And it’s not just been interceptions. We’ve had fumbles, just lots of miscues down there.”
Those two fruitless chances against the Panthers were both Deshaun Watson-thrown interceptions.
Who: Clemson at Wake Forest
When: 7 p.m., Saturday
Where: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Radio: 93.1 FM
Line: Clemson by 21